What follows are the write-ups of two days we just spent touring in these cities: the first in Ft. Worth on 2 May 2009, and the second in Dallas on 3 May 2009.  The main body of each day concerns the important architecture and art to be found in each city.  At the end of each write-up is an important—and delicious—restaurant suggestion for each city.  None of this is intended to be exhaustive; all of it was most interesting.





Our plan was to go to Ft. Worth to see the Kimbell Museum.  During my undergraduate years as a History of Art major,  I spent an enormous amount of time in Louis Kahn’s 1952 Yale Art Gallery—and I fell completely in love with that building; later I got to know and love Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art (completed in 1977, three years after Kahn’s death); I finally got to see his sublime 1965 Salk Institute in La Jolla a few years ago.  I have become a devoted fan of Kahn’s work—and Nancy and I have even gone so far as to fly to Rochester to see his First Unitarian Church in Rochester, NY (1959-69; the only church Kahn ever designed).  We are now even the proud owners of a beautiful and marvelously playful non-architectural pen and ink drawing of Louis Kahn’s from 1937, entitled, “Fisherman’s Camp No. 3, Sagueney River, Quebec, Canada.”   So I have been for decades eagerly awaiting an opportunity to see the Kimbell.  When looking it up before we went, I found that right next to it is the new Modern Art Museum, designed by Tadao Ando (of whose work I am also quite fond), and the Amon Carter, designed by Philip Johnson!  So the journey to Ft. Worth turned into an architectural pilgrimage.  I expected, therefore, to find great architecture; but, to my great surprise, there was also some great art in those museums (q.v., after the descriptions of each building)  We also had some wonderful Mexican food (q.v., at end of Ft. Worth section).



The Kimbell Museum   (3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76107-2792  tel: 817-332-8451)


Commissioned in 1966, Louis Kahn’s fabulous building opened in 1972.  It is a one story design, comprised of 14 parallel vaulted segments, arranged with two groupings of six vaulted segments each, flanking a four vaulted segment central group, with the entrance in the set back.  Each segment is covered by a concrete barrel vault, 20 ft high, 100 ft long, 20 ft wide—but cycloid in shape.  (“The cycloid is the locus of a point on the rim of a circle of radius rolling along a straight line.” From Wolfrom MathWorld; where a more complete discussion can be found: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Cycloid.html )  Each vault is split down the center with a skylight, under the length of which runs a bird’s-wing shaped, pierced aluminum reflector, designed to diffuse the daylight from the skylight onto the curved surface of the vault and thence softly into the room.  Kahn described his intentions in a lecture given at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1969:


I felt that the light in the rooms structured in concrete will have the luminosity of silver.  I know that rooms for paintings and objects that fade should only most modestly be given natural light.


This light will give a touch of silver to the room without touching the objects directly, yet give the comforting feeling of knowing the time of day.


Light therefore becomes an active part of the wonderful experience of the Kimbell.  The silver illumination of the concrete vaults is juxtaposed with the warmth of the travertine of the walls of the galleries and the white oak trim

The ends of  each vaulted section have a concrete band between the vault and a lower cycloid arch below.  This concrete band is pierced by a variable height arched opening to the outside—higher in the center than at the bases, formed apparently by a circular upper arch, over the cycloid one beneath—punctuating the form with dazzling daylight.  Some of the end sections (where there is no other vaulted section behind, as in the one opening on the restaurant courtyard, shown here to the left) have the space under the lower cycloid arch filled in with glass, while most of the end pieces are opaque. 


There are two courtyards—the restaurant courtyard and a much smaller one on the opposite side of the building, both un-vaulted and open to the sky.  The entrance is a “green room,” with rectangular planters filled with geometrically arranged trees that carry the architectural feel of the building out to meet the green nature of the surrounding park.  On each side of the entrance itself are two long pools, constantly overflowing with water. 


The outside of the building, while successfully capturing the rhythm and form of its interior spaces, is not nearly as completely satisfying as the totally pleasing and exciting interior.  It should also be strongly noted that Kahn has created within his building an extremely successful space in which to display and enjoy art—something that is not always the case in museums.


And speaking of the art, the big surprise was to find that there were some incredible paintings in the Kimbell’s collection.  One of the beauties of the Kimbell, is that they display its collection sparingly—which greatly adds to its power, but reduces the percentage of the collection that can be on display at any one time.  I am told that there are several other world class masterpieces in the collection; but what follows is a selection of the most noteworthy ones on display as of our visit (2 May 2009).  It should also be noted that the majority of the collection was not all that spectacular.


