FANCY DRAWERS: Frank Lloyd Wright, Rem Koolhaas, and Santiago Calatrava have helped shape Dallas.
photography (left to right) courtesy of Dallas Theater Center, Oma, and by Tadd Myers


Dallas strikes so many poses that it’s bound to look good from somewhere. The city’s entryways create kaleidoscopic panoramas, and at night, individual buildings—Pegasus’ red glow, Reunion Tower’s blinking, and the emerald lines of Bank of America—make Dallas holographic. The city’s framing and coloring (and the opening sequence of that TV show) have made it iconic. And Dallas likes its visibility.

It’s not just a distant city view that captivates people. The angles of Dallas’ buildings—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalita Humphreys Theater, Philip Johnson’s Thanks-Giving Square, and I.M. Pei’s City Hall, say—also garner attention. Calatrava’s long-heralded bridges, as well as Norman Foster’s Winspear Opera House, Rem Koolhaas’ Wyly Theatre, and Thom Mayne’s slated Museum of Nature & Science building, are recasting the city’s shape. One of the most concentrated areas of modern architecture in the world now snuggles up to Woodall Rodgers’ soon-to-be-grassed-over concrete abyss.

Despite these changes, local architecture criticism isn’t matching the city’s rise. “Ironically, just as Dallas has arrived nationally and internationally as an arts and an architectural center, the focus by the press has gone the other way—intersecting curves going in the opposite direction,” says David Dillon, the Dallas Morning News’ former full-time architecture critic. He left amid a 2006 staffing reduction, now lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, and only occasionally contributes to the paper. That irregular critical presence “doesn’t replace having somebody local on the team every day,” he says.

The new Dallas Center for Architecture might provide that substitute. Paula Clements, executive director of the American Institute of Architects-Dallas, tours me around the facility, located in the Precept building overlooking Woodall Rodgers. She points out its EnviroGLAS flooring and LED light bulbs. In stark contrast to the drab stucco of the building’s exterior, Peter Doncaster’s interior design is open and youthful. The center plans to host many events. A lecture room for 125 people will also serve to air documentaries for the U.S. Green Building Council. Architecture exhibits will kick off with opening receptions in the gallery space.

Clements describes the Dallas Center for Architecture’s members as the “docents of the Arts District.” They hope to offer walking tours, podcasts, and an official visitor center, as well as an archive room to store the city’s blueprints. Books rich with Dallas’ designs, such as City by Design and The American Institute of Architects Guide to Dallas Architecture, show how much there is to catalogue here. And when outsiders increasingly design the city, a place to talk about local, national, and international architecture is a must.

The Dallas Architecture Forum, now in its 13th year of lecture and panel series, has long provided such a space. It now has a more visible presence with its office in the Dallas Center for Architecture. Nate Eudaly, the forum’s executive director, tells me the organization was established to introduce the world’s leading architects to Dallas and raise the level of architectural awareness. “Its purpose was not only for architects,” he says, “but also for designers, contractors, and the general public, because good architecture is important for the vitality of a community.”

Its work has paid off. Thom Powell, an architect from Good, Fulton, and Farrell, attributes Dallas’ recent architecture boom to the forum. “Sometimes there’s criticism about bringing in international architects,” he says, “but it’s important for local architects to have high-level international buildings to learn from. Dallas has a great blend of bringing in good work and being able to export better work because of it. I think that’s really been the result of this last 10-year period with the Dallas Architecture Forum.”

This month as part of the forum, Austin architects Juan Miró and Miguel Rivera, who designed the Texas Cowboys Pavilion at the University of Texas, will lecture at the Magnolia Theatre. A few days after they speak, KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate a panel on “Community, Culture, and Urban Design.” The U.S. Green Building Council will also host its gala earlier in the month. Three more lectures and three more panels take place after January, and April welcomes Architecture Month, with many more events scheduled. These events, and others hosted by the Dallas Center for Architecture’s represented organizations now inflect the city’s talk.

