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HOBBY CENTER

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HOBBY CENTER The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is a must-see, must-attend, state-of-the-art entertainment complex.  Designed by Robert A. M. Stern, this $102 million shining star illuminates Houston's Theater District.  The Hobby provides the ultimate experience for cultural-connoisseurs with two opulent, acoustically distinguished theaters - Sarofim Hall and Zilkha Hall, Michael Cordua's Artista restaurant and its own above-ground 800-car parking garage. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown, the Hobby's sweeping architecture plays up its fabulous location.  The glistening facade features 60-foot-high glass walls affording exciting vistas of Houston's skyscrapers, interspersed with the lush greenery of Tranquility Park and the distinguished deco-era City Hall.   The soaring three-story Grand Lobby - open, inviting and contemporary - is topped with a majestic roof, supported by tubular steel columns which punctuate the facade, lending drama to the exterior.  A block-long, second-floor terrace offers another brilliant stroke, providing a preferred spot to contemplate the panorama.   Everywhere, exquisite detail abounds, from the creamy Cafe de Paris limestone employed throughout to the transcendental gold leaf that graces the Grand Lobby's ceiling.  Melding texture and richness, the Hobby's masterful modernism fulfills the vision of architect Stern, who said of his new building: "There's a show before the show."   As befitting the city's role as a culture capital, art has been integral from the start, with two significant works commissioned.  The Hobby tapped acclaimed contemporary masters, American painter Sol LeWitt and British-born sculptor Tony Cragg, to create site-specific pieces.  LeWitt's color-suffused mural Wall Drawing 2002 serves as the focal point of the Grand Lobby, while Cragg's sinuous, two-part bronze In Minds mimics human profiles as it stands guard outside at Hines Plaza. Since its opening in May 2002, this visionary venue has been wooing crowds with distinctive programming and a splendidly enlightened building.