Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Invited Competition

Project Description

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, can no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
–Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, 1934

All true artists occupy the space of mystery, the space between rigor and fantasy. That small and fragile personal area of inspiration is where the discipline of an expertise is distanced from performance. It is the space where personal, individual talent and endeavor encounters the potential of an art. A privileged space of the individual made possible only through collective and collaborative acts and knowledge.

The scheme presented here is born of the spirit of collaboration and cross-fertilization. As with all the arts, lines form between a resultant work of art and the artist: a line of movement in dance, a melody in music, a form in sculpture or painting, a narrative in theater. These lines are descriptive as in a line of narrative, of sequence, of a story. These are not neutral lines. These are lines of action. In the scheme lines say something, different at individual points and places. The lines flow, hover and undulate; bisecting and dissecting; separating and joining; setting up individual choices and promoting community. Program space and communal space interlace testing the authority and fertility of the lines.

The school, like the city around it, is a place of production, creation, and creativity. Also like the city, the school is a place of complex order, often-disorderly order and sometimes out-of-order order, but most importantly a non-systematic order. Like the existing Booker T. Washington School or the inherent order of Dallas, a personal understanding of the not so clear organization engenders negotiation and attachment. Stewardship emerges from the situation. A reciprocity of give and take, teach and learn, collaborate and stand alone, develops. In this scheme connectedness across programmatic territories encourages intellectual and physical interactions and the discovery of the mysteries and magic of one discipline by the other. Each department has priority both to itself and to the communal space that intersects it. The program is transformed by the richness of connectivity and the interactions of the disciplines. Degrees of connectivity are modulated by the architectural cadence its articulation and program dispersion.

Dallas, a city of big sky, big space, and big distances, is set into motion by the action lines of the expressways and highways that ooze through. Distances are traveled, boundaries crossed, and places connected while the view is in constant change. The action and energy inside the school and the action and energy of the city are in cahoots.

The scheme at once celebrates the foundation and the history of Booker T. Washington, a great Dallas institution, and its on-going commitment to the potential of the artistic. The existing building continues as the symbolic and actual front door of the school embracing the surprising fantastic. As a historic marker it touches and renews the collective memory of the greater community as it reaches out to the Arts District.

The space within–the amphitheater–transforms into a great marquee. Acting in conjunction with the south façade of the new building, the amphitheater visually positions the magnet high school as an equal player among the headier unequal competition. The amphitheatre functions as a laboratory for exploration into technology in the arts. It also functions simply as a space to pass through or as a quiet place to sit and study. It lets in the big Texas sky. It allows the mind to wonder and wander.



Project Origins

Project Information

project: invited competition for a performing and visual arts magnet high school
client: Dallas Independent School District
location: Dallas, Texas
competition date: spring 2001
building area: new and renovated space of 220,000 square feet
construction budget: $40 million