2010 In Review: The Best in Dallas Architecture

Although we didn’t have a Burj Khalifa built here in Dallas this year, we had our own 2010 architectural happenings.  Here’s a look back:

Museum Tower will sit in the heart of the Arts District

The beginnings of an economic recovery—or at least the perceptions of such—were a boon to a hurting architecture and building sector.  Dormant projects were given new life, such as the Fain Johnson-designed Museum Tower, which began construction in the parking lot between the Nasher Sculpture Center and Meyerson Symphony Center.  On the other hand, economic weakness didn’t seem to faze two nonprofits:  First Baptist Church began demolition of several of its older buildings on the way to an entirely rethought campus designed by the Beck Group, and great progress was made on the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Thom Mayne’s bold design for the museum (pictured at top), which just won the American Architecture Award, will add another Pritzker Prize winner to Dallas’ architectural crown.

A rendering of the new First Baptist campus in downtown Dallas

There are several other large projects that we’ll have to wait on.  On pace for completion is Santiago Calatrava’s Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in 2011.  Then 2012 brings us the Park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway and the completion of City Performance Hall, the final venue in the AT&T Performing Arts Center. A complete redo of Parkland Hospital will keep HDR and Corgan busy until 2014.

The AT&T Performing Arts Center was also fodder and food for thought for many of us during 2010.  Are the Center and the District around it working as they should?  What must we continue to do to turn the largest urban arts district in the country into a vital and active neighborhood?  Here’s betting that conversation continues for the next several years.

Plans for Parkland's new campus

Other architectural developments happened at City Hall, and will have significant impact in the years to come.  In June, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to pass an amendment allowing court-ordered demolitions of local historic landmarks that represent an urban nuisance.  Two years ago, the initial ordinance amendment was intended to make it easier, less expensive, and faster for City Hall to demolish properties considered to be an urban nuisance in historic districts.  However, there was concern on the part of Preservation Dallas and others that the ordinance would be too sweeping, eliminate existing safeguards, and therefore put some historic structures — particularly famed downtown buildings — at risk of a quick demolition.  The final ordinance that was adopted ensures a reasonable level of protection for historic structures and provides a mechanism for interested parties to save these endangered buildings.

Meanwhile, there continues to be talk of adaptive reuse plans for architectural favorites like the Statler Hilton and 508 Park.  Will 2011 be their year?  We’ll wait and see.

Much talk, but little action on the Statler Hilton (Photo by Elizabeth Lavin)

Another ordinance came down in 2009, and 2010 saw architects and developers learning more and discovering its effects. The Green Building Ordinance is intended to lead to a reduced carbon footprint for all new and remodeled construction. Many of the key criteria of the ordinance originate from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED rating system.  Phase I is already in effect with Phase II going into effect on October 1, 2011.  It is another one to watch and see what happens.

The Dallas Architecture Forum continued to bring the best and brightest to Dallas, including architects Jeanne Gang and Alberto Kalach and architectural photographer Tim Hursley.  Here at the Dallas Center for Architecture we celebrated local architects old (Ju-Nel Homes) and new (AIA Dallas Design Award winners) and launched a new walking tour through the Main Street District.

Here’s to a 2011 full of good design, smart urban planning and an even more livable city.

Greg Brown is the program director for the Dallas Center for Architecture.

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