Since arriving in North Texas to take up the job of Dallas Morning News architecture critic, Mark Lamster has been under a trial by fire, suffering scrutiny and criticism for everything from his Yankee origin to his unsympathetic take on the city’s built environment. Well, local opinions seem to be warming a bit to the sharp-tongued scribe. In a recent piece in the Dallas Observer, Charles Schultz went so far as to praise how quickly Lamster has come to understand Big D’s development landscape and the insider track around its so-called zoning regulations. Schultz even showed a little contrition for a previous quip: “I apologize for calling him ‘Mark Lamster, New York Pinhead’ when he first showed up.”
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Nearly a month has passed now since the more than 800 people from all of the globe who attended this year's New Cities Summit in Dallas, Texas, packed up their bags, and returned home. Each is now equipped—if the Summit proved its purpose—with a slew of practical ideas on how to positively transform the urban environment, or at least a more robust list of contacts in the fields of government, business, and urban design. For those of you who missed it, the New Cities Foundation has just released an ebook recapitulating what was discussed in its many keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions. The foundation has also produced a four-minute highlights movie (embedded below), which captures some of the enthusiastic spirit of this international gathering of urban thinkers and doers, which is now in its third year. The Architect's Newspaper was a media partner for the Summit this year and I was on hand to moderate a panel on the subject of "Mobility and the Urban Form." The panel speakers included Mark Dixon, founder of Regus, a company that sets up remote worksites; Alex Krieger of NBBJ and Harvard Graduate School of Design; Harold Madi, Director of Urban Design in Toronto; and Lorenzo Reffreger, Head of Sales and Systems at Bombardier Transportation. The discussion was lively and each of the speakers was very eloquent about their particular areas of expertise. Together they offered a variety of perspectives on the transportation challenges that sprawling urban environments face as their populations grow and offered a number of possible solutions. Dixon, for example, raised the possibility that long commutes may be taken out of the picture altogether by the sort of remote workspaces his company builds. Madi said that in Toronto they have found a carrot and stick approach works best to encourage higher density development. Krieger pointed out that here in the U.S., in spite of what urbanism blogs tell us, the majority of urban residents are not fleeing suburbs in order to cram themselves in 400-square-foot apartments. He also said that the automobile isn't going anywhere. Reffreger said that Bombardier had in fact seen an increase in urban rail rolling stock sales in North America, and explained how the design of rail cars varies greatly from city to city and culture to culture. Each year as part of the Summit the New Cities Foundation hosts its AppMyCity! contest, which seeks out the world's best new urban app. This year the prize went to Peerby, an Amsterdam-based web platform and app that enables people to share and borrow things from their neighbors—a blender, a bicycle, a cup of sugar—in under 30 minutes. Users post what they want to borrow and neighbors get a push notification that they can respond to with a single click. Upon receiving the prize at the Winspear Opera House, Peerby CEO and founder Daan Weddepohl cheered and announced: "The world is ready for sharing!" This is just a taste of the sort of discussions and solutions that were shared at the Summit. To get more of an idea of the quality and scope of of the discourse check out the Summit highlight reel.
This year, the Europe-based New Cities Foundation is bringing its annual New Cities Summit to the Dallas Arts District, from June 17 to 19. Eight hundred global thought leaders will convene at the Winspear Opera House to listen to speakers, engage in workshops, and take advantage of world-class networking opportunities. The Architect’s Newspaper is one of the summit media partners. AN Southwest editor Aaron Seward recently spoke to Mathieu Lefevre, the Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, about what the organization has on tap for this year’s summit, whose theme is Re-imagining Cities: Transforming the 21st Century Metropolis. Aaron Seward: Let's start by getting some background on the New Cities Summit. What is it? Why did it start? And what does it hope to achieve? Mathieu Lefevre: The New Cities Summit started when the New Cities Foundation was set up, in 2010. It’s a non-profit whose mission is to make cities better. The event is aimed at shaping the global conversation and adding to the creative thought leadership surrounding how to shape what we are calling the Century of Cities. We held the first summit in 2012 in Paris; then we went to São Paulo, Brazil, in 2013; and this year we’re coming to Texas. Why has the summit decided to come to Dallas this year? First of all, there is often a herd mentality when it comes to these events. They tend to happen in very similar cities, like New York or Singapore. We’ve always wanted to go to unexplored terrain, to find cities that are full of potential but are facing major challenges. And that’s why we’re interested in Dallas. It’s one of the most dynamic cities in the world. I read somewhere that the GDP of Dallas is larger than that of the United Arab Emirates with all their oil. As much media reporting has covered in recent weeks, it’s extraordinary in terms of its economy and diversity of jobs, but it also faces a