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The DMA is in for a ‘Radical Transformation’

The Dallas Museum of Art's International Architect Competition Names a Surprising Winner

BY // 08.03.23

In February of 2023, the Dallas Museum of Art announced its open search for an architecture firm that could reimagine Edward Larrabee Barnes’ original 1980s building. After 154 submissions, six finalists were chosen to display their proposed plans at the museum throughout July. Among the hopefuls was the New York-based team best known for the High Line, the Los Angeles firm behind Houston’s Menil Drawing Institute, and London’s David Chipperfield, the most recent winner of the Pritzker Prize. There was one lesser-known firm, however: the Madrid-based Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.

Compared to the five other finalists, the Spanish group is a virtual unknown in the United States, but their DMA vision was strong. “There is nothing — nothing — clunky about the proposal from the team led by the Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano,” noted Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster when the six finalists were first revealed. The plan included a see-through white metal facade that would glow from within, an outdoor amphitheater along Ross Avenue, a rooftop terrace overlooking Klyde Warren Park, and a floating white gallery box where LED-generated contemporary art could be displayed.

Today, the Dallas Museum of Art named Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos the competition winner with a design concept that promises “a radical transformation to speak to new audiences,” according to a release.

4) Ross Avenue Plaza View © Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
Ross Avenue Plaza View © Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

Barnes’ 1980s work was, at one point, the only building in the Dallas Arts District. The Nieto Sobejano team is tasked not only with creating more space and greater flow within museum boundaries, but connecting the building to the neighborhood that has grown around out.

“The clear architectural scheme by Edward Larrabee Barnes, once conceived as an opaque and compact building, has been overtaken after four decades by the development and implementation of new settings in the Arts District,” shared the Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos team of their concept in a statement. “We propose an open, welcoming, accessible, and inclusive museum, improving and adding new spaces for contemporary art collections.” 

2) Rooftop Gallery View © Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
Rooftop Gallery View © Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

The next steps (securing funds to make NSA’s beautiful vision a reality) are far less exciting than today’s announcement, so for now, we’ll revel in a surprisingly bold choice from the DMA, and the promise of a more radical future for the arts in Dallas.

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