Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sneak peek photos: Dallas City Performance Hall is functional, not fancy - Pegasus News

Designers wanted to make sure the theater was accessible to non-frequent arts patrons.

An 8-foot-tall attic directly above the ceiling in the main performance hall seals the space and provides a sound barrier, a feature that is particularly useful since the space is in the flight path of Love Field Airport.

Photo by Alexandra Olivia

An 8-foot-tall attic directly above the ceiling in the main performance hall seals the space and provides a sound barrier, a feature that is particularly useful since the space is in the flight path of Love Field Airport.

â€" The Dallas Arts District will welcome its newest venue next month, the Dallas City Performance Hall. While not the most glitzy building on the block, this mid-size "3rd-venue" outshines many when it comes to space functionality.

“There seems to be a very high attention to detail here which is great â€" not a decorative detail, but a functional detail,” said Russell Dyer, manager of the new venue. “Especially in a theater, a lot of times that’s sort of passed over for other reasons. This time they’ve really gotten the functionality where it should be.”

Accessibility was one goal in the functional design of the space, which opens September 13. For ADA accessibility, several family restrooms were added and sections in the balcony and side orchestra were designed with movable seats to accommodate patrons in wheelchairs and their caregivers. The orchestra seating is also at the same level as the stage, so patrons with mobility impairments will not have to traverse steps to get to the stage during an awards presentation, for example.

Designers also wanted to make sure the theater was accessible to those who may not be frequent arts patrons. The building was set close to the street, not only to help with drop off/pick-up, but to make the path to the theater very direct.

 Wooden risers (in the foreground) in the lobby can serve as seating or stage, providing event space for small performances.

Photo by Alexandra Olivia

Wooden risers (in the foreground) in the lobby can serve as seating or stage, providing event space for small performances.

“One of the things that was really important to the art groups with whom we work was to make the building as easy to navigate by people as possible,” said Maria Munoz-Blanco, director of the city of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA).

The new venue is designed to accommodate all types of mid-sized events, including orchestra concerts, theater productions, and lectures. Because so much flexibility was needed, design elements were included to make transitions easy and also to provide groups with a high level of customization.

For example, in the rear of the 750-person theater are windows that can allow natural lighting in for some events, like a symphony or lecture, or can be blacked out for a darker performance like a theater production. To change the acoustics, two 68-foot banners, believed to be the largest in North America, can be lowered at the back of the theater. Groups can also adjust the theater proscenium, or stage opening, from 37 to 57 feet wide.

The unique heating/cooling system is one feature that will help the designers achieve Silver LEED certification. The air flow comes from the floor level, with vents underneath seats, to help keep the theater at an even 68 degrees. Patrons will also appreciate the variable seat widths, which put the middle of each seat between the two seats in front. Designers wanted to be sure that patrons had a perfect line of site of the stage from any angle.

 Concrete walls at the back of the lobby provide added noise reduction both in the lobby and in the main performance hall. Green policies were implemented when possible, as evidenced by the use of natural materials such as concrete and white oak.

Photo by Alexandra Olivia

Concrete walls at the back of the lobby provide added noise reduction both in the lobby and in the main performance hall. Green policies were implemented when possible, as evidenced by the use of natural materials such as concrete and white oak.

Even the lobby space was created with flexibility in mind. Portable ticket box office and food/beverage carts can be set up in different locations, depending on the group’s needs. The open lobby can not only be used for mingling, but can also be used for events. The grand oak steps that lead to the theater doors can also be used to seat an audience for a lobby performance.

A tiered pricing system allows arts and culture non-profits in Dallas the best pricing, less than $2,000 a night including building space rental and personnel, according to Munoz-Blanco. Those groups will also get first scheduling preference.

“The usage of this hall will be very different from what you see at the Wyly or at the Meyerson where you have a resident company that may have four performances per weekend, if not more,” said Munoz-Blanco. “Here we will expect to see a lot of music groups that do one or two night performances. So the usage will be driven mostly by weekend dates. “

The OCA’s goal was to have 100 dates booked for the season (September through August). Already, they have 95 bookings, including groups like Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Phase 1 of the space is the 60,000 foot theater facility and lobby, built on funding from two bond packages totaling $40 million. Phase 2 of the venue will be built with future bond money and will add even more flexibility. Smart landscaping around the facility outlines the future growth that will include two small theaters, visual arts gallery, rehearsal space, and classrooms.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said Dyer. ”You can’t build soul, but it’s here already. It’s already got a really good feel to it.”

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