lot of challenges. Traffic, for example, is a major issue in this extremely car-dependent city, though that is slowly changing. I also like that Dallas is a place that is eager to tell its story again. That was our inspiration for the theme of this year’s summit: Re-imaging Cities. The theme came from conversations we had in Dallas, and I’m interested in bringing our community there because it’s a city that most of them don’t know. The summit will be held in the Dallas Arts District. Why this choice of location? What is the relationship between culture and the subject matter discussed at the summit? The first reason is that it’s a spectacular venue. The participants are going to be absolutely wowed by the arts district as an emerging neighborhood, but also by the building itself, the Winspear Opera House (Foster + Partners, 2009). More broadly, many cities around the world—like Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Dallas, and other cities in North America— are betting on culture as a transformative strategy. Dallas is attempting to tell its story again, and to re-imagine itself, partly through its Arts District. I’m a Parisian. I’m sorry to say I had no idea that there was this kind of culture in Texas. Between the Dallas Arts District—the Winspear and the other cultural facilities on that street—and what’s going on in Fort Worth, that’s world-class cultural facilities. The mayors of Fort Worth and Dallas will be on hand to speak. What other notable figures are participating in the summit? What I’m really excited about and very proud of is the combination of well known visible figures that come and share their wisdom and insights. We’ve got seven or eight mayors, from Spain, Asia, Africa, and North America of course. Also we’ve got very well known figures, like the architect Daniel Libeskind; the CEO of Bombardier, Lutz Bertling; the CEO of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Sean Donohue; and the executive director of the Mori Foundation, Hiroo Ichikawa, which is one of the most powerful organizations in Japan. We’ve got some great young leaders coming, like Aaron Hurst of the Taproot Foundation & Imperative; and the contemporary Chinese artist Huang Rui. Then there are the speakers from our WhatWorks series, who each get six minutes to tell us about a project that has worked in their city. And of course we’ve got our three AppMyCity! finalists. We’re really excited about meeting the creators of these apps. There is one called Djump, a peer-to-peer car sharing service; one called Peerby that allows people to share household items, like blenders or anything else; and then there’s Social Cyclist, from New York, an app that encourages users to offer preferred bike routes. What are some of the key topics that will be discussed? We’re going to map out a future of what we call the Century of Cities: What are the 10 drivers that are going to shape the future of cities? Then we have more technical and pragmatic sessions: How can technology help cities reach their green targets? We’re going to look at emerging concepts in urban design, such as happiness, wellness, and the shared economy. These are just starting to emerge, and we’re going to explore them with many of the people who helped start them. We’re going to talk about mobility. We’re going to talk about entrepreneurship. We’re going to talk about the role of the airport in city strategy. Were going to talk about where the money is going to come from. We’re going to talk about participation, transparency, and citizen engagement in urban democracy. We’re going to talk about healthcare. Of course, a lot of the conversation is going to happen outside of our programs, in the interactions between our many invited attendees. When you bring 800 people from around the world together who have a passion about cities it’s going to result in stimulating creative conversation. I hope it will have tangible results for Dallas and other cities around the world.
Dallas developer Shawn Todd is proposing a $100 million parking-garage-and-park combo for a downtown parking lot that Dallas has been trying to get underway for years now. And while stories about parking garages aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, Todd’s plans are making a particularly idiosyncratic splash. Besides a massive media screen, a Trader Joe's grocery store, and adding a plethora of parking spots to downtown Dallas, the garage and park won’t cost the city a penny. Todd plans to pay for it all by himself. Pacific Plaza is a 3-acre lot in downtown Dallas that the city has been pouring money into for years now. But the city can’t foot the $10 million dollar bill required to get the park underway. The lack of funds has left the stretch of asphalt and broken concrete as, well, a stretch of broken asphalt and concrete. Todd wishes to build an eight-level parking structure that would arch over Pacific Plaza with a deck park atop the garage. Nearby Aston Park—which Todd hopes to buy out from the city—provides the footprint for more park space. Digital ticker tape similar to the one in Times Square gives the parking garage a revolutionary nod to modernity. Razing nearby Corrigan Tower and including residential opportunities is a part of Todd’s bold bag of tricks. Although the city would not have to pay for the rebuilding or maintenance of Aston Park, they are weary of selling the land to a private investor. However, nearby Klyde Warren Park employed a similar business model and was unquestionably successful, so negotiations are a definite possibility. Todd’s ambitious blueprints require some major red tape to cross before groundbreaking. Success, however, would be a big foot up in Dallas’ attempts to amp up their downtown area with commercial and economic viability.
