Facades+ Dallas Co-Chair on the Big D’s Coming-of-Age

Architecture Newsletter Southwest Sustainability Technology Urbanism
As Dallas comes of age, its built environment is a subject of debate among designers, city leaders, and residents. (David Herrera / Flickr)

As Dallas comes of age, its built environment is a subject of debate among designers, city leaders, and residents. (David Herrera / Flickr)

Dallas is growing up. And just like the rest of us, the city is doing some soul-searching on its way from adolescence to adulthood. “Growing up doesn’t necessarily mean growing out; bigger isn’t necessarily better,” said Heath May, director of HKS LINE and co-chair of the upcoming Facades+ Dallas conference. “People are starting to understand that it’s time to start thinking about public policy and the way it relates to placemaking.”

Downtown, top concerns include walkability, sustainability, and glare. (Luis Tamayo / Flickr)

Downtown, top concerns include walkability, sustainability, and glare. (Luis Tamayo / Flickr)

May points to recent events, including the New Cities Summit and “Building the Just City,” the third annual David Dillon Symposium, that have brought architects, city planners, and policymakers together to discuss the Big D’s urban future. At the end of this month, experts in the field of facade design and fabrication as well as representatives from the City of Dallas, Dallas Morning News critic Mark Lamster, and other influential Dallasites will continue the conversation at the Texas debut of the Facades+ conference series.

At the top of the list of local concerns, said May, is the idea of the connected city. When he recently saw 1930s footage of downtown Dallas, May was struck by “the sheer amount of people on the sidewalks in contrast to what you see today. Downtown is coming alive now, but it’s struggling.” Part of the problem is the lack of physical connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods, especially Deep Ellum, stranded on the other side of IH345, and the Trinity River. Groups like A New Dallas, which proposes tearing down the decrepit IH345, and AIA Dallas “are looking at how we can stitch the city back together—at how we can provide workforce housing to live, walk, and enjoy downtown,” said May.

Dallas' freeways separate downtown from surrounding neighborhoods like Deep Ellum. (John Tornow / Flickr)

Dallas’ freeways separate downtown from surrounding neighborhoods like Deep Ellum. (John Tornow / Flickr)

In terms of facades, said May, the challenge is to “understand architecture as part of a system.” The theme of the Facades+ Dallas is resilience; resilience, May insists, depends on various scales of design as well as on the cooperation of clients and policymakers. “We’re inviting clients, developers, and members of the community to participate in these discussions when we’re looking at things the city is wrestling with,” said May. “Things like glare: how do you balance that with other criteria such as mitigating solar heat gain?”

May is co-leading a dialog workshop on day 2 of the Facades+ conference, with TEX-FAB’s Brad Bell. Participants in “Digital Design and Fabrication and the Shifting Paradigm of Architectural Research” will take a field trip to the University of Texas at Arlington, where May and Bell are involved in a consortium designed to bring together academic research and professional practice. The workshop includes a tour of UTA’s fabrication facilities and a discussion of how new tools are shaping practice, as well how practice and research exist in symbiosis.

Other events at Facades+ Dallas include a symposium panel on glare, plus “Balancing Cost and Performance Through Simulation,” a hands-on tech workshop offered by HKS LINE’s Tim Logan and Paul Ferrer. To register for dialog or tech workshops and to learn more, visit the Facades+ Dallas conference website.

HKS' MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of many local projects by the Dallas-based firm. (faungg / Flickr)

HKS’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of many local projects by the Dallas-based firm. (faungg / Flickr)

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