To begin with, there was a rather unusual—but quite beautiful— Corot, View of Olevano, 1827 (Oil on paper affixed to canvas; at right) which Nancy particularly liked.


I was entranced by a lovely Pissarro, Near Sydenham Hill, 1871 (Oil on canvas; at left).  It was in many ways typical of Pissarro; yet its palette was softer and less saturated then one would typically expect—but in a completely pleasing way.



There was a Cézanne that captured both our attention.  The painting, Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir, c. 1895 (Oil on canvas; at right) was most unusual:  it was almost sketch-like in the openness of its brushstrokes; it was particularly adventurous in its gestural use of color; and, while typical of the master in its reduction of the forms of the buildings to more geometric abstraction, and its moving them forward as flat areas on the surface of the painting, the two structures on the right side of the painting were quite unusual in their almost arbitrary form.  I was a little troubled by Cézanne’s handling of the central three buildings: there was something disconcerting to me to the way they were canted—probably some vestigial attempt to reflect the realistic effect of the curvature and angle of the road rising around up the hillside on which the buildings were sited; but that felt inconsistent with his abstract reduction of the form for the painting.  Nevertheless, it is a most powerful and beautiful work.


Finally, Matisse’s L'Asie, 1946 (Oil on canvas; at left) was an interesting and satisfying painting of a type and period one rarely sees in New York.


All in all, the presence of great painting like these added an unexpected degree of artistic pleasure to what we had expected only to be an architectural experience.







Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth  (3200 Darnell Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107, Tel: 817.738.9215, 1.866.824.5566)


In 2002, Tadao Ando’s magnificent building for the Modern Art Museum opened in Ft. Worth, directly behind the Kimbell.  Ando’s building has some things in common with its famous neighbor:  its use of and attention to indirect natural lighting, its use of concrete as its major building material, its modernity, and its high level of aesthetic excellence.  Nevertheless, in other ways it could not be more different:  whereas the Kimbell is small and intimate, Ando’s Modern is massive and imposing; whereas the defining characteristic of the Kimbell is the soft roundness of its ever-present cyclonic vaults, there are almost no curves in the insistent flatness of the Modern; and whereas the solidly enclosed spaces of Kahn’s Kimbell open out through the walls in places to the outer world, Ando’s Modern is a structure of massive concrete planes enclosed in surrounding 40 ft high walls of transparent glass.  Yet both buildings create a feeling of lightness:  Kahn’s in the spring created by its vaults, and Ando’s in the sense that the entire structure seems to float on the 1.5 acre reflecting pond that surrounds it on two sides.  This effect is accentuated at dusk or in the evening, when the light from inside makes the building glow atop the reflecting pool.


The northern section of the museum comprises three rectangular areas, sheathed in glass, that protrude out into the reflecting pond on their east ends—culminating in three Y-shaped concrete columns that support the flat, overhanging concrete roof slab.  Most of the display space is inside these rectangular concrete forms, but the museum has very cleverly utilized the space between the glass curtain wall and the Martin Puryear - Ladder for Booker T. Washingtionouter concrete wall—through which there are visitor circulation patterns—for display purposes, as, for example the marvelously placed sculptural work, “The Etruscan (L'etrusco),” 1976, Bronze, mirror at left).   The statue faces an enormous mirror on the concrete outer wall of the space, looking at and touching its own reflection, with the glass curtain wall and the reflecting pool and park beyond reflected behind it.  The effect is fantastic.  Meanwhile, the two-story interiors of these three protruding rectangular spaces are also used to good effect:  e.g., the clever and powerfully positioned sculpture by Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996 (Wood [ash and maple]; at right), which can also be viewed from the second floor interior balcony.


The main entrance to the museum offers no hint of what is to come once one passes through to the far side of the museum.  Its interesting, but uninspiring southern façade opens into a very successful and impressive expansive, high interior space; and it is only once one has moved through to the glass wall at the far side of this space that one becomes aware of the reflecting pool and the floating grandeur of the rest of the museum beyond.  It is a powerful effect; but I cannot help but wonder whether it is worth losing the general sense of the magnificent floating sides of the building.  I think I should like to see that more totally surround the building, and to have the entrance to the building be through that.  Actually, as things are set up, many visitors never find their way to the grassy hill that forms the park around the reflecting pool.  All of the pictures of the exterior of the building (all taken from the Museum’s website), were taken from that park.  Nevertheless, one has to figure out the unmarked route through the cafeteria to get out to this park, which seems quite odd.


All this having been said, Ando’s building is a masterpiece.


And the Modern’s collection is full of masterpieces!