Jamie Carpenter, the world-renowned architect who has left his mark on projects like New York City's Millennium Tower, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and others, recently revealed his latest work, Light Veil, at Dallas’ Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Cotton Bowl Public Art Project, a $25.5 million endeavor aimed at revamping the stadium, included a contest that Carpenter won out for equipping the stadium with a new facade. Carpenter’s design relies on the sole use of hanging mesh ribbons whose delicate strength elicits an ethereal effect. The facade is constructed out of uniformly spaced thin mesh ribbons, 2 feet wide and 50 feet long, that weigh in at a slight 80 pounds. Up close, the strong parallel lines impress with their connotations of durability, reliability, and uprising power—positive associate qualities for any sports stadium. From a distance, however, the impact is wholly different yet just as impressive. The ribbon’s interact with natural sunlight to create a shimmering front, hence the aptly named Light Veil. Some writers have dubbed Carpenter’s treatment as “gift-wrapped.” The phrase keys into the fact that the design’s simple elegance delivers a surprise no matter which way you turn. Carpenter’s work delights in the interplay between light and glass, and could be considered a signature trait of his work. “The brighter a material gets, the more solid it feels,” Carpenter has said, thereby highlighting the underlying paradox of the Cotton Bowl’s new face: how basic structural elements solidify the intangible in a very real way. The Cotton Bowl Project included adding more club seats, concession stands, and general clean up. The veil, which cost $8 million to complete and comes third or fourth in a trend of mesh facades, allows the audience to more fully experience the interplay between the sporting event, the stadium’s interior, and the city beyond.
It’s a bad year to be an Art Barn. Only two weeks after Rice University demolished its beloved structure, UT Dallas announced plans to close down its own Art Barn, with its exact fate remaining unclear. Architecture critic Mark Lamster, among others, voiced speculation over the building's shutdown and possible removal from UT Dallas' campus. It’s almost the same sad love story at UT Dallas as it was at Rice. Big university meets small time building, and over time the two form something of a beautiful relationship. But as special as both are to the other, the building as a whole simply could not carry on with the weight of the times. Not only is the structure drastically behind in safety codes, renovations would cost millions—more money than the university has deemed practical, especially considering its original building cost of $26 per square foot. Preservationists have come to the aid of the building, but like last time, calls for preservation might not be able make up for decades of slippage in upkeep. Indeed, UT Dallas already opened a $60 million Arts and Technology Center last year. The Art Barn was designed by Lawrence Wood in 1976. With its white siding, slanting roof, and atypical outline, it paid formal homage to Rice University’ Art Barn. Functionally it fulfilled similar duties. The “modern” architecture was a breath of fresh air among the tried-and-true brick buildings on campus, and it flourished as both an art space and a campus icon throughout the years. The Art Barn owes it singular charm to architect Lawrence Wood and his collaborations with UT Dallas' art faculty. They strove for a space that would create “an ideal environment for the making and study of art by the people who would actually be using the facility,” explained former arts department chair George Holman. The interior studio and gallery spaces are arranged into open “commons” that allow for a flow between students' work and display. Although the building’s exact fate remains uncertain, it is true that administrators have already initiated the process of closing down the facility. Bringing the Art Barn up to speed would require at least $4 million—a sum that President Daniel deemed “not a responsible choice.” He has not made any official decisions on the building’s decommissioning, although he did state that any replacements would respect the Art Barn’s original architecture.
Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News architecture critic and responsible citizen, chastised the Dallas community for its poor attendance at an April 9 James Carpenter lecture. The 2004 MacArthur Fellow, who was speaking at the Dallas Center for Architecture about his newest installation at the Cotton Bowl, shed light on his genius to a paltry audience of 10. Ten, that is, if Carpenter included himself in the head count. In an open letter to Dallas architects, Lamster expressed his dismay at the poor showing, calling out the large corporate firms especially for neglecting their responsibility to the intellectual community. If Lamster’s cantankerous contentions nix him from a cocktail party or three, previous experience says he will not care. Last November, Lamster tweeted a cheeky “Thanks!” in response to a snarky Texan’s attack on the Brooklyn writer’s roots.
