In 1959, the city of Austin opened its Municipal Auditorium, later renamed the Lester E. Palmer Auditorium (after Austin’s mayor from 1961-1967). Its green dome roof earned the Palmer Auditorium the nickname of “The Turtle” on Town Lake, or the “Great Green Turtle of Auditorium Shores.”
The Palmer Auditorium was replaced with the Lester E. Palmer Community Events Center in 2002. The Long Center for the performing arts was built in the place of the Palmer Auditorium, recycling much of “the turtle’s” materials. The Long Center opened on March 28, 2008, but “the turtle” nickname mostly has not be applied to the new center.
Long Center - About The Long Center
In November 1998, the citizens of Austin voted to approve the City’s lease of the Lester E. Palmer Auditorium to the nonprofit group Arts Center Stage for renovation into a community performing arts venue. In April 1999, Arts Center Stage received its lead gift of $20 million from Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long, and the Arts Center Stage project was renamed the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts.
In November 1999, the Long Center hired renowned Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as project architect for the Long Center project. The schematic design was completed in July 2000, and the design development phase was completed in February 2001. By early 2001, the Long Center had raised over $40 million of its fundraising goal.
Construction documents for the Long Center were completed in March 2002. By August 2002, the Long Center had raised over $61 million of its proposed $110 million goal. The project was designed to be a four-theatre venue with capacity ranging from a 232-seat studio theatre to a 2,400-seat grand theatre.
Due to the slow economy, the Long Center’s goal became more ambitious than could be immediately supported by key community philanthropists. In May 2003, after discussions with major donors, the Long Center Board of Trustees, community arts leaders, and staff began to research options to refine the project costs, including whether the project could be constructed in phases. The project goal throughout these discussions remains the same: To fit the arts organizations’ essential needs and the community’s capacity for giving.
Abatement and deconstruction of the old Palmer Auditorium began in May 2005 and was completed in October 2005. New construction for the Long Center began in November 2005 and ended on time and on budget in early 2008. The grand opening of the Long Center took place on March 28, 2008.
Long Center - The Long Center Story
Converting Palmer Auditorium into a quality performing arts venue has highlighted the ingenuity and dedication of a diverse design team featuring both top national talent and leading local architects. The old Palmer stagehouse, one of the largest in Texas, has been preserved as the stage for the 2,400-seat Michael & Susan Dell Hall, The Long Center’s main venue. And the innovative circular “ring beam” that anchored Palmer has been retained as the signature design element of The Long Center, with the new City Terrace — a public space offering sweeping vistas of the Austin skyline — following its outline.
Within this frame, The Long Center’s new construction — Dell Hall, the Debra and Kevin Rollins Studio Theatre, and the center’s lounges and lobbies — have been artfully enclosed. Both spaces are the product of extensive collaboration between the experts on the design team and with the broad array of arts and community groups who will make the center their home. They combine sophisticated aesthetics, unmatched acoustics and advanced technical capabilities with a welcoming style that invites the entire community to enjoy Austin’s artistic excellence in a relaxed atmosphere that’s in harmony with the community’s character.
The Long Center also reflects Austin’s commitment to sustainability, environmental responsibility, and the region’s natural beauty. More than 95 percent of the material from the deconstructed Palmer Auditorium has been recycled, much of it in the finishes and fixtures of The Long Center. For example, the aluminum panels that formed the distinctive multicolored Palmer roof have found a new life as the exterior finish of Dell Hall. And the glass panels that honor The Long Center’s major supporters in the Founders’ Society have been fabricated from the former exterior curtain wall of the auditorium.
Name Long Center for the Performing Arts
The building has earned the nickname of “The Turtle” because of its green dome roof. This will change however when the building is renovated and turned into the new Long Center for the Performing Arts.
In 1981 the Municipal Auditorium was rededicated and renamed the Lester E. Palmer Auditorium after Lester E. Palmer, the mayor of Austin from 1961 to 1967.
In 2002 Lester E. Palmer attended the grand opening of the new Lester E. Palmer Community Events Center, completed in 2002 to replace the Palmer Auditorium. The Palmer Auditorium will be turned into a performing arts center.
Palmer Auditorium had its grand opening on January 5, 1959.
The internationally renowned local artist Seymour Fogel came up with the dome’s color scheme in 1955; he was never paid royalties, the architect arguing that Fogel’s design was only for a scale model.
The “turtle” shell measures 290 feet wide. In 2005, work began on removing the green panels from the roof. These panels will be reused in the new project, cut to form a mosaic facade.
29 September 1994, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Palmer Redux” by Michael Barnes, pg. 41:
If Austin artists have their way, Palmer Auditorium, the “green turtle” on Town Lake, could eventually emerge from its ugly shell. Informal discussions have begun on transforming the city-owned facility, built in 1959, into a modern performing arts center.
1 November 1995, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Attending to Palmer’s future: Planning, control central to ideas for auditorium” by Michael Barnes, pg. E11:
What would it cost to make over the Mossy-backed Green Turtle, as we call Palmer?
13 February 2001, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “An inside look at the new Long Center” by Michael Barnes, pg. A1:
“That old green turtle will be turned into a work of art. It’s very Austin,” City Council Member Beverly Griffith said.
Austin (TX) Chronicle
HOME: FEBRUARY 16, 2001: ARTS
BY ROBERT FAIRES
Getting a Long
With so much already invested in the campaign to transform Palmer Auditorium into a 21st-century performing-arts palace—a 1998 vote on the matter with the project heartily endorsed by the citizenry, months of planning, discussions, and design work, $48 million in private donations raised, etc.—it isn’t as if the future of the Long Center for the Performing Arts is in doubt. You know the center will happen. Still, when the cover is lifted on a scale model of the re-imagined facility, and Long Center is right there before you in three dimensions, it feels like a sudden shift has taken place, that this project of many years has just bolted from conceptual “if” to inevitable “when.” That was the charge that came out of the Monday, Feb. 12, press conference held by Arts Center Stage. The nonprofit that has spearheaded the drive to reinvent the Great Green Turtle of Auditorium Shores called it to make public the Long Center’s completed designs,
Austin (TX) Chronicle
HOME: OCTOBER 31, 2003: ARTS
BY ROBERT FAIRES
Long Center Changes
So long to the Long Center for the Performing Arts—or at least the elaborate four-venue version designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill, unveiled to great fanfare two and a half years ago. In those still-heady days, the project had raised $58 million toward what was then expected to be an $89 million price tag for the renovation of Palmer Auditorium, and one could imagine another $31 million being donated to create a 2,400-seat concert hall, a 750-seat and a 250-seat theatre, plus a rehearsal hall, linked by a grand lobby that would transform the Great Green Turtle of Auditorium Shores into a jeweled palace for the city’s cultural creations.
Austin (TX) Chronicle
HOME: APRIL 8, 2005: ARTS
So Long, Palmer
BY ROBERT FAIRES
Take your last looks at the auditorium formerly known as Palmer. Before spring is out, contractors will begin tearing down the 45-year-old facility so it can finally be transformed into the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Yes, Long Center officials have made the decision to start the physical transformation of the site that will eventually hold the 2,400-seat Dell Foundation Hall and the 240-seat Rollins Studio Theatre.
Soon after that, the two-month process of asbestos removal can begin, then another two or three months of clearing the innards, removing the windows, and, yes, taking off the domed roof that made the building into the Great Green Turtle of Auditorium Shores
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, July 18, 2009 • Permalink