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.”

Before proposing any schemes, SOM interviewed 70 local groups, toured the inadequate spaces where they were performing (church basements and abandoned bathhouses), and studied a complicated matrix of data on ticket sales and performance numbers. “The city said that we should listen and give the organizations what they are asking for,” says Abshire. “The scope exceeded the bond, because no one had talked to these groups before. When that was determined, we said let's build it in two phases.” In September 2012, the first phase of SOM's City Performance Hall was complete: a 59,000-square-foot poured-in-place concrete and steel rectangular volume in the northeast corner of the Arts District, adjacent to the Wyly and the performing arts high school. Phase two—a pair of black-box theaters—will be added at a later date, yet to be determined.

The performance hall contains a 750-seat two-level theater, a proscenium stage with an 80-foot-high fly tower, an orchestra pit, offices, and a loading dock. The multilevel lobby serves as another adaptable performance and event space, and is on elegant display from the street, thanks to a completely transparent northwest facade. The board-formed concrete walls of the theater work well acoustically and complement the hall's muted palette. The concert shell is lined with movable oak-paneled walls and tilt-and-fly ceiling panels that can accommodate various types and sizes of performances, addressing a key challenge.

Each of these aesthetic decisions has a distinct purpose, like the tapestries of double-layer wool serge that hang down the theater walls and absorb sound. Instead of a fabric stage curtain, SOM installed a programmable LED screen—yet another space for artists to curate.

The flexible rental hall has surpassed expectations. “It's the hottest ticket in town,” says Abshire. Before it opened, the city projected that it would host 100 events and hoped to attract 36,428 patrons. But in its inaugural 2012–13 season, 162 events were attended by 51,388 people. For the 2013–14 season, 184 events are scheduled, with bookings already made for 2015. Russell Dyer, the performance hall's general manager, calls the building a “workhorse theater” and says its beauty is in its functional simplicity. “Yet it's state-of-the-art,” he adds. Dyer says that SOM truly listened to—rather than just paid lip service to—local groups' needs. An example he likes to cite is the fact that the loading dock floor is level with the stage floor, which is level with the lobby floor, making it easy for groups to move in and out. SOM also built in ample storage space, so that the hall could hold onto chairs, platforms, music stands, and other things that need to be within reach. The hall is user-friendly, says Dyer, and able to accommodate groups with a lot of production experience as well as those with none. One of the highest compliments the building has been paid, he says, is that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has been eager to book it, even though its home is the acoustically marvelous Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center nearby.

For SOM, known for supertall towers and feats of engineering, a project like the Dallas City Performance Hall might seem to be a diversion, but partner Jeff McCarthy says that's exactly why it was an important project for the firm, which had a good relationship with the city after completing an expansion of the convention center in 2002: “I think the things that truly made it interesting were the budget, the profile of performances, and the mission—that it would be an inspiring venue for emerging artists who might be stepping on a stage of this sort for the first time.”

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
224 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000
Chicago, IL  60604
Tel: (312) 554 – 9090
Fax: (312) 360 - 4545

Size: 59,000 square feet

Total project cost: $40.8 million

Completion Date: August 2012


Client: City of Dallas, Public Works Dept, Thomas Wurtz, AIA, Project Manager

Owner: City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Russell Dyer, General Manager
Dallas City Performance Hall

Design Architect / Engineer:
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
224 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000
Chicago, IL  60604
Tel: (312) 554 – 9090
Fax: (312) 360 - 4545

Personnel in design architect's firm who should receive special credit:
All SOM Personnel listed are registered professionals

Jeffrey J. McCarthy FAIA, Managing Partner
Leigh S. Breslau AIA, Design Partner
Nancy A. Abshire AIA RIBA, Project Manager
Gabriel Wong AIA, Technical Coordinator
D. Stanton Korista P.E., S.E., Structural Engineer  

Architect of Record:
Corgan Associates, Inc, 401 North Houston, Dallas, TX 75202
Brian George AIA, Principal                           
R. Kirk Johnson AIA, LEED AP+, Project Director    
Will Mitchell AIA,  Technical Coordinator

Structural Engineer of Record:
L.A.  Fuess Partners, Inc., 3333 Lee Parkway, Dallas, TX 75219
Jon C. Herrin, P.E., LEED AP, Principal
Erin Janacek, P.E., Associate

Mechanical Engineer of Record:
Aguirre Roden, 10670 N. Central Expwy, 6th Fl,  Dallas, TX 75231
Frost Gardner, P.E., LEED AP, Senior VP - Design Leader
Jeff Stroh, P.E. - Mechanical Design Engineer
Paul Oxenreider, P.E. - Mechanical Design Engineer 