There was a superb paper piece by Jasper Johns, Target, 1958 (pencil, wash and collage on paper mounted on Untitled (Collage I)cardboard; at right).


There were also spectacular drawings by Jackson Pollock, but unfortunately there were no images of them available online.  Among the Pollock paintings, however, was this unusual but wonderful collage, Untitled (Collage I), c. 1951 (Enamel, silver paint, and pebbles on illustration board; at left).

There were a surprising number of great paintings by Robert Motherwell.  Two terrific examples are Stephen's Iron Crown, 1981 (Acrylic on oil-sized canvas; at left below) and Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 1960 (Boucour Magna paint on canvas; on right below)



Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 171Stephen's Iron Crown















There is a simply sublime painting by Mark Rothko, Light Cloud, Dark Cloud, 1957 (Oil on canvas); but, unfortunately, the online image of it is so bad—and its color and subtleties so painfully distorted—that I cannot bear to reproduce it here.  It was, perhaps, our very favorite work of art in the Modern.


Ocean Park #105

Among the other treasures of this fantastic place were an Whistlestop (Spread)unusual but great Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #105, 1978 (Oil and charcoal on canvas; at right), and a most interesting Rauschenberg, Whistle Stop (Spread), 1977 (Combine painting, mixed media on five panels; at left).













Amon Carter Museum  (3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth, TX 76107,  tel: 817.738.1933)


On the other side of the Kimbell from the Modern is The Amon Carter acm-aerial-2.jpgMuseum, a building that consist of a 1961 original small building at the front of the museum, designed by Philip Johnson, and a 50,000 ft2 addition behind the original section, by Johnson, completed in 2001.


The 1961 part of the building is a loggia constructed of Texas shellstone, with slender columns of triangular cross-section, that increase in width as they rise from the ground level to the slightly curved tops of the five open bays that they create. (Because of the slender shape of the columns and the fact that they come almost to a point at their bottoms, they were derided as being “en pointe,” and the style of the building unaffectionately was referred to as “ballet modern.”)  Behind this almost completely open façade is a curtain wall of tinted glass in bronze mullions—definitely a reference to the 1958 Seagram Building of Mies van der Rohe, in which Philip Johnson collaborated.  Inside the curtain wall, Johnson created a two-story high entrance hall, with a warm teak wall articulated with Main entrance gallerybronze trim on the far side.  In the original plan, there was a line of five small galleries on the first floor behind the teak wall, and a row of four offices and a library on the floor above the galleries.  This originally was the entirety of the Amon Carter. Within three years, the museum needed to expand, and an addition was built behind the original Johnson structure; and in 1977 another, still larger addition was constructed.  A dozen years later, it was decided to close the museum and do a major rebuilding to triple the museum’s size.  Philip Johnson was hired to do the new building, and acm-building.jpgeverything was torn down except for his 1961 structure, which was preserved virtually intact, except for the redesigning of the second floor offices as galleries, each with a balcony overlooking the main hall (the image of the entrance hall at the left is of the current arrangement, and the openings of the galleries can be seen in the second floor of the teak wall).  In 2001, the Amon Carter reopened in its present form (image at right).  While it is not particularly beautiful or successful from the outside, the new structure provides copious and attractive gallery space.  The most beautiful element of the new building is its spacious, open central atrium:  two stories high, it is topped with a flattened, slightly pointed, groin-vaulted dome, with ample openings at the end of each vault which admit sunlight from outside.


We did not expect to find any art we were interested in the Amon Carter’s collection, as it specializes in the art of the American West.  Nevertheless, there was a show in progress entitled “High Modernism: Alfred Stieglitz and his Legacy,” which contained some wonderful photographs.  While there actually were few Stieglitz photos in the exhibition, one of the ones in it was so sublime as to have made seeing it alone worth a trip to the museum.



And—last but certainly not least—was our lunchtime excursion to that pinnacle of Mexican food in this town renowned for this cuisine:


Joe T. Garcia’s  (2201 N. Commerce Street, Ft. Worth 76106, tel: 817.626.4356)


Now this homey, friendly place was extraordinary!  It seats over 1,000—and it does a rip-roaring business.  I am told there is a beautiful garden in which to eat, but it was raining while we were there, so I did not notice.  What I did notice, however, was the food:  it was totally delicious.  We sampled a lot of dishes, and, while all of them were good, some of them were spectacular:  our favorites were the Beef Chile Relleños (the best I’ve ever had anywhere), and the Chimichangas (an intensely delicious treat).  It’s inexpensive and wonderful.  What more could one ask for?