Crescent Real Estate Group is making a play to bring high-end business tenants to Uptown Dallas—an area better known for twenty somethings living above their means than big-name office tenants. In order to attract this kind of clientele, the developer has hired architect Cesar Pelli to design a dramatic new building that is promising to change the face of the neighborhood. “We didn’t want it to look like just another suburban building that you’d plopped down in Uptown,” Crescent CEO John Goff told the Dallas Morning News. “Rectangles are boring, and we have a building that is much more interesting.” The building is dramatically different from any other structure around the Big D. The 24-story tower rises from the corner of McKinney Avenue and Olive Street like a giant glass wave crashing down on the southwestern architectural scene. Sited across Olive Street from the Ritz-Carlton, the high-rise portion of the project slants nine degrees over a podium base, which includes space for shops, restaurants, and a parking garage. This two-story volume—one of the largest retail centers in the area—is clad in large glass windows offering spectacular views of a new street-side park. The $200 million project is the most ambitious in Uptown since Crescent built the Philip Johnson–designed 400 Crescent Court in the 1980s. The two Crescent structures could not be more different, however. Johnson looked toward the past for inspiration, while Pelli’s structure is decidedly more modern. “Buildings have changed, and the technology has improved dramatically,” said Crescent senior vice president Joseph Pitchford. “This will be a more contemporary expression than you see in Uptown.”
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]” Prince-Ramus, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next week’s facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference, approaches facade design as an integral part of the design process as a whole. That process, in turn, revolves around a concept he calls agenda. “We set out in our projects to figure out what the project’s agenda should be, then we set out to delimit the constraints,” he said. “Then we try to find the embodiment of the agenda that will fit seamlessly within those constraints.” REX’s current projects include a pair of headquarters buildings for sister media companies in the Middle East. The stone-clad towers are covered in retractable sunshades that reference a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. As an example of how constraints can influence facade design, Prince-Ramus cited the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. REX (with OMA) slashed the project’s envelope budget in order to build a theater that changes shape to suit different arts events. The money they were left with, said Prince-Ramus, was about what standard aluminum siding would cost—so they started there. “We made a dummy design where we spent a lot of effort trying to not design something aesthetically, but that we’d put it out to the market and uncover what in the market drove costs,” he said. In Dallas that turned out to be weight, since frequent hail storms require thick siding. REX/OMA developed a facade system of extruded tubes that would protect against hailstones while minimizing the amount of aluminum required. “We made something that was very beautiful and very unique,” said Prince-Ramus. “Certainly if we’d come back to the client with flat aluminum siding they would have said, ‘Put the money back into the facade.'...The success of the facade is why we were able to build a building that’s renowned for its ability to transform.” While the Wyly Theatre facade was shaped by financial constraints, the client’s particular vision informed the envelope for the Mercedes Benz Future Center in Stuttgart. “Part of the collective agenda was that the building should be very transparent, as opposed to museums, which tend to be very cloistered,” said Prince-Ramus. But the automaker also wanted the Future Center, which will display its vision for the future of automobile technology, to be “a beacon for sustainability.” REX’s current solution (which may change as the design develops) is to create a curtain-like sunshade that wraps around the all-glass building. The shade is opaque on one side of the building and nearly transparent on the other, and rotates with the sun’s movements. The curtain is a metaphor for the unknowability of the future: Prince-Ramus recalled the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which says that it is impossible to simultaneously determine the value of certain variables. “The more you know of one, the less you know of others,” he said. “In discussions about the future, that idea seemed really inherent in what they’re doing [at Mercedes Benz].” Whatever the origin of a particular facade design, for Prince-Ramus it always comes back to performance, the standard that for him encapsulates both function and aesthetics. “The more we’ve used the word performance, the more I’m convinced it does have that dual meaning,” he said. “When [they] talk about a high-performance auto, they don’t just mean it goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. They mean it’s sexy, too.” To hear Joshua Prince-Ramus speak next week, visit the facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference website.
