South Bank Update

The South Bank continues to inch its way toward reality. If you cruise down Barton Springs Road, you can see the headquarters for Austin Lyric Opera really taking shape. The dilapidated facade of the former Barton Springs Bar & Grill building has been shored up with new concrete blocks, and the girder frame of the adjacent new building has been erected. From an objective aesthetic standpoint, it may not be much to look at now, but from where I sit, it's already a thing of beauty. That's because something is really there. It's moved beyond the realm of the possible, beyond the talking stages, beyond the blueprint and paper period to construction. It's in the physical plane. And that's a powerful step forward for this kind of project; it suppresses that lingering doubt that the thing will never really come off and provides a new kind of momentum for its completion. When I caught my first glimpse of the steel skeleton this past week, I got a chill. It's really happening, I thought. It's really going up. And as I looked at it, I could see in it not only a completed ALO HQ, but a new Long Centerfor the Performing Arts across the street and maybe even a renovated Dougherty Arts Center. That handful of girders gave me my clearest sense yet of the future arts district in development on Town Lake's southern shore.

That may be why I didn't respond as excitedly to the latest news from ARTS Center Stage. Oh, it's not that I was disappointed to hear that the organization's design committee had selected three finalists for the job of transforming Palmer Auditorium into the Long Center or that I had any problems with the firms who made the cut. On the contrary, the news was further affirmation that ARTS Center Stage knows what it's doing and that it will give Austin a performing arts center of which the whole city can be proud -- and do it on time. And, as with the searches for finalists to design the Austin Museum of Art's permanent facility and the new Blanton Museum of Art at UT, the firms in the running for the Long Center's chief architect are companies with impressive national and international credentials:

Barton Myers Associates, the firm that designed acclaimed theatres and concert halls in Portland, Ore., Cerritos, Calif., and Stratford, Ontario, as well as the widely praised New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark;

Polshek Partnership Architects, which has overseen renovations of the Ed Sullivan Theater and Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Santa Fe Opera House; and

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm responsible for the renovations of the Ravinia Festival Pavilion, Chicago Symphony Center, and Civic Opera House in Chicago.

All three inspire a little gasp of wonder: Really? One of them will be making over our little municipal auditorium here in Austin? Yes, they will, and that's good news (a tip of the hat to chair Wayne Bell and the rest of his ARTS Center Stage Design Committee). And I'm confident that anyone attending the firms' public presentations at Jessen Auditorium in mid-September will be impressed all the more. It's just that the Long Center is still deep in the theoretical realm, the thinking and talking and paper stages. I don't mean to take anything away from their project or the monumental work that's being done on it. It's just that this week I was seduced by a project I can feel.

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More Articulations
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired all the professional and personal materials of profoundly influential acting teacher Stella Adler

Robert Faires, April 30, 2004

It's the end of an era for the city of Austin's Art in Public Places Program as Martha Peters, administrator of the program for 11 of its 18 years, departs to direct a public art program in Fort Worth.

Robert Faires, July 18, 2003


Visual Art, Performing Art, Theatre, Dance, Robert Faires. Articulations, Arts News, Arts Center Stage, Long Center For The Performing Arts, Blanton Museum Of Art, Barton Myers Associates, Polshek Partners Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Wayne Bell

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