Our day spent walking in Dallas began with an exploration of the downtown and finished with a visit to Dallas’s rapidly growing Arts District.  The descriptions occur in the opposite order from their chronology, and are followed by a write-up of Local, the unexpectedly wonderful restaurant we ate at the night we arrived in town.



Nasher Scupture Center (2001 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201  tel: 214.242.5100)


In a way reminiscent of Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Museum, Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center is a light, airy building, comprised of a grouping of parallel Aerial view of the Nasher Sculpture Centerbarrel-vaulted bays.  In the case of the Nasher, there are only Ground Level Planfive bays, each of them running the entire length of the building; and the vaults are shallow—springing from a height of 16 ft. from the floor, but rising only 1 ft. higher at their midpoints.  Like the Kimbell, the Nasher’s galleries are illuminated by cleverly diffused natural light, in the Nasher’s case produced using a novel suspended glass ceiling, with a cast aluminum sun screen above to filter the sunlight—and all but eliminating the need for artificial lighting q.v., detail at right).  The walls of the building are made from Italian travertine.  The ends of each of the bays are made of clear glass, which allows the interior space visually to connect with the outdoor ones—and, in particular, integrating the five bays with the beautiful, tree-lined garden behind the museum, also laid out in long, parallel, rectangular sections.  At the far end of the garden, positioned Roof Systemperpendicular to the garden’s longitudinal axis, are two long, narrow fountains, articulated with a line of 2 ft. high jets of water; and behind the fountains is a sequence of terraced plantings.



The back of the garden

The garden contains a wealth of marvelous sculptures.


One of the most unusual aspects of the Nasher’s collection is the number of sculptures it has by Willem de Kooning.  As familiar as we are with de Kooning’s paintings, his sculptures were relatively new to us.  (De Kooning turned to sculpture only in his later years, after having settled in East Hampton on Long Island.)  In the garden, there is a fabulous large bronze piece, Seated Woman, 1969 (cast 1980) Bronze (at right).  The rest of the Nasher’s de Kooning’s were on display were inside the museum.

The garden contains a very effective momumental Richard Serra sculpture, My Curves Are Not Mad, 1987 Cor-Ten Steel (two inwardly curving steel plates), and a quite beautiful Aristide Maillol, Night (La Nuit), ca. 1902-09 (cast 1960) Bronze (at left).


There is also a whimsical Picasso sculpture, Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), 1958 Gravel and concrete (at right), which I found to be delightfully reminiscent of Picasso’s pottery.



At the end of the garden, behind the terraced plantings, there is a granite path sloping inward toward the cross-sectional center of the garden, and descending to the entrance to one of the more creative and unusual sculptures in the Nasher, a “Skyscape,” by James Turrell, entitled, Tending, (Blue).


Here is the description the Nasher has on its website:


In the 1970s, James Turrell began a series of works that he describes generically as "skyspaces." These are enclosed spaces - rooms or Exterior view of Turrell's skyspace, Tending, (Blue)free-standing structures - open to the sky through rectangular or circular apertures in the roof.  While they appear to be architectural in nature, these spaces exist solely to create the light effects and perceptual events that constitute Turrell’s art. This skyspace, Tending, (Blue), was commissioned as a site-specific project for the Nasher Sculpture Center.  To achieve his optical effects, Turrell coordinates a complex system of lights that run in concert with natural cycles of sunrise and sunset, and respond to constantly changing atmospheric conditions.


Nestled in a planted berm at the northern end of the sculpture garden Tending, (Blue) is housed in a structure of rough hewn black granite blocks and contains two independently functioning, yet related, components: the Floor plan of Tending, (Blue)entrance vestibule and the skyspace.


The skyspace provides a quiet, meditative setting in which one concentrates on the view of the sky through a 9 ½ x 9 ½ ft. opening in the ceiling.  The rim of the aperture is knife-edge thin, which helps heighten the perception of the sky’s proximity.  It often appears that the sky has been drawn like a sheet tightly across the opening.  Italian limestone benches line the interior plaster walls of the skyspace.  They are heated during the winter, and the Rendering of a model of Tending, (Blue)skyspace is air-conditioned in warmer months, providing a comfortable viewing environment year round.


