Dallasmuseum campus hero

The DMA occupies a prime site at the center of a city that is experiencing rapid demographic change.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is growing faster than New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In-bound migration is surging, especially driven by young families and highly-skilled graduates. Dallas is increasingly young, diverse, energetic and densifying.

The DMA is the original anchor of the Dallas Arts District, the largest arts district in the US: a nineteen-block concentration of major cultural institutions with rich, varied architecture, including talismanic projects by several Pritzker Prize-winning architects.

However, the original 1984 DMA building, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, was conceived among warehouses and undeveloped city lots. The campus expressed the traditional model of a museum as a container; subsequently, uses, needs, values and aesthetics have evolved.

The Museum has been expanded, and there have been several renovation projects, since opening and the building now totals some 718,000 sq ft across four floors and two basement levels. The site slopes gently downwards to the northwest, and then back up to Klyde Warren Park and the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The Museum’s central spine matches the plot’s decline, descending through the length of the building; the galleries, conversely, descend by half-levels from the northwest to the southeast.

The collaboration with Dan Kiley (of Kiley-Walker) as landscape architect for the project provided the elegant planting of the garden rooms’ and sculpture court, enriching the setting and enlivening the uniform facades. 

Architect Edward Larrabee Barnes (center) displays a model of the new Dallas Museum of Art. September 14, 1979.

Photo: Clint Grant, staff photographer

Design Challenge

Barnes’ design enjoyed muted but appreciative critical acclaim at completion, noted for its elegance and quiet dignity. The building has presence, character and a certain air of monumentality — but is difficult to navigate and can be read as recessive and defensive. The whole site requires a holistic and focused strategy that will bring life to the DMA campus and make this complex building readable and easily navigable.

The design challenge for shortlisted teams at stage two was to comprehensively analyze the site, make strategic decisions, and identify the best mix of design interventions that would most successfully balance the Museum’s ambitions and budget.

Current DMA campus in downtown Dallas under construction

Architectural Aims

  • Create additional new gallery space and repurpose other spaces to accommodate a growing collection focused on a distinctive DMA canon’ that includes a global collection, with a large emphasis on contemporary art, and a strong showing from BIPOC, female, LGTBQ+, and Texan artists.
  • Create a highly flexible gallery scheme to reinvigorate the curatorial journey showing the full riches and diversity of the collection, anticipating juxtapositions, layered narratives, constellations, and intersectionality.
  • Introduce new permanent spaces for the Modern and Contemporary collections — including sculpture, video, photography, multimedia, light art, textiles, and works on paper.
  • Rethink circulation — level changes and entrances, along with orientation and wayfinding — to give visitors clarity, and make this complex building readable, easily navigable and accessible and welcoming to all.
  • Reconfigure the building’s internal layout to create new flexible event spaces, a new auditorium, improved staff facilities, and new restaurant, café and retail spaces.
  • Rethink education spaces and place them as inspirations, and potentially pop-ups, throughout the campus.
  • Explore potential of roof and courtyard spaces and any other overlooked areas.
  • Renew the DMA’s infrastructure, addressing deferred maintenance and operational challenges; upgrade power, data and technology; and modernize and relaunch the Museum for the next 50 years.
  • Achieve as much step-free access as possible to make the DMA truly welcoming and accessible to all.
  • Embrace cutting-edge sustainability — from design through to operations and use — and show understanding of local climate, notably extreme weather events.
  • Give the DMA better connectivity to neighbors on all sides, including the Dallas Arts District, Klyde Warren Park and emerging walking trails and dynamic connections in uptown and downtown; help the Museum energize surrounding streets; and anticipate the developing city’s future needs.