Architecture Monday

This is not your ordinary theatre. It is a reimagining.

It was designed to maintain the flexibility of the old theatre space, which was raw, unpolished, and never intended to be permanent, and as such, the company could screw over and damage the building with each production to create the maximum impact for their show.

It looked at the existing typologies, laid out the program, and said “what if we stacked them?”

It leveraged what was already known and had to spawn something unique.

This is Wyly Theatre in Dallas, by REX | OMA. It’s a simple box that is anything but simple. Check out this TED lecture by Joshua Prince-Ramus, the principal designer, to get a full sense of it. This is a flexible performance space (not just theatre) par extraordinaire, where the seating, theatre/stage arrangement, flooring, and more is all adjustable to go from a completely empty and level floor affair to a traditional proscenium theatre with balconies and the whole nine yards, all using off-the-shelf technology.

What I really really love about the theatre, though, is that niftily unconventional structural system that is coupled with those all-glass and operable walls at the plaza (and theatre) level. The angled structure dematerializes the corners, enhancing transparency and letting the public and the plaza to (literally, when the glazing is opened) flow seamlessly inside. If desired, the cityscape becomes part of the theatre and the theatrical (or concert, or…) experience. If you want a black box, you can have that too.

Add to that all the nice simple proportions of the box, with selective sculptural subtractions, clad in aluminum fins that recall the folds in a theatre curtain, plus an interesting internal layout of spaces organized complexly in section, and you have a wonderful building indeed.