All this urban, environmental focus is new here. Beck’s Betsy del Monte describes the Dallas of 20 years ago: “It became not just accepted but expected to flaunt the requirements of nature. Energy and water were considered free.” A generation later, Dallas has taken steps toward becoming a sustainable society. “Dallas is head and shoulders above other cities in that we have a green building task force,” Del Monte says. “We came up with a set of recommendations to upgrade energy use, water use, and overall sustainability in Dallas.” Orange and red can be fall colors again instead of choke alerts.

Dallas’ current sustainability, walkability, and new architecture are shaping our consciousness for the better. Omniplan’s Tip Housewright, who spearheaded the Dallas Center for Architecture, sees community activism and outreach also making a healthy city. “Most citizens are aware of the Trinity River, the Calatrava bridges, and the great architecture being built in the Arts District,” he says. For Housewright, the new center will open up discussion about architecture so everyone can ask: “What does architecture really mean to me, and to our competitiveness as a city, and in the nation?”

But let’s pull back a second. Dallas has no architecture school in its immediate environs. As David Dillon notes, “We have UT Arlington, but it doesn’t have the same impact it would have if it were in the city.” And much of educating also depends on the arts. Dillon thinks the Arts District needs to provide “a serious programming component that will oversee public activities, and be an umbrella organization over the desires of the individual institutions in order to look after the public interest.”

Yet there’s hope that the Dallas Center for Architecture can function as a kind of community school. Nate Eudaly points out that with the Dallas Architecture Forum, Dallas’ fledgling architects learn from some of the best. “Skyline High has a concentration for students who want to pursue architecture, and a lot of those students attend the forum, as do students from UT Arlington and other universities,” he says.

Thanks to Dallas’ changes, our range of conversations about architecture is widening. But our critical sensibilities also need to deepen. That requires asking people inside and outside the community to level us now and then. A nuanced understanding of the qualities and defaults of our built environment can make Dallas a place of both epic proportions and epic importance.

Dallas strikes so many poses that it’s bound to look good from somewhere. The city’s entryways create kaleidoscopic panoramas, and at night, individual buildings Pegasus’ red glow, Reunion Tower’s blinking, and the emerald lines of Bank of America make Dallas holographic. The city’s framing and coloring (and the opening sequence of that TV show) have made it iconic. And Dallas likes its visibility.

It’s not just a distant city view that captivates people. The angles of Dallas’ buildings Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalita Humphreys Theater, Philip Johnson’s Thanks-Giving Square, and I.M. Pei’s City Hall, say also garner attention. Calatrava’s long-heralded bridges, as well as Norman Foster’s Winspear Opera House, Rem Koolhaas’ Wyly Theatre, and Thom Mayne’s slated Museum of Nature & Science building, are recasting the city’s shape. One of the most concentrated areas of modern architecture in the world now snuggles up to Woodall Rodgers’ soon-to-be-grassed-over concrete abyss.


Despite these changes, local architecture criticism isn’t matching the city’s rise. “Ironically, just as Dallas has arrived nationally and internationally as an arts and an architectural center, the focus by the press has gone the other way intersecting curves going in the opposite direction,” says David Dillon, the Dallas Morning News’ former full-time architecture critic. He left amid a 2006 staffing reduction, now lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, and only occasionally contributes to the paper. “That irregular critical presence doesn’t replace having somebody local on the team every day,” he says.


The new Dallas Center for Architecture might provide that substitute. Paula Clements, executive director of the American Institute of Architects-Dallas, tours me around the facility, located in the Precept building overlooking Woodall Rodgers. She points out its EnviroGLAS flooring and LED light bulbs. In stark contrast to the drab stucco of the building’s exterior, Peter Doncaster’s interior design is open and youthful. The center plans to host many events. A lecture room for 125 people will also serve to air documentaries for the U.S. Green Building Council. Architecture exhibits will kick off with opening receptions in the gallery space.