Civil Engineer of Record:
URS Corporation, 1959 N. Stemmons Fwy, Dallas, TX 75207
Peng Zhao, Principal               

Theatre Planning
Schuler Shook, 750 N. OrleansSt., Suite 400, Chicago, IL  60654
Robert Shook, ASTC,FIALD, Design Partner  
Schuler Shook,302 North Market St., Suite 500, Dallas TX 75202
Jack P. Hagler, ASTC, FIALD, LC, Partner in Charge
Kimberly Corbett,  ASTC, Project Manager

Architectural Lighting Design
Schuler Shook, 750 N. Orleans St., Suite 400, Chicago, IL  60654
Robert Shook, ASTC,FIALD, LC, Partner in Charge
Maureen Mahr, IALD, IES,LC, Leed AP, Senior Lighting Designer 

Acoustics & Audio Visual
Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc., 114A Washington St., Norwalk, CT 06854
Mark Holden, Principal in Charge
Carlos Rivera, Project Manager
Mark Turpin, Senior Consultant, Audio/Video Design
Landscape Architect
Caye Cook & Associates, Landscape Architects, 12700 Hillcrest Road, Suite 149, Dallas, TX 75230Caye Cook, RLA, ASLA
Lindsey White, RLA, ASLA

Environmental Graphics & Wayfinding Design
Naughton + Associates, Inc., 213 Institute Place, Chicago, IL 60610
Carol Naughton, Project Director 
Vick Moore, Project Manager

Corgan Associates, Inc, 401 North Houston, Dallas, TX 75202
R. Kirk Johnson, AIA LEED AP+, Project Director

Interior Furnishings, Fixtures & Equipment
Corgan Associates, Inc, 401 North Houston, Dallas, TX 75202
Rachel Wittman, Interior Design Project Manager

Fire Protection + Building Code
Rolf Jensen Associates, 2301 West Plano Parkway, Suite 210, Plano, TX 75075
Thomas Izbicki, Principal

General Contractor:
Texas Division Office - McCarthy Building Companies Inc,
12001 N. Central Expwy, Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75243
Jeff Wagner, Project Director
Wesley Moncrief, Project Manager
Chris Arpaia, Project Superintendent

Hedrich Blessing, 400 North Peoria St., Chicago, IL 60642;  Tel: (312) 491 – 1101
Jon Miller, President
Photographer:  Nick Merrick

Credit: Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing  


Structural system
Cast-in-place Concrete walls; steel roof beams, Manufacturer: Nucor and Gerdau

Exterior cladding
Masonry: CMU blocking forms the south walls of the building, Manufacturer: Palestine Concrete Tile

Metal Panels: Zinc Composite Metal, Manufacturer: Alcoa-Alucobond

Metal/glass curtain wall: Steel Glass Curtain Wall, Manufacturer: Technical Glass Products (TGP)

Rainscreen: Zinc Composite Metal Rainscreen Panel, Manufacturer: Allpolic, Now Specialties

Precast concrete:

Moisture barrier: Blueskin VP Air Barrier Membrane, Manufacturer: Henry Company

Built-up roofing: Modified Bitumen Roofing, Manufacturer: Soprema

Metal: Zinc Coated Aluminum Standing Seam Metal Roof, Manufacturer: Kalzip

Metal frame: Interior Sound Control Windows, Manufacturer: Industrial Acoustics (IAC)

Glass: Manufacturer: Viracon

Skylights: Manufacturer: Oldcastle

Entrances: Curtain Wall Doors, Manufacturer: TGP

Metal doors: Interior doors (not at curtain walls or entry into auditorium), Manufacturer: Ceco

Special doors: Acoustic Sound and Light Lock doors, Manufacturer: VT & Rockwood, Dorma Closers, Rixson Assa Abloy Pivots

Upswinging doors, other: Loading Dock coiling door – Manufacturer: Cornell

Locksets: Dorma

Closers: Dorma

Exit devices: Dorma

Pulls: Trimco

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Rift Sawn White Oak Wood Reflectors for acoustics in audience chamber; Installer: Facility Construction Services

Acoustic Plaster: Manufacturer: Baswaphon

Suspension grid: Linear Wood Ceiling in Lobby, Manufacturer: Architectural Components Group, Inc. (ACG)

Demountable partitions: Metal Toilet Partitions, Manufacturer: Accurate Partitions

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Wood handrails – Installer: Facility Construction Services

Paints and stains: Interior Paint, Manufacturer: PPG

Wall coverings: Fabric Wrapped Wall Panels at door ways into audience chamber, Manufacturer: Wall Technologys; Metal Faced Acoustical Panels, Manufacturer: Custom Architectural Design (CMA)

Paneling: Rift Sawn White Oak Panels at Audience Chamber, Manufacturer: Facility Construction Services

