Rem's Dallas Theater
'To be honest, what interests me about this project is it's inherent contradictions. We all have drives that in some way contradict each other. For example we may personally want to be rich enough to not have to work, but we also recognize that to be happy we must make full use of our powers along lines of competitive excellence. We stand confident of our ideas but eager for the approval of others. Similar architectural contradictions exist. All buildings strive to be as contextual as reasonable yet to be unique enough to stand apart as truly great. Buildings want to be simple, yet richly complex; lavish but inexpensive; historical but fresh. Life, like architecture, is full of these contradictions. My architecture strives to winnow such contradictions out, to admire them, to embrace them, and to display them.'Savy readers will recognize that recorded here is an old memory of hearsay and not the exact words of the Pritzker Prize winner. Nevertheless, to present one’s work as a play, investigation, or illustration of contradictions is wonderful. It literally is full of wonder because it is less vague than "capturing a zeitgeist" or simply "creating an image" yet the direction leaves ample room for individual interpretation. This paraphrased description can even be expanded to a working definition of the architectural practice. Admittedly, it teeters on the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and this could be insulting to unplayful jurors. But hey, he’s an architect, not a doctor – luckily architects diagnose, but rarely prescribe.
When DYWSC? saw this recent design for the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater in Dallas Texas, the search was naturally for embodied contradictions. In the lack of good media coverage, a viewer is forced to credit Rem with contradictions interpreted by oneself. In the typical American landscape of Dallas, could this building be designed to be both urban and suburban? Knowing the arts are losing patronage in this country, is it more than just playful to suggest this building’s uniqueness is both aggressively advertising and starkly blank? Who knows if it is beautiful, there's an irony to taking a side, but is that something Rem/OMA sought out to accomplish? Is that gaping ramp the bed of a pick-up truck?
Greg Lynn said on a recent Peter Eisenman Studio jury, "In studio it is critical to point out what your ambitions were so you can figure out what the failures were." In the spirit of trying to pin-point Rem's failures, DYWSC? researched Wyly Theater opinions for this post and was lucky to hear from smart friends in the San Antonio and Dallas areas. The score of reactions to the theater design was as varied as could be. Is this spectrum of reactions within the profession the trademark of a design successfully juggling contradictions? How else could one know if Rem succeeded? It’s like reasoning (not painting) yourself into a corner.