Leading Off: Jargon ETC. on the Shortcomings of the AT&T Performing Arts Center

Via archinect.com, the Jargon ETC blog lists five frustrating things about the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts (or the AT&T Performing Arts Center, as it has been called for a few (many) months now). If you follow FrontRow or read much of D’s coverage of the PAC, you will be familiar with some of the complaints, which mainly revolve around the PAC’s lack of pedestrian friendliness, both in terms of the connectivity with the surrounding neighborhoods and the public plaza itself (something discussed here). I think this caption from Jargon ETC. sums it up: “Where dynamic and accessible green spaces could have tied together the Center’s competing starchitecture, we get only concrete, asphalt, and cars.”

Jump for blogger Jared Langevin’s list, with excerpts from his explanations as well as some of my own comments.

1. The difficulty of a pedestrian approach from surrounding neighborhoods.

“Texas heat, as unbearable as any, cannot be tempered in this concrete no man’s land. Worse still, attempts for a quick escape are foiled by confusing surface-level traffic patterns and pedestrian signals. The city has evidently attempted to mitigate these problems by landscaping the underpasses with mulch, rocks, and small plants. [Ed. Note: Actually, it wasn’t even the city, it was a nearby neighborhood association.] However, these efforts appear as bandaids to a bullet wound.”

[Ed. Note: The regular response to this complaint is “wait and see.” The PAC is supposed to encourage a bridging of highways and parking lots to surrounding neighborhoods. I’d like to think this will eventually happen, but I worry Dallas’ age old problem will prevent it: there’s just too much darned space to cover.]

2. Flora Street, Fairmount Street, Leonard Street, & Crockett Street.

“If a large part of the initial intent behind the Center was to create dynamic new outdoor urban spaces for Dallas, this goal was nullified the second that it was decided to allow car traffic into the heart of this site.”

[Ed. Note: Makes you wonder if the intent behind the center was ever really to create a new urban space for Dallas after all.]

3. Sammons Park.

“Surely the Park’s planning was doomed to yield a piecemeal outcome once roads were brought into the mix, but even the small parts of the site that Sammons now occupies have not been well executed.”

[Ed. Note: The late David Dillon got down and dirty on this point. I would only add that I think Sammons works best when it is used as a gathering place or a festival ground. Perhaps the problem here was calling it a park in the first place. Again, something discussed here.]

4. The Center’s failure to reach towards a broader populace.

“With its luxury car-park, expensive venues, and lack of substantial park space, the Center for the Performing Arts is going to have a tough time shedding the elitist label that it has been burdened with ever since private funding first started coming through in the earlier part of the last decade.”

[Ed. Note: Seriously people, the Lexuses, no matter how much they help bring cash to the project, stink so heavily of snooty Dallas I have to wonder if they are worth it. And, symbolically, they make any notion of the pedestrian/urban angle of the project laughable.]

5. The project hype & associated imagery.

“To add insult to injury, the project imagery is abundantly displayed on large boards at the edge of the site, allowing the discrepancies between the dream and the reality to become much more apparent.”

[Ed. Note: I still fall in the “give it some time” school on this one, but the frustrations with the disconnect between dream and reality are worth bringing up, especially because we have many dreams in the oven right now – Woodall Rodgers Park, The Trinity River. When and if these projects become realities, will they also bear little resemblance to the pretty pictures?]


  • Geoff Johnson

    I totally concur and would like to add that the Lexus car display -a la State Fair or Auto Show- gave the venue a somewhat a car dealership feel/distraction way more than a “park-like” setting. And seems to amplify -intentional or not- the “private” influence of the PAC over the “public”.
    Are the car displays a permanent feature or just a temporary kick off thing?

  • md

    many of these issues are the result of different Starchitects being used to create the Center. Someone needs to come in to unify the vision. This problem has arisen in other areas where disparate creators have new buildings. The good news is that the buildings are stunning and amazing and actually here rather than on a drawing. It’s as though we have built the incredible, sea-worthy ships, but we need Columbus to sail ’em.

  • It’s a virtual ghost town…even when there are performances going on…the underground parking takes you right into the venues without even seeing any type of street life. It’s bound to be another Victory Park.

    There’s a lot of potential, but it’s hard to see something organically coming to life… Someone could learn a lot from Mallory Square in Key West when street performers put on shows and artists sell their work…every night when tourists gather to watch the sun set.

    What a great location for street performers, vendors and even a flea market; but as the review states, the over priced condos and elitist neighborhood would never stand for any kind of innovative street life. Too much risk of attracting the riff-raff! What a disappointment.

    Students at Booker T. Washington certainly could take the lead on brining some life into it!