South Bank Update
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.