On May 14, 1959, at the groundbreaking for what would become Lincoln Center, President Dwight D. Eisenhower hailed the event as "a great cultural adventure." A half-century later, it's easy to forget that Lincoln Center was considered a radical idea. The marble grandeur, the imposing edifices, the central plaza that has become a great populist agora are now so deeply embedded in the consciousness of New Yorkers and tourists alike that the buildings seem to have been there forever.
Times have changed. A massive arts complex would strike us as unthinkable as well as authoritarian. Variety, not uniformity, speaks to our national commitment to diversity and spice of all sorts. And everything takes longer and costs more to construct. In the face of a national recession it is amazing that any building can go up.
Except in Dallas, that is, where the skyline made famous by the J.R. Ewing clan on television 30 years ago has undergone multiple transformations. None is more exciting than what opened here earlier this month, the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, a $354 million, 10-acre assemblage aligned on one central axis beside a bustling freeway at the edge of downtown. It constitutes the latest addition to what Dallas refers to as its Arts District (68 acres in toto), which began with the Edward Larrabee Barnes Dallas Museum of Art (1984) and includes buildings by four winners of the Pritzker Prize for architecture, none of which remotely resembles the others. These are the Meyerson Symphony Center (1989, I.M. Pei), the Nasher Sculpture Center (2003, Renzo Piano), and the two new kids on the block: the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House (Norman Foster) and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater (Rem Koolhaas). Not only Foster and Koolhaas, but also their associates—Spencer de Grey in Foster's office, and Joshua Prince-Ramus (who later split from Koolhaas to open his own office)—share responsibility for the two projects. Still, Dallas likes to claim bragging rights for the Pritzker Prize-winners themselves, even though both buildings represent collaborative efforts.
-- Willard Spiegelman (in the Wall Street Journal online, 10/28/09)
For more of Mr Spiegelman's take on the new Dallas art complex, click here