The Reimagining the Dallas Museum of Art International Design Competition was an open search for an architect-led multidisciplinary team to revitalize one of North America’s leading art museums. As a civic institution, the Museum was open-minded about competitors, welcoming local, Texas-based, US, international, emerging and established practices.
Advocating for the essential place of art in life, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) has a global collection of 26,500 artworks from all cultures and time periods that spans 5,000 years of human creativity. The beauty and diversity of the Museum’s collection is a constant source of discovery, as well as a testament to the civic commitment of individuals who have built the collection for the citizens of Dallas. The collection includes important holdings of the arts of ancient Americas, Africa, and South Asia, and in European and American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the United States.
Nearly forty years ago, the DMA was the founding institution of the Dallas Arts District. The District has become the largest in the United States, and key to Dallas’ identity as a nexus of culture, creativity, inclusivity, and dynamism, as well as an economic engine for the city.
Now the Museum, located on a prime site, seeks an architectural reinvention to better serve the diverse city of Dallas, and enliven and update the presentation of its collection, including its range of global icons, to speak to the present moment.
The DMA’s 1984 building by Edward Larrabee Barnes was designed for a different Dallas, a different time, and a different society. Conceived among warehouses and undeveloped city lots, the austere Modernist design in Indiana limestone forefronted elegance and quiet dignity. But in a different cultural context, with changing visitor expectations, with access to art now an issue of equity, diversity and inclusion, and with ambitious new skyscrapers and parks emerging around the Museum, Barnes’ capacious two-block campus can be read as unwelcoming, off-putting, and defensive. Visitors find the complex difficult to navigate, while inflexible and dated galleries have resulted in iconic artworks languishing in storage.
The Museum is working hard to engage new and diverse audiences and communities, and to attract national and international visitors to Dallas to enjoy: ‘a space of wonder and discovery where art comes alive…’.
To support this program, the DMA needs greater physical visibility, it needs to be transparent, show what is going on inside, and be emotionally woven into the city’s fabric, and welcoming and accessible to all. This international design competition marked the first step in DMA’s plan to achieve these aims.
Throughout its history, the Museum has secured funds from private sources for its initiatives and will continue this approach. The Museum will also seek continued public support from the City of Dallas.
As Dallas Museum of Art’s Eugene McDermott Director Dr. Agustín Arteaga explains: ‘The Museum is committed to the principle that art is at the center, and equity and community are at the core of all we do.’
Specifically, the competition program envisaged an addition or additions that would add flexible galleries, and a reorganization of its circulation and entrances, as well as a holistic reapportioning of internal space. Nearly four decades since it opened, the Museum also requires comprehensive modernization and upgrade of services framed within a thoughtful sustainability strategy.
The estimated project budget is circa US$150–175m.
The first stage of this two-stage international competition sought architect-led multi-disciplinary teams with an open call for submissions. No design was required at the first stage — rather teams were asked to study the Search Statement, and submit their approach to the project, team composition and relevant experience, as well as company details, through a digital form.
In April 2023, the ASC met to select a shortlist of firms to progress to the second stage. The high quality of responses to stage one led the Committee to increase the number of shortlisted teams from five to six.
During the second stage, these six teams engaged with the Museum and prepared concept designs. An exhibition of the finalists’ concept designs is on display at the Museum through Fall, 2023, and the schemes were also revealed in an online gallery, giving the community an opportunity to view the submissions and provide their feedback.
An honorarium of US$50,000 along with up to US$10,000 for expenses will now be paid to each of the six finalist teams for their design work.
Finalist teams were required to partner with a design practice registered to practice in the State of Texas; the competition encouraged creative collaboration.
The ASC met in July 2023 to interview the finalists, review the design concepts and recommend a winner to the Board of Trustees for final approval. In August 2023, it was announced that the team led by Madrid-based practice Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos had won the competition.