Washing the interior walls of the skyspace with various combinations of red, green, blue, and yellow light, Turrell conditions the eye in a way that affects one’s perception of the sky’s color, distance, and density.  The sky seems to take on extraordinary colors and, framed by the knife-edge rim of the aperture, appears extremely dense and flat.  At sunrise and sunset, when changes in the coloration of the sky are most rapid and pronounced, the View of Skyspace with yellow interiorexperience can be especially mesmerizing.  Just before sunrise, the lights inside the skyspace begin to change gradually, slowly shifting the perceptible hues and tones.  At sunset the changes are more dramatic, eliciting vibrant colors and sharper contrasts.  The light program becomes more active after sunset, cycling now more rapidly through a variety of colors, some seemingly impossible.  The entire system is coordinated by an astrological clock that constantly monitors the changing times of sunrise and sunset at the specific geographic location of the skyspace.  The interior lights of the skyspace do not normally change between sunrise and sunset.  However, if a photo sensor registers the external ambient light below a certain level during this period, it triggers a brief, quickly paced "storm" cycle of saturated colors and abrupt lighting changes.


Turrell has programmed 10 different light cycles for the skyspace and is planning a total of 12.  With such a variety of lighting cycles playing against constantly changing atmospheric conditions, Tending, (Blue) displays a seemingly endless variety of moods and experiences.


The Turrell Tending, (Blue) is amazingly successful:  it creates a powerfully orchestrated experience, culminating in the skyscape room itself, where the knife-edged square cutout in the ceiling is visually intense in a way that is hard to describe and difficult even to imagine.  Even once I knew what it was (which did not happen for some time), I could not believe it was simply a void in the ceiling; it much more appeared to be some intensely lighted square of frosted glass.

And while the collection at the Nasher far exceeds the museum’s capacity to display at  any one time, the art on display in the gallery during our visit was diverse and wonderful.


There were a number of fantastic small de Kooning sculptures: for example, his delightful Clamdigger, 1972 Plaster (at left).  There was also a very satisfying late painting, Untitled IX, 1984 Oil on canvas (at right), which is a terrific example of his late style.


There were a pair of interesting Giacometti nudes; a lot of sculptures by David Smith—some wonderful, many good, some not (and the painting of his typically bad); a great Lichtenstein, Double Glass, 1979-80 Painted and patinated bronze; and an excellent Calder mobile, The Spider, 1940 Painted sheet metal and steel rod.


There were three fabulous small Matisse sculptures, two of which were particular standouts:  Large Seated Nude (Grand Nu assis), 1922-29 (cast 1952) Bronze (at left), and Madeleine I, 1901 (cast 1903) Painted plaster (at right).

Picasso’s Flowers in a Vase (Fleurs dans un vase), 1951-53 Painted plaster, terracotta and iron (below,  left) was a great example of the joyful exuberance of his pottery style.

And finally, there was a very successful and very unusual Chamberlaine, Zaar, 1959 Welded steel, painted (below, right)—much more open and “un-compacted” than most of his works.





















The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center  (2301 Flora St. Dallas, TX 75201  tel: 214.670.3600)


Opened in 1989, The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is an elegant, open building by I. M. Pei.  While the plan’s underlying structure is founded on his more typical rectilinear forms,  Pei  relies more heavily here on curving forms and spaces than he usually employs, giving the building an organically expansive feel in a most successful way.  As Pei described it in 1989:


The plan of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is a combination of overlapping geometric forms. It starts with a rectangle set at an angle within a square and is enveloped by segments of circles. The central rectangular form houses the performance hall. Surrounding it, under a sweeping glass canopy, are various layers of programmed and unprogrammed public space, including an expansive skylit lobby, a garden court restaurant and sculpture garden. The total structure is tilted toward the skyline to establish a visual connection with the city's emerging Arts District and with Dallas' urban center.


The building program required a design that would accommodate two different, but related, functions. Of paramount importance is the performance hall.


In contrast to the necessarily closed character of the performance hall, the surrounding public areas are transparent by day and night, offering an inviting place to congregate when performances are not in progress. These intricately glazed spaces have been designed to provide visual excitement through the manipulation of light, movement, and changing perspectives. In this way, the Meyerson Symphony Center reaches out to a larger public than those attending performances; it helps to anchor and enliven the Arts District while enriching the city as a whole. (click for Pei’s complete statement)


The 50 ft. high Grand Lobby is filled with light from the huge conic windows Pei effectively has used to articulate the curved surfaces of the Center’s west façade.  The travertine floors, limestone walls, and architectural concrete lintels and soffits combine with the scale and formality of the space to lend an air of grandeur appropriate to such a culturally important place. 


The 85 ft. high concert hall itself, which seats just over 2,000 people, is an interesting combination of traditional and modernist:  its overall shape and feel is that of a classic, shoebox symphony hall, but there are many modern elements and touches—particularly in the warm wood panels of African and American cherry used in many places throughout the hall.  There are acoustical canopies over the orchestra which are adjustable to the varying requirements of symphonic music as well as smaller performances.   In Pei’s statement, he describes it as follows:


Its forms and shape are the result of rigorous adherence to the acoustician's requirements for audience distribution, unobstructed sight lines, and acoustical excellence. Seating 2,062 people on four levels, the concert hall focuses on the performance platform and on the grand concert organ.


