From a conceptual standpoint, our work on a vertical campus in Downtown Dallas took cues from many lessons we have learned abroad, from site response to contextual integration, and paired these attributes with an evolving corporate business model. Ultimately, the concept was shaped around an affordable housing project just to the east of the site, maintaining a view corridor through the gesture of a loop that ultimately became a symbol for the company’s programmatic model. It is one in a line of projects coming up in Texas that we are excited about.
From a facade standpoint, our hospitality group is working on a Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kuwait that is currently under construction. The facade concept of self-shading finds a balance between the harsh climate of the region and the demand for expansive views. The pitch results in the natural placement of photovoltaics with the underside of the bay providing a highly transparent opening with minimal direct solar heat gain. The same team recently completed the core and shell of the Maike Business Center and Grand Hyatt in Xi’an. Here, two towers were linked by a belt truss to limit lateral loads while serving as a critical program link between the hotel and office towers. The facade was a simple extruded, serrated form linked in the middle by a vertical screen that emphasizes the composition.
I am working currently on the design of two China-based projects with quite a range of scale between them. OCT Chengdu is on the larger side with a dominant facade facing a key convergence of traffic in the city. The facade plays into that movement with a series of fins that peel upward to reveal the activity of the mall behind, thus activating what is traditionally a hard face. We have been working further to optimize this system. This project is currently under construction and should be complete in a few years. On the other side of scale, we recently began work on an Audubon Center in Zhengzhou. The concept is about tying program and landscape together underneath an observation ring. We have been working with Thornton Tomasetti on realizing the ring as a completely unsupported element over the waterfront with full height curved glazing that reveals the public behind, as if the visitor were a part of the facade experience. The Zhengzhou project will start in construction in a few months and be complete by the middle of next year.
AN: What unique opportunities and challenges are present for architects and designers in Dallas?
MF: Mark Lamster summed it up well in a Dallas Morning News article from April of 2016, "Dallas Architecture is a joke (but it doesn't have to be)."
In my opinion, the potential in Dallas is to be proactive rather than reactive toward challenging and evolving typologies but with that comes a certain degree of investment and risk. We can take lessons from two organizations that I believe have had the most impact upon the city in BC Workshop and Better Block. Both groups have been recognized for their innovative approaches to typologies and community engagement. The Cottages at Hickory Crossing is a noted example on the city’s south side.
An engagement of our value as architects and designers to all parties involved in a project, from developer to community, is key, but change will also depend upon us stepping out and trying something without permission. As Dallas further evolves, there is no better place to test and experiment, but we have yet to really commit to that, beyond few examples. In all, it is really getting back to our fundamentals of why we practice this profession and to search for its meaning once again.
AN: Which ongoing Dallas developments do you perceive to be the most exciting in terms of facade innovation and overall impact on the city?MF: There have been some noted transformations in Downtown Dallas, from work by Architexas on the Joule Hotel, to Merriman Anderson’s work on the Statler Hilton, all the way to more recent conversions of 400 Record by Gensler. Each of these, among others, have defined in many respects the process of historical rehabilitation in Texas, but also have transformed the program in all cases. Almost overnight, there is a developed rhythm toward respecting the past and redefining the urban realm. The Statler and 1401 Elm represent the largest and most challenging cases of preservation in the city. Statler was many years in the making. Historical innovations during the 1950s proved quite challenging in the rehab of the building. The results of maintaining such a celebrated form and period in the rehab are nothing short of a feat. 1401 Elm is currently undergoing its makeover, with the marble currently off-site for rehab. It has stalled a few times during recent years but hopefully, it will become a major contributor once again.
Both projects are a glimpse into a city that is continually working to value its history more and more by the day. With our first panel, we hope to shed further light on this discussion.Further information regarding Facades+ Dallas may be found here.