The Kalita Humphreys Theater is a mid-century architectural masterpiece in need of a thoughtful update after several generations of cultural, technological, and urban change. Its location at the heart of a public green is both an opportunity and a challenge: while it is appreciated for its synthesis with nature, by the same token, it has never been truly celebrated as a standalone Frank Lloyd Wright building. The proposed makeover addresses this paradox.

Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Client: The Dallas Theater Center
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Design Team
Design Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, (Partner-in-Charge: Charles Renfro)
Local Architect: BOKAPowell
Landscape Architects: Reed Hildebrand
Historic Preservation: Harboe Architects
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
Civil & Traffic Engineer: Pacheco Koch
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Engineer: Syska Hennessy Group
Theater: Fisher Dachs Associates
Acoustics, Audio/ Visual: Threshold Acoustics LLC
Accessibility: Access by Design
Construction Manager: Beck Construction

Kalita Humphreys Theater by DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO - Sheet3

Although the Kalita Humphreys Theater shares many features with Wright’s most famous works, including the Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater, it is often overlooked in Wright’s oeuvre. Indeed, over the years, a combination of neglect and additions have compromised the building’s integrity. Restoring the Kalita Humphreys Theater to its original state requires a multifaceted approach that involves surgical extraction, selective reconstruction, careful preservation, and faithful reinterpretation of Wright’s design intent. At the same time, extending the building’s lifespan calls for forward-looking strategies that engage diverse new audiences and accommodate cutting-edge productions. In looking to the past and the future simultaneously, the masterplan proposal aims to achieve four primary goals: restore and celebrate the historic Kalita Humphreys Theater; transform the surrounding public green spaces into a bona fide park; stitch the park to Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail, one of the most visited destinations in Dallas; and activate the park every day and year-round, both as an expanded cultural landscape for performance and education and as a standalone natural resource with amenities that draw in new visitors, with or without a ticket.

Kalita Humphreys Theater by DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO - Sheet4

The transformation of the public green will allow a newly restored Kalita Humphreys Theater to shine as the centerpiece of this revitalized landscape. The masterplan prioritizes the surgical restoration of the historic building, adhering as closely as possible to Wright’s 1959 design. This involves the extraction of superfluous elements added over time, particularly the 1968 lobby extension that compromised the original massing of the building. Certain architectural details lost in these alterations will be carefully refurbished, including mid-century light fixtures, air grilles, door handles, window moldings, and furniture. Yet in order to safeguard the future of the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the project must not only restore but also renovate the theater to support the needs of contemporary artists and audiences. Upgraded lighting, AV, stage infrastructure, and other back-of-house functions will provide much-needed flexibility for a wider range of performances. Seating will be re-raked to resemble the 1959 auditorium, but each row will be staggered to significantly improve sightlines. A central information point and historical center in the campus lobby will orient and engage visitors. Collectively, these and other enhancements will allow the theater to host more productions while honoring the beauty and integrity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design.


New programs woven into the landscape will activate this improved public realm while preserving the Kalita Humphreys Theater as the only freestanding theater in Wright’s distinguished body of built work. Each new pavilion serves a distinct program that will amplify the Kalita Humphreys Theater’s social and cultural reach. A 100-seat black box theater with a walkable ceiling grid and an operable façade will open onto one of the courtyards, creating an indoor/outdoor venue with flexible seating configurations.


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