Winspear Opera House / Foster + Partners

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Location: ,
Architects: Foster + Partners
Team: Norman Foster, Spencer de Grey, Stefan Behling, Michael Jones, James McGrath, Bjørn Polzin, Laszlo Pallagi, Morgan Fleming, Leonhard Weil, John Small, Ingrid Sölken, Hugh Whitehead, Francis Aish
Client: AT+T Performing Arts Center
Collaborating Architect: Kendall Heaton Associates
Main Contractor: Linbeck Construction
Acoustician: Sound Space Design
Theatre Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants
Structural Engineers: Buro Happold, Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers
Services Engineers: Battle McCarthy, CHP & Associates

Lighting Consultant: Claude R. Engle Lighting Consultant
Code Consultants: Pielow Fair & Associates, Seattle
Cost Consultants: Donnell Consultants, Florida
Foodservice Consultants: JGL Management Services, New Jersey; Cine Little, Florida
Geotechnical Engineers: GME Consulting Services Inc., Dallas; Landscape Designers Michel Desvigne, France; Kevin Sloan, Dallas; JJR, Chicago
Sound System Design: Engineering Harmonics, Inc.
Transportation Consulting: Deshazo, Tang & Associates, Inc.
Parking Consultants: Carl Walker Inc., Dallas
Maintenance Cleaning Access: Citadel Consulting Inc.
Architect for the parking garage: Good Fulton & Farrell
Security: HMA Consulting, Inc.
Curtain Wall Consultant: LZA Technology
ADA consultant: McGuire Associates, Inc.
Elevator Consultant: Persohn/Hahn Associates, Inc.
Acoustical and Vibration Consultant: Wilson, Ihrig & Associates, Inc.
Graphic consultant: 2 X 4 Design

The new Winspear Opera House in Dallas redefines the essence of an opera house for the twenty first century, breaking down barriers to make opera more accessible for a wider audience. Responding to the Dallas climate, a generous solar canopy extends from the building, revealing below a fully glazed sixty foot high lobby. This establishes a direct relationship between inside and outside, enhancing transparency. Beneath the canopy, which forms an integral part of the environmental strategy – a shaded pedestrian plaza creates a major new public space for Dallas, defined by the masterplan for the Performing Arts District. The masterplan was designed by Foster + Partners and OMA with Michel Desvigne.

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

The opera house, with its canopy on the orthogonal grid generated by Flora Street, is the focal point of the District, which also includes the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater, the Booker T Washington High School, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and in the future, the new City Performance Hall. Around the Opera House itself, angled off-grid under the canopy, there is the Annette Strauss Artists’ Square, with its outdoor performance space for an audience of 5000, a smaller outdoor performance space with a café terrace and the main entrance with access to the parking garage. Together with Sammons Park, the public plaza, these spaces form an integral part of the project, connecting with the city at an urban scale.

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Organisationally, the Winspear creates a transparent, publicly welcoming series of spaces, which wrap around the rich red glass drum of the 2,200-seat auditorium. The building is not only fully integrated with the cultural life of Dallas, but will be a destination in its own right for the non-opera going public, with a restaurant and café that is publicly accessible throughout the day. Entered beneath a lower canopy, the transition from the Grand Plaza through the foyer into the auditorium is designed to heighten the drama of attending a performance – in effect, ‘to take the theatre to the audience’. The grand staircase, flowing from one side to the other around the drum, links all the lobby spaces and also provides an opportunity for the audience to stop, discuss and observe. Deep gouges in the drum itself allow the audience to move horizontally at each of the balcony levels.

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

The auditorium itself creates a sense of intimacy with the performers. Working with Theatre Projects, a horseshoe plan combined with the dramatic vertical stacking of its seating balconies ensure that the audience is as close as possible to the stage. Intimacy is further reinforced by emphasising the balcony fronts, with their white gold finish highlighted against the rich dark red interior. The acoustics, designed by Bob Essert of Sound Space Design, are also enhanced by the compactness of the auditorium. The detail and finishes improve the resonance of the human voice, making the orchestra sound rich but clear. To heighten the sense of drama, there is a chandelier creating an inverted cone of light and produced from an assembly of 320 acrylic rods that ascends into the ceiling of the auditorium at the beginning of the performance. To complete the auditorium, the distinguished Argentinean artist Guillermo Quintero has designed a mesmerising curtain for the stage.

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Punctuated with indigenous trees, the sheltered public areas beneath the canopy benefit from a cool, shaded microclimate. Vertical sliding glass panels moving the full length of the east façade allow the building with its cafe and restaurant to be fully opened up, further enhancing the transitional inside-outside nature of the space. The Grand Plaza responds to the grid of the opera house canopy with a scored pattern set into the concrete, referencing the wider urban grid of Dallas. The Plaza contains squares of lawn and wildflower planting, with the Donor Pool as the focus. This black granite water feature is set into the paving, with a film of water glistening above the names of the project’s donors, which are channelled into the stone in stainless steel letters.

©  Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
© Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
Cite: "Winspear Opera House / Foster + Partners" 18 Nov 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • the uninformed observer


  • nando

    woooooow! i really really like it.

  • g dehls

    as long as i can carry a handgun i’m happy.i mean really what a strange contrast of culture and ideology.

    • YourMOM’s lover

      haha….you know if you do a little research you will find that big Urban Cities in these mid-west conservative states can be quite progressive….look at SXSW festival in Austin….and Houston is now being know for its urban dance scene…but i totally get your comment

  • spass

    Frankly, that’s one giant ramp. But it’s interesting how it got turned into a feature, rather than a code necessity.

  • jmie

    landscape makes this building sing. horrific city

    • kjohnson

      As a resident of Dallas and a future architect, you have no idea what you’re saying. Dallas is in the arduous process of revitalizing the downtown space. Dallas, unlike most other cities like Houston, grew very quickly horizontally. There are tons of people living in Dallas County, but spread over about a 60 mile space. The thing that we are trying to do here is to build things in downtown that will suck the center of the city back into its rightful place.

  • HOON

    SO COOL!

  • Informed Dallas Citizen

    Just a few fact-checks: Interior is not red, it’s more of a charcoalish brown. Very attractive with the white gold balconies. Seats are covered with a gray ultrasuede fabric. The Argentinian artist responsible for the curtain is Guillermo Kuitca. Calling Sammons Park a “grand plaza” is a stretch.

    The ramp that is seen on the first photograph it’s actually the entrance to the Wyly Theater, the REX/OMA designed theater. There is a street (Flora) between that ramp and the Opera House.

  • bshi

    not convinced about the outside sitting space.
    its too much like a little tea party with kids throwing ball around.
    where as the concert hall has a very elegant and powerful image.

  • Halima Rashid

    Very nice landscape!

    • ZIED

      halema r u an architect in the UAE

      • Halima Rashid

        I am still a student of Architectural Engineering…Senior Student!

  • Bana alkhateeb

    The landscape around the building is considered more than the building itself :P..still the building is making a statement being a giant red cylinder.

  • { kat }

    that chandelier sounds ridiculously cool.
    it is a shame that this is in dallas.

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