Dallas Panel Selects Diller Scofidio + Renfro to Lead Renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater, Create New Master Plan for Site
DALLAS – The Dallas Theater Center (DTC) announced today that Diller Scofidio + Renfro will renovate Dallas’ famed Kalita Humphreys Theater, originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process. The firm will partner with DTC to create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Hillwood Urban will be the project manager, overseeing the drive to restore the theater to its historic period of significance, while improving its ability to function as a modern working theater.
In keeping with Wright’s organic, nature-inspired vision, the master plan will connect the Katy Trail, Dean Park and the surrounding neighborhoods of Uptown, Turtle Creek and Oak Lawn to the Kalita Humphreys Campus, making the entire site an accessible public space for all. The Kalita Humphreys Theater is unique among Wright’s distinguished body of work as the only free-standing theater he designed that was built during his lifetime. Its most notable internal feature is a revolving stage which exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture, which stressed the unification of the building's form and function, the harmony of the building's structure with its natural setting, and the aesthetically pleasing manipulation of space. Like all of Wright’s projects, the theater's design was considered bold and innovative for its time. Wright also stressed integration with nature, and the theater was built into a limestone bluff overlooking Turtle Creek.
“All of us at Dallas Theater Center have been proud to call the Kalita Humphreys Theater our home since it was completed 61 years ago,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. “As we look to the future, we are thrilled to partner with the architects at Diller Scofidio + Renfro as well as the city of Dallas and the entire community to restore the Kalita to its original glory, and expand opportunities for theater artists, students and audiences. By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all.”
Jennifer Altabef, chair of the DTC’s board, said: “The renovations to the Kalita Humphreys Theater will prepare it to host productions by Dallas Theater Center and other theater companies for generations to come, while honoring the beauty and innovation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original design.”
“In addition, the creation of two smaller theaters will allow DTC and other local companies to perform regularly on the site, in harmony with the goals of the new Dallas Cultural Plan. We will work with Dallas’ Office of Arts and Culture and the theater community to make this incredible asset available to more theater companies and audiences,” she said.
Charles Renfro will lead the design of the project in collaboration with his partners at Diller Scofidio + Renfro. This is a deeply personal project for Renfro, who was raised in Baytown, Texas, and traces his love of architecture to the state’s modernist icons. After graduating from Rice University in Houston and Columbia University in New York, he practiced at a number of firms before joining Diller + Scofidio in 1997 and becoming a partner in 2004.
He has since worked on a number of projects significant to New York, including the redesign of MoMA, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the High Line. He has contributed to the design of multiple projects in California, including The Broad, a contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, and academic facilities for University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. Renfro has maintained his connection to Texas, presenting new ideas for urban regeneration to the Houston Parks Board. DTC said his experience as well as Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s history of creating aesthetically appealing and accessible public buildings and public spaces made Renfro and the firm a natural choice for this high-profile project.
"As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation,” Renfro said. “This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys - one of Dallas's most overlooked pieces of architecture - to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright's only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen.”
“Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city,” he said.
DTC and its partners intend to present a plan to the City’s Office of Arts and Culture by the end of 2020. The Dallas City Council will be asked to give final approval of the plan.
While no specific decisions have been made on any individual aspect of the project, DTC looks forward to hearing from the public and various stakeholders in order to inform the design process. DTC, Hillwood Urban and Diller Scofidio + Renfro will work to reinvigorate the site so that it retains its essential character while becoming an exciting cultural destination.
Those interested in learning more can attend a public information session, scheduled from 5:30 -7 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Diller Scofidio + Renfro will present their relevant past works, which will inform their design approach to the Kalita Humphreys master plan. Attendees will be invited to provide written feedback that night or via a website set up for public comment. A link to the Kalita Humphreys master plan feedback site will be posted on DTC’s website, dallastheatercenter.org.
About Dallas Theater Center:
One of the leading regional theaters in the country, Dallas Theater Center (DTC) performs to an audience of more than 90,000 North Texas residents annually. Founded in 1959, DTC is now a resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and presents its mainstage season at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Dallas Arts District. DTC also presents at its original home, the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. DTC engages, entertains and inspires a diverse community by creating experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking and living by consistently producing plays, educational programs and community initiatives that are of the highest quality and reach the broadest possible constituency. DTC received the 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award, effectively naming it as the nation's best regional theater.