TEXAS is More Interesting Than You Think

I was in Dallas a few weeks ago and learned about a couple of inspiring projects.


[The La Reunion rail trestle outside of Dallas. Photo from their Flickr page]

Utopian re-conquest of  TX
I met a woman named Sarah Jane Semrad, who, along with a crew of activists, is turning a 35-acre site into an Arts Residency with the main building going up around an abandoned train trestle. The project is called La Reunion  after a utopian artists’ colony that settled in Dallas in the 1850s and who brought the first piano, brewery, and cultural sensibilities to North Texas.

More La Reunion photos.

They also have a blog where you can sign up for email updates, and more on the project and its history is after the jump. 

Proved Wrong Again

A year ago I saw Joshua Price Ramos (now with REX) give a presentation about a design for a theater in Dallas he had designed while working with Rem Koolhaas at OMA.  It blew me away, but I put it in the category of “even more unlikely that the High Line” and thought it was the kind of thing that would never get built– especially not in my home state. I love being proved wrong!

This is a shot of the diagonal supports rising out of the ground as part of the beginning of construction of the Wyly Theater.


[rending of Wyly Theater from REX]

Unlike a typical theatre setting, this unique design for the Wyly Theatre places these spaces either above or below the auditorium, enabling maximum interaction and flexibility of performance space and seating. The facility’s advanced mechanized “superfly” system can pull up both scenery and seating.

More design images of the Wyly Theater from REX

Watch the design animation

Live webcam shot of the construction

The theater is part of the larger Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, a new multi-venue Center for music, opera, theater and dance that will open in 2009. Norman Foster and Spencer de Grey designed the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House that is under construction a stone’s throw from the theater. Total funding total funding for the project exceeds $277 million to date with more than 100 Dallas families and corporations contributing $1 million or more.

More on La Reunion, from their Web site

La Reunion TX is creating an arts residency in Dallas that will host artists in both new and traditional media for periods ranging from one week to one year. In exchange for live/work space, artists will be expected to give back to the community through programs, exhibits, performances, and installations. Our residency will be built on a 35 acre site in Oak Cliff and will be as green and off-grid as possible, modeling to the community sustainable living. In addition, our business plan has an eye toward long-term sustainability not only with our facility, but also with the bottom line. We seek to transform our community through art and create lasting social change in Dallas. La Reunion TX is a 501(c)3.

The original La Reunion was a European Utopian community founded in 1855 by Victor Considerant, a follower of Francois Marie Charles Fourier. La Reunion’s ranks included tailors, shoemakers, milliners, jewelers, watchmakers, weavers, vintners, brew masters, and storekeepers. The colony even included naturalists, philosophers, musicians, dance masters, and poets. There were chefs, butchers, candle and soap makers, but no farmers and stockmen. Nor did they have strong leadership – Considerant was much more a social experimenter than a taskmaster, administrator, or leader of men.La Reunion ultimately did not survive for many reasons, including the harsh North Texas weather conditions. And although some of the settlers returned to Europe, many moved into Dallas and created a rich source of skilled artisans and craftsmen during Dallas’ formative years. LRTX is inspired to recall these histories, to acknowledge the artists who have gone before us and to remember the importance of their contribution to Dallas.


One Response

  1. […] model for community groups spearheading re-use of urban space. We’ve also got to love them for their shout-out to La Reunion a while back. After High Line’s visit to Dallas, La Reunion co-founder/Executive […]

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