Wyly Theatre by REX and OMA
by Michael Cockram
The first thing that strikes a visitor to the new Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, Texas, is that the building doesn't look like a theater at all. It's a basic box elongated upward. The typical theater configuration, with an auditorium surrounded by a public lobby and back-of-house support spaces, has been completely reshuffled by architects REX and OMA into a vertical stack.
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That vertical arrangement helps the performance hall inside push the limits of flexibility in adapting to different performance types. It also allows unusually direct contact between the largely glazed ground-level hall and the outdoors.
The Wyly Theatre design emerged in response to substantial programmatic and structural challenges. It also weathered the split of the architectural team: OMA's Rem Koolhaas and his young American disciple Joshua Prince-Ramus. The partner-in-charge on both the Wyly and the seminal Seattle Public Library, Prince-Ramus purchased the New York City office of OMA from Koolhaas in 2006, redefining it as REX.
In contrast to the self-conscious exuberance of the Seattle library, the Wyly is generally restrained in its presence, serving as a foil to another nearby addition to the Dallas Arts District: Norman Foster's outwardly dynamic Winspear Opera House (previously covered in ArchitectureWeek).
Front-of-House, Below House
The Wyly Theatre is clad in an elegantly textured array of upright aluminum tubes that emphasize the theater's vertical arrangement. The tubes are pinched slightly at openings and punctured completely only once, at a large recessed porch.
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