Architecture Forum Panel: How Do We Rethink Fair Park?

The Dallas Architecture Forum has announced its 2012-2013 lineup of panel discussions, and I’m honored to be included among the presenting monderators. On October 2, we’ll kick-off the season with a discussion about Fair Park, entitled “The Elephant in South Dallas’ Living Room: What Do We Do With Fair Park?” The idea came, in part, because the week I was asked to moderate one of the season’s panels was the same week that simmering summer tensions hit their height in South Dallas in the wake of a police shooting. I wanted to tackle a topic that looked at how the built environment contributes to cycles of urban violence and poverty, and how architecture and urban design contribute to — and can remedy — economic and social hardship.

When it comes to South Dallas and urban design, the elephant in the living room truly is Fair Park. The park is a single-purpose facility that takes up huge swaths of land and essentially cuts off entire sections of the city while contributing little to no positive economic or social activity to the surrounding neighborhoods on a year round basis. Yet Fair Park is a cultural treasure, a rare artistic and historic site in Dallas, and the home of the State Fair. But it is the economics of the State Fair that inhibits the city from dealing directly with reconsidering Fair Park. The fair is the main reason why Fair Park sees millions of visitors each year, but it is also why the park largely remains empty and dormant during the remaining months.

This is a obviously a topic we’ve discussed many times before in the pages of D Magazine, most recently in this column by Patrick Kennedy. And we’ll be working with bcWorkshop in the weeks leading up to the panel to crunch a lot of data on Fair Park, and we’ll also announce the panel members next week. In the meantime, let’s start a conversation in this post about Fair Park. What do you see as its values and drawbacks? How could it be re-imagined? Or should it be?

For more information on the Architecture Forum’s full season, here’s the release:

Dallas Architecture Forum 2012-2013 Panel Discussions

Dallas Architecture Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing challenging and on-going public discourse about architecture, design and the urban environment, is pleased to announce its 2012-2013 Panel Discussion Series that will begin Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. The location for the Dallas Architecture Forum’s Panels is 1909 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Suite 100 in Dallas (the DCFA offices in the Five Star Institute Building). Panels are presented free of charge for all attendees as a public outreach of the Dallas Architecture Forum. No reservations are needed to attend, and there is open seating for these Panels. For more information on the Dallas Architecture Forum, visit or call 214-764-2406.


“The Elephant in South Dallas’ Living Room: What Do We Do With Fair Park?”

Peter SIMEK; Moderator

Arts Editor, D Magazine

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

2 October 2012

Fair Park is one of the city of Dallas’ architectural jewels, a historic site filled with an unprecedented collection of art deco buildings. But Fair Park is also a border between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum, and some of the city’s most impoverished and decrepit neighborhoods. To what extent does Fair Park’s design — a gargantuan campus fully used only once a year and surrounded by acres of parking lots — contribute to urban decay of South Dallas? Could addressing Fair Park’s use play a role in transforming South Dallas? And what is our responsibility to the site’s historic architecture? In the wake of a summer that saw simmering tension in the neighborhoods around Fair Park, this panel will discuss the architecture and future of Fair Park and ask the question, could rethinking Fair Park’s design and functionality be the key to transforming South Dallas?

“Proving the Benefits of Higher Density Live/Work Environments”

Michael BUCKLEY, FAIA; Moderator

UTA Center for Metropolitan Density

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

30 October 2012

This Panel will address high density and design challenges including: changing perceptions on density by proving societal and economic benefits, maximizing both public and personal high density open space, increasing access to retail, cultural offerings, and educational options as well as proving sustainabiity benefits and positive impact on infrastructure


“Messy Desks are Creativity, Clean Desks are Sterile”

David FARRELL, AIA; Moderator

Design Principal, Good Fulton Farrell

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

20 November 2012

What are the similarities and differences between Dallas’ “planted” and “native” mixed use / entertainment districts? Critics and champions for projects like the Arts District and Victory will be joined by those for Henderson Avenue and Bishop Arts in a lively discussion of planned vs. unplanned, artificial vs. authentic and illusion vs. reality.