Clements describes the Dallas Center for Architecture’s members as the “docents of the Arts District.” They hope to offer walking tours, podcasts, and an official visitor center, as well as an archive room to store the city’s blueprints. Books rich with Dallas’ designs, such as City by Design and The American Institute of Architects Guide to Dallas Architecture, show how much there is to catalogue here. And when outsiders increasingly design the city, a place to talk about local, national, and international architecture is a must.


The Dallas Architecture Forum, now in its 13th year of lecture and panel series, has long provided such a space. It now has a more visible presence with its office in the Dallas Center for Architecture. Nate Eudaly, the forum’s executive director, tells me the organization was established to introduce the world’s leading architects to Dallas and raise the level of architectural awareness. “Its purpose was not only for architects,” he says, “but also for designers, contractors, and the general public, because good architecture is important for the vitality of a community.”


Its work has paid off. Thom Powell, an architect from Good, Fulton, and Farrell, attributes Dallas’ recent architecture boom to the forum. “Sometimes there’s criticism about bringing in international architects,” he says, “but it’s important for local architects to have high-level international buildings to learn from. Dallas has a great blend of bringing in good work and being able to export better work because of it. I think that’s really been the result of this last 10-year period with the Dallas Architecture Forum.”


This month as part of the forum, Austin architects Juan Miro and Miguel Rivera, who designed the Texas Cowboys Pavilion at the University of Texas, will lecture at the Magnolia Theatre. A few days after they speak, KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate a panel on “Community, Culture, and Urban Design.” The U.S. Green Building Council will also host its gala earlier in the month. Three more lectures and three more panels take place after January, and April welcomes Architecture Month, with many more events scheduled. These events, and others hosted by the Dallas Center for Architecture’s represented organizations now inflect the city’s talk.


All this urban, environmental focus is new here. Beck’s Betsy del Monte describes the Dallas of 20 years ago: “It became not just accepted but expected to flaunt the requirements of nature. Energy and water were considered free.” A generation later, Dallas has taken steps toward becoming a sustainable society. “Dallas is head and shoulders above other cities in that we have a green building task force,” Del Monte says. “We came up with a set of recommendations to upgrade energy use, water use, and overall sustainability in Dallas.” Orange and red can be fall colors again instead of choke alerts.


Dallas’ current sustainability, walkability, and new architecture are shaping our consciousness for the better. Omniplan’s Tip Housewright, who spearheaded the Dallas Center for Architecture, sees community activism and outreach also making a healthy city. “Most citizens are aware of the Trinity River, the Calatrava bridges, and the great architecture being built in the Arts District,” he says. For Housewright, the new center will open up discussion about architecture so everyone can ask: “What does architecture really mean to me, and to our competitiveness as a city, and in the nation?”


But let’s pull back a second. Dallas has no architecture school in its immediate environs. As David Dillon notes, “We have UT Arlington, but it doesn’t have the same impact it would have if it were in the city.” And much of educating also depends on the arts. Dillon thinks the Arts District needs to provide “a serious programming component that will oversee public activities, and be an umbrella organization over the desires of the individual institutions in order to look after the public interest.”

Yet there’s hope that the Dallas Center for Architecture can function as a kind of community school. Nate Eudaly points out that with the Dallas Architecture Forum, Dallas’ fledgling architects learn from some of the best. “Skyline High has a concentration for students who want to pursue architecture, and a lot of those students attend the forum, as do students from UT Arlington and other universities,” he says.


Thanks to Dallas’ changes, our range of conversations about architecture is widening. But our critical sensibilities also need to deepen. That requires asking people inside and outside the community to level us now and then. A nuanced understanding of the qualities and defaults of our built environment can make Dallas a place of both epic proportions and epic importance.

Event: Dalllas Architecture Forum Symposium, May 9, The Magnolia Theatre. For more information, visit dallasarchitectureforum.org.