The dallas Arts District—a 68-acre area in the city's downtown masterplanned by Sasaki Associates—is dense with architectural gems devoted to the visual and performing arts. Its anchor is Edward Larrabee Barnes's Dallas Museum of Art, completed in 1984. Over the next 20 years, up went I.M. Pei's Symphony Center (1989), Renzo Piano's Nasher Sculpture Center (2003), and Allied Works' expansion of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (2008), among other new buildings and renovations. A Foster + Partners performing arts center followed in 2009, as did the REX/OMA Wyly Theatre. James Burnett's Klyde Warren Park was completed in 2012, along with Morphosis's Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
What was missing from this mix was a place for smaller, local performing arts groups—everything from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre to the Dallas Asian American Youth Orchestra and the Uptown Players, a community theater company. So the city put out a $38.2 million bond in 2006 for the construction of just such a home, and commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to design it. “It had been a long-irritating thing that all of the well-funded groups were getting buildings, but no one was addressing the nonprofit neighborhood groups,” says Nancy Abshire, project manager, from SOM's Chicago office. “Dallas felt it had to incorporate them.”