Wyly Theatre by REX/OMA opens in Dallas Print
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 07:58

Wyly_night_viewa

The Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, a reimagining of a conventional theatre building, with a ground-level performance space and auditorium visible from the outside, opens in Dallas this week.

The Wyly Theatre, part of the city’s new AT&T Performing Arts Center, is designed by Joshua Prince-Ramus (partner in charge) and Rem Koolhaas (founder of OMA).

Unlike a typical theatre, the Wyly accommodates back-of-house and front-of-house areas above and beneath the auditorium rather than wrapped around it, liberating its perimeter – a glass façade with optional blackout blinds – for direct contact with the urban surroundings. Passersby have the chance to glimpse the action inside; the theatre itself, which seats up to 575, can offer views of the city of Dallas as a backdrop.


Rem Koolhaas, who will be giving a lecture in the Wyly Theatre on 15 October at 4pm, commented: “By stacking all facilities necessary for the functioning of a theatre in a single vertical volume, we create a situation where the technologies of the stage define an infinite variety of theatre arrangements, from the completely open to the completely enclosed.”

Wyly_Theatre_02Courtesy of REX/OMA photographed by Iwan Baan


With 12 storeys clad in distinctive tubular aluminium, the Wyly has a commanding presence on the south side of the AT&T Performing Arts Center complex. The building has a total area of 7,500m2 (80,300 square feet) and includes a cocktail bar, offices, costume shop, and a multipurpose rooftop space. The Wyly uses a state-of-the-art “superfly” tower, able to efficiently move both scenery and seating, facilitating unprecedented flexibility and experimentation in the configuration of a theatre space: proscenium, thrust, traverse, arena, studio, and flat floor arrangements can be set up in less than a day.

Wyly_Theatre_01Courtesy of REX/OMA photographed by Iwan Baan

No longer shielded by transitional and technical areas – foyer, ticket counters, backstage facilities – this reimagining of the theatre typology exposes the auditorium to the city on all sides. On alternate nights, the Dallas Theatre Center, for whom the Wyly will be a new home, can perform Shakespeare in a hermetic container one night, or – opening the blackout blinds along the exterior glass walls – with the city of Dallas as a backdrop the next.

Wyly_ProgramImage courtesy of REX/OMA

The tallness and simplicity of the box form, together with the unique visibility of the activities in the theatre, gives the building prominence in the large new complex of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. The form also facilitates innovation in the theatre’s mechanics: the conventional fly tower above the stage has been extended vertically (with program concentrated around it on multiple levels), and can pull up both scenery and seating.

Wyly_dusk_view2Courtesy of REX/OMA photographed by Tim Husley

This allows artistic directors to rapidly change the venue into a wide array of configurations that push the limits of the ‘multi-form’ theatre: proscenium, thrust, traverse, arena, studio, and flat floor – in which the seating, and the balconies, can be removed entirely. The stage and the floor of the auditorium are deliberately made of non-precious materials – the floor can be drilled, nailed into, and painted at will. In this way, together with the easily manipulable seating and stage configuration, the Wyly Theatre seeks to preserve and elaborate the flexible, improvisatory nature of the Dallas Theatre Center's original home.

Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas’s design for the Wyly Theatre started in 2004 at OMA’s Rotterdam headquarters, and was subsequently developed in OMA’s New York office. In 2006, Prince-Ramus left OMA to form REX, where he continued to oversee the construction of the Wyly.

Since 2006, OMA’s New York office has been headed by OMA partner Shohei Shigematsu, who oversees a range of projects including Cornell University’s Milstein Hall, currently under construction.


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Last Updated on Friday, 20 November 2009 17:14