Big spaces, big cities, big freeways. This equation has held ground since the boom of major road developments in the 1970s. But a Dallas group lead by urban designer Patrick Kennedy is fighting that conception. He and his initiative, A New Dallas, are pushing a proposal that has been steadily gaining support since it began two years ago. Interstate 345 is an eight lane, 1.4 mile stretch of elevated highway that serves roughly 200,000 commuters weekly. Kennedy wishes to demolish the structure completely, replacing it with a major surface street, four new parks, $4 billion in new private investment, and homes for 25,000 Dallas residents. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings met with TxDOT's district designer, Bill Halson, on April 1 to discuss the project. He issued a written statement applauding TxDOT for looking into the issue, while also noting that the city has no control over the department. Meanwhile, Kennedy called the decade-long investigative report a stalling tactic. TxDOT, however, claims that the thousands of commuters who use I-345 every day are part of an ongoing need that has to be taken into consideration. The first question many ask is how demolishing the expressway will affect traffic. Counterintuitively, the removal of major expressways actually improves traffic conditions. Structures like I-345 operate under the principle of induced demand, which dictates that if something is there, people will use it. Major traffic jams, long commutes from work to home, and decentralized modes of commercial space (a.k.a. strip malls) do not occur because freeways are not big enough or long enough. Rather, they grow in proportion to the size of the freeway itself. Indeed, this demolition trend is catching on throughout the country, as more and more people realize how major expressways hinder growth. I-345 was born in 1974, a time when developers believed that a commute's efficiency was defined by how fast one could get into and out of the city. The consequent boom in highways throughout the nation resulted in residential developments expanding outward from a city's business district, with strip malls and small businesses popping up in the vast concrete wake. Now, however, experts say that urban sprawl can actually hinder, not contribute to, economic growth. They also note that removing the structure would not back up or halt traffic altogether. Rather, it would disseminate it through city side streets, creating a more even flow and possibly completely eliminating the type of traffic problems that are encountered, not in developed urban areas, but in the suburban sprawl enabled by major highways. Indeed, at least six other cities have removed their traffic-chugging arteries. The resulting spaces have been reinvented into parks, cultural centers, public transit, and industrial developments. Kennedy said that the nearby side streets could handle the traffic flow, and that the installation of a major surface road could encourage the use of public transit, as well as facilitate the type of foot traffic seen in Klyde Warren Park. These types of highway removal initiatives, which allow for a more harmonious blend of office, residential, and commercial space, result in more localized living that reduces the need to drive as frequently or as far. Less traffic also equals less pollution, an environmental bonus that Kennedy's initiative has not addressed, but seems wholly feasible. Kennedy's plan also makes Dallas a safer city, considering the risk factor of accidents resulting from high-speed traffic. As several other U.S. cities throughout the nation are considering similar removals, Kennedy's observation that “this is a political and economic discussion more than it is engineering” may be spot-on. So logistically, what would a demolition look like? On the financial side, $10 million dollars and ten years to research the demolition of I-345, after which an approximate 1.9 billion dollars would be funneled into its removal. Meanwhile, TxDOT’s $100 million dollar renovation of the highway is underway.
Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present The Dallas Museum of Art 1717 North Harwood Street Dallas, TX Extended through December 2014 The Dallas Museum of Art is celebrating the work of prolific designers and architects from the 1960s to the present with its first comprehensive design exhibition. Some of the featured designers include Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Aldo Rossi, Zaha Hadid, and Donald Judd. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s own collection, the exhibition reveals the evolution of forms and ideologies that have shaped international design over the last half century. “Several of the works on view are recent acquisitions that reflect the continuing expansion of the Museum’s decorative arts and design program to include historic American and European work, as well as contemporary objects of international significance,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. From modern jewelry like The Golden Fleece, to iconic furniture, the exhibition spotlights the extraordinary work of some of the best designers of our time.
Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center was designed with natural sunlight in mind. A roof covered by pierced aluminum screens allows dappled light to enter its art galleries in subtle warmth. The outdoor sculpture garden is open to the elements and a specifically-planted landscape by Peter Walker reaps the benefits of the Texan sun. Since its construction in 2005, the museum has become an icon of the Dallas Arts District. In 2011, a 42-story condominium building went up across the street, banking on the popularity of Piano’s art haven. While the glazed curved glass facade of “Museum Tower” offers million dollar views of the museum below, it burns the artworks and plants with a directed glare. Now, a pair of New York–based architects might have a solution. A bitter debate between the buildings has ensued; but New York–based design studios REX and Front Studio Architects have been commissioned to propose a solution. Situated over the dividing street, Surya, a 400 foot tall light-responsive sunshade sculpture, will balance the Nasher’s need for shade and the Tower’s client promise of a clear view of Piano’s architecture. Tracking the movement of the sun on Museum Tower, the firms have determined when the glare on the art center is at its peak intensity. The Surya sculpture is a free-form thin aluminum ring, its shape determined by ability to block the most reflected light while being the least intrusive on views from the built environment. Spokes to the sculpture’s center support sun-reactive panels, which expand under harsh glare and retract in normal conditions. The sculpture will prevent continued sunlight damage to the works and gardens of the Nasher Sculpture Center, and is hoped to end museum-goers’ constant need for sunglasses. In the debate over which party should take action—the museum or the owners of the neighboring tower—it seems that Museum Tower has made a concrete step for resolve. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Tower’s developer, appointed REX and Front to invent the Surya design and to construct it in the physical middle ground between the two structures.