Booker T. Washington High School

for the Performing and Visual Arts

Dallas, TX  USA

Invited Competition: National Endowment for the Arts

Scope: High School for the performing and visual arts

Dallas had embarked on an ambitious plan to create a vibrant downtown arts district when the National Endowment for the Arts sponsored a competition to expand Booker T. Washington High School. Charles Rose Architects, one of four finalists, sought to infuse the newly expanded school with the energy and educational mission it shared with the museums, theaters, and other distinguished arts buildings nearby.

Competition rules stated that the school’s existing brick building must be preserved. Our design did that and also responded to the site’s gritty urban character: we pushed masses to the site’s northern, eastern, and southern perimeters and created blunt sculptural forms—muscular masses that stand up to the adjacent freeways, city streets, and rubble lots. Most notably, our design creates a southwest-facing courtyard that opens to the Arts District and city skyline. As visitors enter the main entrance on the southwest corner, the shard-like forms of the roofscape emerge; some angle down into the courtyard. Our intention was to create an intriguing topographical element; the roofs contrast with the overall flatness of the area. These constructed planes are also visual references to the city’s freeway overpasses and offer a series of vantage points from which to view the school and surrounding area. The roofs are designed to be planted with sod to reduce heat gain in hot months.

Interiors are designed to foster fortuitous encounters that could spark collaboration between artistic disciplines. Corridor space is minimized. Galleries are designed to function dually as pathways through the school; openness and interaction are supported by our design throughout the school.