Yesterday marked the beginning of dance rehearsals at Houston Ballet's new Center for Dance in the downtown theater district. The Gensler-designed facility is the largest of its kind in the US and includes a number of sustainable strategies like natural daylighting, automatic shades, energy efficient systems and more. Included within the black dance facility are a number of rehearsal rooms and a pedestrian sky bridge that connects it to the performance hall across the street.
The Center for Dance is a six-story, 115,000-square-foot facility with nine dance studios, a dance lab, and artistic, administrative and support facilities for Houston Ballet and its academy. Clad in black granite, the contemporary facility features large picture windows that serve as a frame for the dancers as they work in their rehearsal studios. Gensler crafted the facility with linear and neutral colored spaces to create a gallery-like space within which dancers become works of art. Reclaimed walnut planks were used as finishes to warm the thresholds of each rehearsal space.
Daylighting streams in through the amply-sized windows and automatic lighting adjusts to the amount of sunshine to keep a consistent light level. West-facing windows are equipped with automatic blinds that lower as the afternoon sun increases and all the windows are inlaid with white ceramic to reduce energy consumption. The facility is also equipped with energy efficient systems that reduce their peak electric loads, which is also a major cost saver. While the facility was designed to meet LEED standards, the organization decided to spend their money on equipment for the Dance Lab rather than on certification.
A dramatic open-air pedestrian sky bridge crosses in between the Center for Dance and the performance hall and features a graphic wave of leaping dancers. With the public grand opening on April 9th, visitors to Houston’s theater district may soon see dancers making their way across the sky bridge using their backstage entrance and dressed for performance.