Houston Ballet's sleek new Center for Dance held its grand opening on Saturday, April 9 with a ribbon cutting ceremony presided over by Houston Mayor Annise Parker at 601 Preston Street in the heart of downtown Houston's Theater District. The new, six-story, 115,000-square-foot facility, designed with sustainable features by globally-recognized architecture firm Gensler, came in at $46.6 million (an estimated $6.4 million under its original projected budget of $53 million), and opened ahead of schedule. The building features nine dance studios, a Dance Lab that seats 175 for presentations as well as rehearsals, and artistic, administrative and support facilities for Houston Ballet and its academy. Houstonians were invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony, which was free and open to the public. Visitors were able to tour the Center for Dance as well as enjoy free performances by Houston Ballet II.
"With the new Center for Dance, we move a step closer to the next chapter in Houston Ballet's history: a state-of-the-art facility for the company located in the heart of Houston's Theater District, just across the street from Wortham Theater Center where the company performs. Moving into the Center for Dance is a great leap forward for the company, allowing us to significantly expand our education and dance training programs," commented Jesse H. Jones II, co-chairman of the capital campaign and a longtime trustee of Houston Ballet Foundation.
"We are very excited that Houston's donor community has helped us to raise $42.8 million in new contributed dollars, which along with the ballet's existing assets, helped make the project happen," remarked Houston Ballet Managing Director C.C. Conner.
The economic downturn has also positively affected the overall budget of the Center for Dance. Houston Ballet broke ground on the Center for Dance on July 15, 2009, with a projected budget of $53 million. Nearly half of the estimated $6.4 million cost savings is due to the lower prices of steel and concrete as a result of the 2008 recession. In addition the Center for Dance was able to open ahead of schedule because as other construction slowed around Houston, the ballet was able to take advantage of readily available crews and materials.
The new structure is the largest professional dance company facility of its kind constructed in the United States. The Houston Chronicle has observed that the building "could be the most exciting new architecture Houston has seen in decades." (July 31, 2009)
"I'm delighted that Gensler and Houston Ballet were able to bring this vision to life," said James E. Furr, FAIA, regional managing principal of Gensler's South Central region. "The opportunity to advance the arts, strengthen Houston's reputation, and bolster the city's economy by creating a significant work of civic architecture during a recession has been tremendous. We're thrilled to design a new gateway into downtown Houston and its Theater District." Inspired by a proscenium stage, the granite façade frames daytime and illuminated nighttime views of dancers rehearsing within, so that the building becomes an animated billboard for dance.
By carefully orchestrating a tight construction budget, Gensler designers crafted graceful, seemingly effortless interior spaces that place ballet at center-stage. The concept behind the interior design is to create a gallery-like space within in which dancers become works of art. In contrast to the dynamic, colorful dancers, the interiors are quiet, featuring a neutral color palette and a recurrent linear theme. The airy, spacious interior features double-height studios that offer interior views of rehearsing dancers, and maximize the building's spectacular exterior views overlooking downtown Houston and the bayou. Clear interior sight lines engender a spirit of openness, activity and collaboration. Linear light fixtures appear to dance freeform above the fifth-floor Great Room, activating the space that serves to foster collaboration and socialization between professional dancers, students, teachers and administrative staff.
"The Center for Dance gives Houston Ballet a home that is truly an international dance center. The building will be an icon for the art of dance nationally and internationally. And the Center for Dance will further secure Houston's reputation as a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, international city, with a thriving arts community," said artistic director Stanton Welch.
The co-chairs of the ongoing capital campaign are John C. Bass, Jesse H. Jones II and the late Anita B. Stude. (Mrs. Stude served as co-chairman of the campaign until her death in July 2009.)
Richard Maxwell, AIA is the project principal and James E. Furr, FAIA is the regional managing principal of Gensler's South Central region. The project manager is Lorrie Foreman of Irvine Team. The general contractor managing the construction is W.S. Bellows Construction Corporation. David Morris is the vice president and project executive, and Laura Bellows is the chairman of the board for W.S. Bellows Construction Corporation.
Houston Ballet is America's fourth largest ballet company, an ensemble of 52 dancers with an annual budget of $19.2 million and an endowment of $57.6 million (as of May 2011). Hailed by The New York Times as "one of the nation's best ballet companies," Houston Ballet has toured over the last decade to New York, London, Montreal, Hong Kong, Spain, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and to cities large and small across the United States.
Houston Ballet is deeply grateful for the generous support received for this project. Please join us as we take Houston Ballet to the next level and make a major impact on the state of the arts in Houston.
For more information about supporting the ongoing Capital Campaign, please contact Patrice McCracken at 713 535 3232.
For media inquiries about the new Houston Ballet Center for Dance, please contact the Public Relations Department at email@example.com.