Wyly Theatre / REX | OMA

The Wyly Theatre in is almost finished. This project is very interesting, and REX/OMA show once again how designing a building goes way beyond that working on the volumes and the skin, but to rethink the program itself.

Anyone familiar with a theatre knows the program order hasn´t changed much, as it´s pretty much the same you find on Neufert. But REX/OMA take this a step further, by re-studying the program relations and adjacencies, resulting on a unique building. Perfect for the client, as the Dallas Center (DTC) is recognized as one of the country’s few innovative companies located outside the triumvirate of New York, Chicago, and Seattle. On the top of that, an interesting aluminium skin adds to make this building unique.

The facade is being installed this days, opening expected during 2009.

Now, the architects description:

Dallas Theater Center (DTC) is recognized as one of the country’s few innovative theater companies located outside the triumvirate of New York, Chicago, and Seattle. Ironically, the company’s artistic success can be attributed largely to its provisional accommodations in a dilapidated, galvanized metal shed. Free of the need to respect its architectural surroundings, the group regularly challenged its art’s physical conventions. The company’s makeshift residence also allowed it to be multi-form: throughout its season, DTC routinely reconfigured its stage.

Imagining a new home for DTC posed two distinct challenges. First, like a restaurant renovation which polishes out the character that made the original establishment successful, the creation of a pristine venue threatened to stultify the environment that had facilitated the company’s originality.

Second, the house’s potential flexibility had become de facto rigidity: DTC’s operational funding had grown taxed to the point that it could no longer afford the labor and materials necessary to rearrange its stage configuration.

To overcome these challenges, the Wyly Theatre repositions traditional front-of-house and back-of-house functions below-house and above-house.

This maneuver redefines the traditional theater in two ways. First, it liberates the perimeter of the theater’s chamber; exposed on all sides, it can directly engage the city around it. No longer shielded by transitional and technical zones-lobbies, ticket counters, and backstage facilities-fantasy and reality can mix when and where desired.

Second, it turns the building into one large fly tower, a “superfly” or “theater machine” that eliminates the traditional distinction between stage and auditorium. Pristine elements can be flown; the remaining environment can be cut, drilled, painted, welded, sawed, nailed, glued, and stitched at limited cost. The new building engenders flexibility without requiring additional spending; its capital costs are relocated from architecture to infrastructure for transformation.

Each of the performance chamber’s components-seating, light control, acoustic separation, and surface-enjoys tailored flexibility without compromising any other component. At the push of a button, seating and balconies can move, rotate, tilt, and disappear completely to create proscenium, thrust, traverse, arena, flat-floor, and black-box configurations. The light control blinds can be uniformly or individually lifted. The acoustic enclosure is provided by a facade of operable glass. The stage and auditorium surface materials are deliberately not precious to encourage scenic alteration.

The Artistic Director is granted the freedom to determine the entire theater experience, from arrival to performance to departure. Suspension of disbelief can be established or ended at any point in the patron’s experience; the architect’s hand is removed.

On consecutive days, the Wyly Theatre can perform Shakespeare in a traditional, hermetic environment… or, stripped of the auditorium’s protective cocoon, Beckett through the lens of the Dallas cityscape.

Clad in a facade composed of six different aluminum extrusions, arranged in six different combinations… the building manifests a strong presence in the Dallas Arts District despite its relatively modest size.

CLIENT Dallas Center for the Performing Arts
PROGRAM 575-seat “multi-form” theater with the ability to transform between proscenium, thrust, traverse, arena, flat floor, and black box configurations
AREA 7,700 m² (80,300 sf)
PROJECT COST $338 million, including Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Annette Strauss Artists Square, and Performance Park
STATUS Commenced 2004; under construction; completion expected 2008
KEY PERSONNEL Joshua Prince-Ramus (Partner-in-Charge) and Rem Koolhaas, with Erez Ella, Vincent Bandy, Vanessa Kassabian, Tim Archambault
CONSULTANTS Cosentini, DHV, Donnell, Front, HKA, Magnusson Klemencic, McCarthy, McGuire, Pielow Fair, Plus Group, Quinze & Milan, Theatre Projects, Tillotson Design, Transsolar, 2×4

Cite: Basulto, David. "Wyly Theatre / REX | OMA" 10 Feb 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=12521>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    the wyly theater is in my neighborhood. its been amazing watching the structure go up. the aluminum skin is almost 1/2 finished and its looking quite sexy!

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    beautiful building but can anybody tell me what is the purpose for the tube cladding? i can see the use for the blinds running outside the windows but why tubes??

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Oh another Rem Koolhaas project. Its just unbelievable rude
    how these guys take projects off Rem and now brand them as
    their own. Fakers !!

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0


    As Pausanias stated on the Museum Plaza article:

    OMA has several partners who take actual and superlative responsibility in the design and development of the projects with which they are in charge. Joshua Prince Ramus was one of such partners. Being american, he was in charge with the projects OMA was developing in USA. When they ended their partnership, they came to the agreement that OMA’s office in USA, led by Prince Ramus, was going to keep the contracts for the projects “in process”. That office then was named REX.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I work across the street from this theater, and it has been hugely interesting to watch its construction. It is an fascinating, innovative building. Sadly, I think the tubing not only hides the amazing structural elements, but it makes the facade look a bit like a giant bar code.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    thanks David for the response. i have read this and i don t know rem of course but I still find all this very dodgy. even
    they agreed that rex maintains contracts all the workout is based on koolhass ideas and developments during the years.
    i don t care what ramus is doing or if he has the right to do this but i just don t like people who probably have worked out
    the take over behind the back of the man who has created this
    stunning approach to architecture. Thats why REX is getting no respect from me. I m sure this copy and paste practice will dry out in less than 1,5 years as the projects developed without OMA already look very messy.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Say what you will about what the building looks like, but this firm is one of the only firms that are transitioning from pre-war to post-war role of architect. They’re staying relevant as the masses of architects still think they’re “artists.” Architects should solve real problems, not just accommodate the program we’re given.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Great concept, but a few things.

    Most of the experience is for the patrons, which is brilliantly excecuted, but what about the people that work there day in and day out in the back of house? The people that are there every single day and to me it looks like they made a basement and threw them all in there… facing a large concrete ramp. It would have been nice if they had a little more focus.

    Another… natural light in a theatre. I’ve designed a theatre, and natural light is probably the last thing you want in a main performance space. You need to control the lighting at all times.

    Overall beautiful concept…

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Has REX done anything without OMA?
    Aside from competitions, seems like every completed REX project was once an OMA ‘leftover’

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