A team led by Morphosis designs a new 12-acre arts and culture district at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Called the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenæum, the project will bring a second location to the Crow Museum of Asian Art as well as a planned performance hall and museum for the traditional arts of the Americas. According to the architects, the new athenaeum breaks with the conventional and reserved model of this type of building in a model that favors porosity, visibility and informal connections between its users.
The structure will be located at the southeast corner of the University campus, organized around a central plaza and flanked by the museums and performance hall to the west and the parking structure to the east. To the north, the plaza aligns with the social and green spaces that support the Naveen Jindal School of Management and the Davidson Auditorium. In contrast, the Arts District establishes a new public presence for the University at the south entrance to campus.
The central square serves as the heart of the master plan, creating “a new gateway to the university as well as a destination for students, faculty, staff and the community to foster engagement in the arts and learning” , according to UT Dallas. It is activated by terraces and cafes, landscaped gardens, tree-lined avenues, water features, and various art installations and sculptures from the University and Crow collections.
The museums and the performing arts hall are designed as volumes sculpted from a unified two-story mass, with “sympathetic” shapes and outdoor spaces between them, explains the project description. The buildings are clad with ribbed facades of light-coloured precast concrete. The interiors are connected to the square by large halls and glazed atriums. Contrasting with the activity of the square, small gardens between each of the artistic buildings provide more intimate outdoor spaces. In addition, the buildings have a loggia that faces the square.
Celebrating Morphosis’ work, UT Dallas noted, “The company has created a cohesive vision and master plan for the Athenaeum, where architecture and landscape combine to form a vibrant new neighborhood with a distinct identity that establishes UT Dallas as a cultural center.
The groundbreaking for the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum took place in mid-May and construction is expected to be complete in 2025. The effort was made possible by a $32 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation.
Engineering consultancy Buro Happold has also been contracted to carry out mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering work and to lead the LEED/sustainability consultancy for the expansion.