The space almost works well:  it is an appealing combination of warm and soothing on the one hand, and stimulating and visually exciting on the other.  Unfortunately, I ultimately found it far too busy and over-detailed to work for me.  And there were certain details, like the over-abundance of large bright brass head rails on all the balconies, that felt almost tacky, in a Donald Trump sort of way.




Our Walking Tour of Downtown Dallas


Nancy and I spent a few hours walking the streets of downtown (and into the Historic District), before heading for the Arts District.  Here are some of the buildings we liked, in the order of our walking tour—which began from in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, headed south as far as the Magnolia Building, then looped west to Bank of America Plaza, and north past Fountain Place to the Hunt Consolidated Tower, and back to the Nasher Sculpture Center.  You may note that there are an incredible number of buildings by I. M. Pei & Partners (since 1989, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners) in Dallas—many of them very good.  Our favorite of all the Dallas skyscrapers, which comes almost at the end of our walking tour, was Fountain Place—and I was recently delighted to learn that my Urban Age (q.v., in my write up of the Urban Age Mumbai Conference:  www.columbia.edu/~rr322/UA-Mumbai.htm ) friend Harry Cobb was the lead architect for I. M. Pei & Partners’ design for this wonderful building.


Lincoln Plaza 500 N. Akard Street, 1984


Situated on a nearly triangular block, two sides of this surprisingly pleasing 45 story building have flat  surfaces that follow the line of the streets they face, while the hypotenuse side—which is beveled into nine window bays that run the height of the building and give a satisfying texture when juxtaposed to the smoothness of the other two sides—is on a more acute angle than Akard street, which it faces, and the building actually comes to a point at its northern end, whereas the site itself is blunted at that end. HKS of Dallas was the architectural firm for the project. The Dakota Mahogony granite and tinted glass create even more surface variation in a very successful way. 











Energy Plaza  1601 Byran Street, 1983


Located just north of Thanks-Giving Square, this 49-story building by I. M. Pei & Partners consists of three triangular structural sections at different heights: at the base there is a 6 story high structure; the main body of the building then rises as an equilateral triangle to 43 stories; with a final triangular shaft rising another six  floors higher.  On the north side a vertical notch carved into the tower rises to the 43rd floor.  It is OK—especially compared to some of the other really bad buildings around Thanks-Giving Square; but it is not nearly as successful as some of the other I. M. Pei structures in Dallas.










Patriot Tower (formerly One Dallas Center)  350 N. St. Paul Street, 1979


This rather large, bulky, 30 story building by I. M. Pei & Partners is actually far more pleasing than one might expect of such a massive volume. It is diamond shaped, and it has two V-shape vertical notches, which—while I usually do not like such contrivances—in this case create some interest and balance to an otherwise plain form—particularly as they play against the strong horizontal pattern of the articulation of the exterior surface of the building by the bands of the continuous tinted glass windows.









Kirby Building  1509 Main Street, 1913


Shortly after the completion of the Adolphus Hotel, Adolphus Busch hired the St. Louis firm of Barnett, Hayes, & Barnett (the same firm that did the Adolphus)to design this 17 story Gothic Revival early Dallas skyscraper, one block from the hotel to serve as an office building for the hotel.  Originally named the Busch Building, it was sold after Busch’s death to the Kirby Investment Company from Houston, and was renamed the Kirby Building.  It is a rather lovely building, with a strong vertical feel in the terra cotta cladding of its façade—balanced by horizontal articulation at varying heights.  There are many beautiful details in the terra cotta, including the finials atop the building.  As with many buildings in downtown Dallas, in 1999, the Kirby Building was converted into 156 apartments for residential use.









