The Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance Hall is a multi-use performing arts center capable of seating 2,000 to 2,100 patrons depending on the configuration. The facility is the resident home of the Fort Worth Symphony, Fort Worth Opera, Texas Ballet Theater, Casa Mañana Musical Theater, and the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. It also serves as a roadhouse for incoming performances and traveling Broadway productions. At the direct request of the non-profit organization building the hall, we found inspiration for the design of Bass Hall in the traditional repertoires of the resident companies, carrying forward the 16th century roots of music performance space design. Our client’s mission was to create a multi-use performance hall to service the needs of the Fort Worth performing arts community, its educational goals and agendas, and its patrons.
Site & Program
Multi-use adaptability has been achieved without sacrificing the highest quality acoustic environment for each performance mode. Bass Performance Hall is situated on a single 200’ x 200’ downtown city block. The small site posed numerous design constraints, requiring imaginative planning and careful coordination to achieve the critical 2,000-seat size without compromising function or the patrons’ sense of partaking in grand events. The backstage is just a wall thickness off the south property line, while the last row of seats is only separated from the north property line by an exit corridor. The project, within the Sundance neighborhood, serves as the focal point and centerpiece of Fort Worth’s emerging nightlife district.
The limited site led to a symmetrical arrangement of the auditorium and stage, with support space on each side and front-of-house functions to the north. An entry lobby in the northwest corner addresses the pedestrian access from the nearby shops, restaurants and clubs in the Sundance community. A corresponding entrance lobby in the northeast corner addresses an existing 2,000-car parking garage, as well as the Maddox-Muse Center which houses rehearsal halls and offices for the various performing arts organizations. The expression of corner entries, central lobbies, auditorium mass and stagehouse are carefully articulated with stylized elements, which give the structure both a human scale and a dignified sense of grandeur appropriate to this civic structure.
“"Bass Performance Hall is one of those rare halls in which the music heard by the audience is the same as that heard by the performer.
The clarity of sound heard throughout the entire range, in addition to the warm, welcoming environment, makes Bass Performance Hall one of the very best."”
- Yo-Yo Ma
Front of House & Performance Hall Design
Central to the design approach is the orderly arrangement of spaces. The public, front-of-house interiors were planned as a series of articulated spaces, establishing a ceremonial progression from entry to auditorium. In addition to providing for pre-show and intermission service, entry and lobby spaces also allow for a variety of other public and private functions. In contrast to many traditional opera house designs, which segregate the audience into classes with separate, isolated lobby spaces, this design visually links the lobbies on all levels by connecting them with common spaces at the building’s corners. The auditorium has been designed as a modification of the classical ‘opera house’ plan, and seating is arranged on an orchestra level with surrounding parterre seating, a box tier, a mezzanine and the lower and upper galleries. The room, as defined by the balcony fronts, is further enhanced by the coffered and domed ceiling form. Variable acoustical treatments and wall shaping are employed to provide optimal acoustic properties for both non-amplified and amplified performances. Columns and wall panels are used to create dispersed acoustic reflections, while also visually dividing the walls into smaller parts. The back-of-house program provides state-of-the-art facilities for both resident companies and visiting productions, performers and technical staff.
“I've always been impressed with the great concert halls of Europe that are hundreds of years old; but lo and behold, Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth has surpassed every concert hall in Europe. What a great success!”
“Bass is one of the great concert halls this century.”
-The Toronto Star, June 20, 1998 by William Littler
The front façades are clad in Texas Cordova Cream limestone, with a rusticated base rising to smooth, honed walls with accents of inset marble and brass. The front façade is flanked by a pair of 48-foot-tall sculpted, limestone angels. The interiors are articulated with an order of columns designed specifically for this building. Above the columns, the lobby ceilings are a series of barrel vaults, groins vaults, and quarter domes that give individuality to each space. Ceilings of the entry lobbies are painted in murals of native botanical patterns and dramatic skies. Light fixtures of metallic painted aluminum and railings of aluminum stanchions and stretched stainless steel aircraft cable form a modern counterpoint to the classical impression of the columns and ceiling vaults. In the auditorium, the walls and parapet fronts are painted plaster with wood trim. Candelabra-like light fixtures, mounted on the parapet fronts and columns, provide both sparkle and glow. The ceiling of the hall is a dome, painted with sheltering angel wings and clouds. The wing motif also appears in the end stanchions of the orchestra seats. Finally, concealed in the side walls are acoustic fabric banners, which can be mechanically raised to adjust the acoustics of the hall.