Lubbock Journal: A new building dedicated to native son Buddy Holly.

by Ron Bernthal

The new Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences is West Texas’ largest dedicated performance venue, bringing under one roof the city’s vibrant performing arts community including the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Lubbock, along with a variety of professional touring music and theater productions.

Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Lubbock, Texas (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

The Hall is dedicated to Charles Hardin Holley, born in Lubbock on September 7, 1936, and known professionally as Buddy Holly, a singer-songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of mid-1950’s rock and roll. Holly was nicknamed “Buddy” by his mother, who felt that his given name was too big for her little boy. “Holly,” the altered form of his last name, would later result from a misspelling in his first recording contract.

After high school, Holly formed a band and played country and western songs regularly on a Lubbock radio station before moving on to national fame with songs like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue.” On February 3, 1959 Holly, along with fellow performers Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, were flying from Clear Lake, Iowa to play a concert when their plane crashed within minutes of leaving the ground, killing all aboard. Buddy Holly was 22 years old. His funeral was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock.

LEPAA (Lubbock Entertainment/Public Arts Association) first revealed plans for a state-of-the-art venue in 2013, based on the recommendations of a business plan led by LEPAA’s selected developer, Garfield Public/Private. Later that year, the Lubbock City Council granted the land of the soon to be vacant Department of Public Safety Headquarters as the site to house the new center. After they begin their fundraising efforts, LEPAA received several grants from foundations and one significantly large private donation which helped spring the fundraising campaign into high gear.

LEPAA chose the noted Canadian firm Diamond Schmitt as the design architect of record, and in 2014 Holly’s wife, Maria Elena Holly, graciously gave LEPAA her permission to use her late husband’s name in the title of this performing arts facility, free of royalty, as The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.

Lubbock LEPAA received an original painting by renowned artist Paul Milosevich, called “The Crickets, the Road and the Lubbock Skyline” it is one of the art pieces displayed in Buddy Holly Hall (image courtesy LEPAA)

The new performance venue, completed in early 2021, is a landmark destination that grew from the community’s needs, inspired by Lubbock’s physical and cultural landscape. The exterior design was influenced by the landscape of West Texas, including the prismatic and layered rock formations of Texas canyons, while the layout of the interior spaces accommodates the Hall’s wide-ranging performance line-up.

Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, lobby view (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

Dissolving the barrier between indoors and outdoors, the Hall’s use of glass at ground-level entrances creates a seamless transition for visitors entering and exiting the Hall. Inside, the building moves from spacious public lobbies and flexible spaces for rehearsal and performance, to more limited spaces leading to several small studios and finally, the Hall’s two signature theatres: the 2,297-seat Helen DeVitt Jones Theater, and the more intimate 415-person Crickets Theater.

Helen DeVitt Jones Theater (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

The Hall’s two signature theaters were designed in collaboration with partners Jaffe Holden Acoustics and Schuler Shook Theatre Planners to ensure premier acoustics and optimal theater capabilities no matter the type of performance or sound level. Both theaters achieve pure and crystalline sound on par with the world’s leading performance halls through extensive acoustic modeling and precisely placed acoustical banners which enhance the clarity, consistency, and constancy of tone for the audience.

Additionally, the seating in the Helen DeVitt Jones Theater can be reconfigured to accommodate the hall’s vast range of programming. The orchestra seating section can be set for traditional raked, fixed-chair seating or for popular flat-floor general admission.

Responding to the unique environmental challenges of the site, from the intense Texas heat to its location in a flood plain, the design team has created a wonderful new space for the performing arts with world-class facilities that embody the spirit of the West Texas arts community.

Street level view of the venue (rendering courtesy Diamond Schmitt)

The venue’s recent inauguration, with a series of socially distanced, limited-capacity performances, in response to the ongoing pandemic, means that Lubbock now has the largest dedicated performance hall in West Texas, covering 218,000 square-feet. The design includes two theatres of different sizes, a restaurant, two multi-purpose rooms and an outdoor covered amphitheatre. The aim is for this cultural hub to become a very busy place of activity when Covid-related restrictions can be lifted. 

According to Diamond Schmitt, “the design is inspired by the colors and shapes of the landscape of West Texas, including the prismatic and layered rock formations of Texas canyons.” As a result, it features deep-set windows, concrete ‘fins’, and a large overhang that not only ensures shade and protection on ground level, but also creates a sense of architectural tension and movement. 

One of the most interesting features of The Buddy Holly Hall is the iconic guitar wall,  a fine art sculptural installation depicting the image of Buddy Holly playing a Stratocaster. Designed by Texas artist Brad Oldham, the image is a 9,000- piece sculpture made of multiple sizes of guitar picks beautifully cast of aluminum with brushed bronze.

The Buddy Holly Hall is privately funded, owned and operated by The Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association, with 100% of all contributions directly funding construction of the project. Innovative partnerships with local arts organizations, public schools and universities, and private corporations allowed the venue to be financially self-sustaining upon opening in 2020.

Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock (photo courtesy Visit Lubbock)

As Buddy inspired the world’s best music and musicians with his unique abilities, The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences honors that legacy inspiring future generations of artists, musicians and entertainers.

“Diamond Schmitt deeply understood our community’s dream to create a performing arts campus that promotes entertainment for our region, while also serving as an arts education hub and a cornerstone for downtown revitalization, ” said Tim Collins, chairman of the board of the Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association. “The result is a beautiful, world-class space unlike anything in our area that will bring our community together and create a new destination for the arts in Lubbock.”

“Just as the idea for The Buddy Holly Hall grew from the Lubbock community, our modern design for the building is inspired by the region’s physical and cultural landscape,” said Diamond Schmitt principal Matthew Lella. “We designed a building that is both open and outward-looking and yet simultaneously invites the public to engage with all the activity happening inside. Responding to the unique challenges of the site, from the intense Texas heat to the location on a flood plain, we have created a signature new space for the performing arts with world-class facilities that embody the spirit of the performers who will be gracing its stages.” 

Diamond Schmitt is a global architecture firm that designs transformative, purpose-driven, and highly sustainable buildings. The firm as designed some of the world’s most iconic performance spaces in the world of music—including Mariinsky Theatre’s Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg, LaMaison Symphonique de Montréal, and The National Arts Centre in Ottawa. With offices in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, Diamond Schmitt is currently leading the design for Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall in New York City.