Adolphus Hotel  1321 Commerce Street, 1912;  additions 1916, 1926, 1950; restored 1981


Adolphus Busch (of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association) built this 20 story hotel, which opened in 1912.  Designed by the St. Louis firm, Barnett, Hayes, and Barnett, the Adolphus is a rather beautiful Beaux Arts building, with an unusually insistent, but successful horizontal banding, created by the light gray granite spandrels interrupting the otherwise predominant dark red brick façade.  It is a very attractive structure, despite its overly ornate upper stories—a slate and bronze Mansard roof, and a Budweiser beer bottle shaped turret.  (In 1916, a 14 story addition by Lang & Witchell of Dallas was built to the west of the original building;  and, ten years later, a 23 story addition designed by Sir Alfred Bossom [the English Architect who had recently designed the Magnolia Building across the street] was built to the rear of the property.  In 1981, the original building was restored, and the remaining structures were remodeled by Jerde Partnership of Los Angeles, with Beran & Shelmire of Dallas as Associate Architects. [The work included unifying all public areas of the additions with interior finishes that matched the original building, knocking off the top of the 1916 addition and stepping down what remained into multiple rooftop terraces, closing the areas between wings with false fronts, and applying banded two color stucco over all of the additions.  This made the additions read as one unit, with the original tower set apart from them.])









The Magnolia Building  1401 Commerce Street, 1922


When this 29 story Renaissance Revival building was completed in 1922, it was one of the tallest buildings west of the Mississippi.  It was built for the Magnolia Petroleum Company (later known as Mobil Oil).  Designed by English architect, Sir Alfred Charles Blossom, the Magnolia Building rises from a three-story base, with a 21 story U-shaped plan above which creates two tower at the building’s front—the upper five stories of which include an attic with hipped roofs of green Spanish tile, and culminating in four stories of vaulted penthouses (including the former observation deck) at the rear of the building, along with an ornate chimney.  At the 17th and 18th story levels, the two towers are connected on the façade with a decorative arched bridge, which gives some balance to the visual structure, while at the same time providing some horizontal structural support for the towers.  The building has been restored, and it is now the Magnolia Hotel.


A giant version of the corporate logo of the Magnolia Petroleum Company, Pegasus, a giant flying red horse, attached to a 50 ft. high metal tower resembling an oil derrick, and brightly lit at night, was placed atop the Magnolia Building in 1934.  It quickly became the most famous icon of the city, a landmark beloved by all.












Bank of America Plaza  901 Main Street, 1985

At 921 ft. and 72 stories, the BOA Plaza Building is the tallest skyscraper in Dallas.  Designed by Jarvis, Putty, Jarvis of Dallas, the building features several notched corners which allow multiple corner offices per floor.  These notches to different heights, creating a more interesting form to the otherwise monolithic mass of this enormous building.  The horizontal lines the floors are expressed on the exterior with aluminum spandrels, which also lends an interesting sense of pattern to the otherwise glass façade.








Fountain Place (originally Allied Bank Tower) 1445 Ross Avenue, 1986


Our favorite skyscraper in Dallas, Fountain Place was designed by my Urban Age friend, Harry Cobb of I.M. Pei and Partners (since 1989, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners).


From the description on the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners website, in order to create for the client, “both a unique identity on the skyline and an inviting public presence at street level,” the firm came up with the following:


The solution takes the form of a glazed prism informed by a rigorous and precise geometrical procedure employing the diagonal of a double square in plan and section. The resulting skyscraper contains office floors of 36,000 to 1,500 s/f, with an average of 21,000 s/f. At the tower's base, half of the building volume is carved away up to a height of sixty feet, allowing the water garden with its ordered forest of bald cypress trees to flow through beneath. This eventful garden, designed by the landscape architect Dan Kiley, is the essential heart of Fountain Place. It gives the complex both its name and unique identity as an office development that transcends mere servitude as a 9 to 5 workplace.


The 60-story, 1.3-million ft2 office tower is clad in green glass, and its appearance changes depending on the vantage Exterior photos Fountain Placepoint from which it is Exterior photos Fountain Placeviewed.  This sculpted prism-- Harry Cobb as described it as “What's left after carving into a square prism”—begins as a parallelogram in plan at the ground level, becomes a square on levels 6-13, and, beginning at the level of the 14th floor, has two huge triangular sections on opposite sides of the building which are cut into the building’s volume, gradually sloping upward and inward, and ending at a point from which the gabled roof of the upper stories springs.  At the apex of the structure, in between its two gables’ ends, is a central ridge line.  Overall, it is a rich, graceful, and vibrant form, exhibiting a feeling of novelty and change, but with a high degree of balance and stability.  Both Nancy and I felt ourselves wishing that the gables were not isosceles triangles (they may even be an equilateral ones, I do not know)—feeling that asymmetry in this roof feature would have been far superior, and would have been a solution that would have been both richer and actually more in keeping with the richness of the experience of the building.  (Of course, in deference to the architect, the sides of the gables often appear in the ever changing experience of the building to be of unequal length—and that may ultimately be truer to the way the structure works.)  The building powerfully commands a visual place in the Dallas skyline, expressing a sense of energy and vitality—a glittering presence that attracts and pleases from all angles.


