Dezeen Magazine

Kalita Humphreys Theater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Diller Scofidio + Renfro to renovate Frank Lloyd Wright theatre in Dallas

Diller Scofidio + Renfro has been chosen to design the renovation of Kalita Humphreys Theater in Dallas, Texas, the only theatre built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The New York firm will develop a masterplan that includes the theatre and its nine-acre (3.6-hectare) site, it was revealed yesterday.

Completed for the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) in 1959, Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of Wright's last projects and is designated a historic landmark.

"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," said firm partner Charles Renfro, who was raised in Baytown, Texas.

"Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright's only built theatre, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theatre has been presented and seen."

Wright's revolving stage will be restored

Kalita Humphreys Theater is a sculptural, concrete building comprising a cylindrical centre volume surrounded by a lower, flat-roofed structure.

Built into a limestone bluff next to Dallas' Turtle Creek, it is intended to be integrated with nature like many of Wright's projects. Trees are planted close to the building and outdoor steps lead to an entrance and lobby with glass walls.

Renovations to the existing structure include the revolving theatre stage will be restored as part of the project. Dallas firm Hillwood Urban will oversee the redesign while systems are upgraded, and serve as project manager.

Smaller buildings will also be built on the site to extend the facilities of the theatre.

"The creation of two smaller theatres will allow DTC and other local companies to perform regularly on the site," said Jennifer Altabef, chair of the DTC's board.

Project includes redevelopment of "bucolic" site

Diller Scofidio + Renfro will also develop a plan to revitalise the landscape around the theatre to link it to trails and surrounding areas.

New connections will include Katy Trail, Dean Park and the neighbourhoods of Uptown, Turtle Creek and Oak Lawn.

"Since it was built, the theatre's bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways," Renfro said.

"Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programmes grown out of the surrounding urban green," he added. "The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city."

Masterplan to be revealed this year

The firm is expected to unveil its proposal for the masterplan by the end of 2020 to the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture. Dallas City Council will grant final approval for the project.

Renfro leads Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and Benjamin Gilmartin. The firm's previous works include the renovation and expansion of MoMA, and New York City's High Line and The Shed at Hudson Yards.

Wright, who was born in Wisconsin in 1867, had a prolific career as an architect that spanned over 70 years. Eight of his buildings were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List last year, including his iconic Fallingwater house and the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Photograph is by Elle Studios.