Solid surfacing: Countertops, Manufacturer: Corian

Special surfacing: Stage Flooring System Manufacturer: Connor Sports Flooring

Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Pavers in Garden Area, Manufacturer: Hanover pedestal pavers, Toilet Room Tile, Manufacturer: Royal Mosa

Resilient flooring: Underlayment manufacturer: QT (Encore); Cat Walks rubber pads, Manufacturer: Eco Nights; Sheet Vinyl Floors, Manufacturer: Melodia

Carpet: Tile Carpeting, Manufacturer: Color Choice

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Concert Enclosure System/Towers, Manufacturer: Wenger Corporation

Metal Ceilings: Aluminum Faced Plymetal Panels: Alpolic

Wood flooring: Rift Sawn + Quarter Sawn White Oak flooring, Manufacturer: Woodwright Hardwood Floor Company, Inc.

Office furniture: Knoll & Davis Furniture

Reception furniture: Bernhardt, Herman Miller & Davis Furniture

Fixed seating: Theater seating: Manufacturer:  Ducharme  Seating;  Vinyl Upholstery:  Kravit

Chairs: Davis Furniture & Bernhardt

Tables: Davis Furniture

Other furniture: Benches: Davis Furniture; Lectern: Chancellor

Interior ambient lighting: Bartco, Focal Point, Corelite, Cole

Downlights: We-ef,  Kurt Versen

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Dimming + Lighting Control System, Manufacturer:Electronic Theater Controls (ETC)

Other: Color Kinetics, Times Square

Elevators/Escalators: Elevators, Manufacturer: ThyssenKrupp 

Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.): Wheel chair lifts, Manufacturer: Garaventa Lift


  • Water Closets: Zurn
  • Urinal: Zurn ‘Pint’
  • Lavatories: Kohler
  • Faucets: Sloan
  • Water Cooler: Elkay

There are two main public restrooms on the ground floor and eight individual family restrooms on the 2nd floor. Low flow plumbing fixtures were installed (by Zurn, Sloan).  All faucets are solar motion controlled.  All lavatories and urinals low voltage auto flush.   

Energy management or building automation system:
The City Performance Hall is conditioned by (3) air handling units (by Johnson Controls/York).  One unit serves the audience chamber, the smallest serves the stage, and the largest unit provides conditioned air to the lobby and back of house.  All are on VFD control.  The chilled water system includes an air cooled York chiller and (Johnson Controls/York) chilled water pumps.  Heating water is supplied to the building using a natural gas fired double stack boiler (by Lochinvar).  Air distribution is accomplished with air terminal boxes that have chilled water control.  Heating to these boxes is supplied at the air handling units.  All building systems are either controlled or monitored by a Johnson Control System.

Outdoor Ventilation Air:
Air is processed to ensure that dehumidification occurs properly, regardless of outdoor conditions.

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:

  • LED Lighting: Phillips
  • Acoustic Membrane Underlayment: Kalzip
  • Low VOC Paints + Coatings:  PPG
  • Low VOC Sealants + Adhesives: BASF, Tremco
  • Insulation: Formaldehyde- free Fiber Glass, Manufacturer: Johns Manville

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:


  • Acoustical Banners: Texas Scenic Company -  Adjustable acoustic banners of double layer wool serge allow the hall to be tuned for an extremely wide range of performances, from Dallas Symphony concerts to amplified headliners.
  • Portable orchestra enclosure or “Orchestra Shell”: Wenger Corporation - Transforms stage to concert friendly environment.
  • Board formed cast in place concrete walls:  McCarthy Building Companies Inc. - Shaped to provide optimal acoustic diffusion


  • LED Main Stage Curtain:  RGB Lights

 “In lieu of a traditional grand curtain, the stage has a unique LED “main curtain.”  This feature consists of an open mesh with LED nodes on 8-inch centers vertically and horizontally, with a separate black traveler behind.  Each component is on its own rigging line-set and can be operated separately.  Schuler Shook and SOM envisioned this main curtain as a canvas for commissioned art by local Dallas artists.  Schuler Shook researched the technology and specified the curtain construction and control system. The LED color-changing nodes are controlled through an ETC Mosaic system, which can accept any electronic video file and re-create it on the curtain.  The curtain becomes a palette for electronic kinetic art.”

  • Orchestra Pit Lifts: GALA Systems
  • Stage Rigging: Texas Scenic Company
  • Stage Lighting: Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC)
  • Theatre Seating:Ducharme  Seating
  • Loudspeakers: Fulcrum Acoustic, d&b Audiotechnik, EAW
  • Signal Processing: Symetrix
  • Amplifiers:  d&b Audiotechnik and  Lab Gruppen
  • Console: Yamaha