There are two very effective entrances to the building, created by undercutting its north and south corners (q.v., image at type left of the description).  The triangular shape created above each entrance is strongly punctuated by the glass-clad “leg” which the building seems to place down to root itself—to “take a stand”— at the apex of each overhang; and the height and scale of each opening announces a monumental importance to the building one is about to enter.   Both entrances are approached through plazas containing a series of descending pools and waterfalls, highlighted by bald cypress trees, positioned in round concrete planters.  The organic and biological feel of these wonderful plazas (designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley)—with their trees, water, and rounded forms—create a marvelous counterpoint to the flatness and shiny modernity of the building itself.  They also create an inviting and relaxing environment in which for people to congregate—particularly in the larger, flatter expanse of the northern entrance plaza.  The only slight quibble I have with the lower floors of the building is that inside the impressive height of the glass entrance wall, the lobby itself does not fully rise to its height; but rather the upper floor is filled in with a series of glass-cornered offices, the points of which go right up to the curtain wall of the entrance—creating and overhand that diminishes the grandeur of the lobby.


But, in summary, this is one terrific building!







Hunt Consolidated Tower  1900 Akard Street, 2007


File:Dallas - Hunt Consolidated Tower 02.jpgThis new 15 story building, designed by TBG, Texas’ largest landscape architecture and planning firm, is a bold, modern design.  The strong, convex, skyward-curving thrust of its north façade makes a powerful statement—hunt consolidated tower by jypsygen.effective particularly in juxtaposition to the softer horizontal convex curves of its western façade, the impact of which, while far more subtle with respect to their shape, is visually intensified by the horizontal lines of their gray spandrels.  The idea of piercing the convex northern façade with a vertical cylinder is interesting, but ultimately not successful—although it does create what appears to be an effective interior volume inside the lobby of the building.  (I cannot say for sure, however, as we were unable actually to get inside to see it.)  Unfortunately, the east side of the building is basically a plain, flat recreation of the beautifully curved western face—and it fails miserably to maintain itself as part of the overall design.


The landscaping created by TBG is quite successful.  There is a fountain and infinity edge reflecting pool that wraps around the front of the building, and these water elements are juxtaposed with desert plantings for a most entrancing effect.  The narrow plaza around the building is also dotted with bald cypress trees and massive live oaks, which restores a sense of fertile balance to the area.




Trammell Crow Center  2001 Ross Avenue, 1984


The final building on our walk, just opposite the south side of the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Trammell Crowe Center is a 50 story building of polished granite with dark glass windows. This tower by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has four ascending rows of bay windows on each façade. Each of the corners of the building are indented, creating a cruciform plan designed to reduce the bulk of the footprint of the building, which is located on a very small plot. The upper levels of the building are less successful, finally culminating in a glass pyramid rooftop, complete with a needle at its highest point.


At street level, the building is surrounded with landscaping which includes numerous tall trees a sculpture garden.  On the north side of the tower is a two floor pavilion which houses the Crow Collection of Asian Art.  The entrance through the Crow Collection building—up an attractive flight of stairs with a small, descending fountain of running water (not unlike an extremely miniaturized version of the stair-fountain at Villa Lanta, near Viterbo, in Italy)—works nicely, and leads one into the rather grand, high ceiling lobby of the building (which would be far more attractive, however, with less gaudy trim—especially the polished brass).




And, finally, my restaurant suggestion (the one place we ate in Dallas)—which is well-worth noting, as it was a tremendous treat!



Local  (2936 Elm Street [major cross street: Hall St.; and located east of Malcolm X Street]   tel: 214.752.7500)


Located in the funky, gentrifying neighborhood of Deep Ellum, Local was an amazing find.  It is in the old Boyd Hotel— built in 1908 and landmarked as the oldest standing hotel in Dallas.  The Boyd Hotel was a frequent stopover for the notorious Bonnie and Clyde and musicians Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Bo Diddly.  It is a stylish but casual place, very attractively decorated and lighted (done by Dallas interior designer Alice Cottrell).


But it is the food that makes Local so special.  It is basically American cuisine, with an ever-so-subtle Southwestern character.  Chef Tracy Miller clearly has many classic culinary influences—and knowledge; but the preparations she creates are clearly contemporary.  She clearly uses only the best and freshest ingredients, and combines them in ways that are both clear and balanced.  From the petite soup amuse, to the cranberry thumbprint before leaving, everything was delicious.  Local clearly deserves the fact that it has the highest “Food” rating score in the Dallas Zagat’s.


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