“Landscape is our Sex”

David HEYMANN; Moderator

HHH Professor, UT Austin School of Architecture

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

22 January 2013

This Panel will examine the use and mis-use of landscape in the justification of recent architectural design.


“Since 2000 – Dallas City Fabric”

Coy TALLEY, ASLA; Moderator

Principal, Talley & Associates

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

19 February 2013

A collective review of the growth and change Dallas has made since 2000. We will review new residential in and around downtown, special districts and public spaces, and the linkages in between. We will review what are the contributing factors of success, and how successful?


“Setting the Table: Designing the Ultimate Dining Experience”

Jeff WHITTINGTON; Moderator

Producer, KERA

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

5 March 2013

Dallas has a large, vibrant, and ever-changing restaurant scene. What goes into designing a space that excites the visual and tangible senses of the restaurant-going public? Where does design best compliment cuisine and what are the trends to watch for and avoid?


“Prevailing Theories in Architecture School: New Ideas, No Buildings”

Russell BUCHANAN, AIA; Moderator

Principal, Buchanan Architects

Tuesday, 6:30 pm

16 Apr 2012

“Continual shifts in architectural theory and production drive new desires to create and address untapped opportunities. Reflecting forces of globalization and crisis, contemporary architects and designers are negotiating new territories, defining alternative approaches, and engaging untested methodologies. The increasingly multidisciplinary nature of our work has become more experimental, while correspondingly less classifiable.” – Death by Architecture

What impact will this trend have on the practice of architecture? Will architecture students be better prepared to lead the profession into the future? Is architecture more about art and less about buildings? Who really cares? Join us for an amazing discussion about some controversial architectural theories currently being tested in academics.


“Aesthetics and the City”

Krys BOYD; Moderator

Host of KERA’s “Think”

Date and Venue TBA

The difficult issues raised by the construction of Museum Tower and its real effect on Dallas Arts District neighbor Nasher Sculpture Center open many questions as to legal development rights of a property owner in Texas and larger civic and even cultural responsibility. At what point should the built environment be held to a higher standard? Should the City itself be the arbiter of such criteria and if so, by what mechanism? Is an Arts District, or any other site of cultural import, a sensitive context requiring special legal protections or tools such as an Environmental Impact Statement? What are the limits of a ‘pro-development’ mindset? Panelists will join moderator Krys Boyd in discussing these very important issues.


About the Dallas Architecture Forum

The Dallas Architecture Forum is a not-for-profit civic organization that brings leading architectural thought leaders from around the world to speak in Dallas and also fosters important local dialogue about the major issues impacting our urban environment. The Forum was founded in 1996 by some of Dallas’ leading architects, business, cultural and civic leaders, and it continues to benefit from active support and guidance from these citizens. The Forum fulfills its mission of providing a continuing and challenging public discourse on architecture and urban design in – and for – the Dallas area. The Dallas Architecture Forum’s members include architects, design professionals, students and educators, and a broad range of civic-minded individuals and companies intent to improve the urban environment in North Texas. The Forum has been recognized nationally with an AIA Collaboration Achievement Award for its strategic partnerships with other organizations focused on architecture, urban planning and the arts. For more information on the Forum, visit

Among the over 130 speakers who have addressed the Forum’s Lecture Series are Shigeru Ban, Brad Cloepfil, Diller + Scofidio, Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Daniel Libeskind, Thomas Phifer, Rafael Vinoly, Juhani Pallasmaa, AIA Gold Medal Winner Peter Bohlin, and regional architects David Lake and Ted Flato. Pritzker Prize winners speaking to the Forum have been Kazuyo Sejima, Rafael Moneo, Thom Mayne, Rem Koolhaas and Norman Foster (the latter two in collaboration with the ATT Performing Arts Center). Other speakers for the Forum have been leading designers Calvin Tsao, Andrée Putman, and Karim Rashid; landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh; and National Trust President Emeritus Richard Moe. Important critics, authors and patrons who have spoken to the Forum include Emily Pulitzer, Terence Riley, Pulitzer Prize winners Robert Campbell and Blair Kamin, Aaron Betsky, and the late David Dillon.

The Forum organizes and presents an annual series of Panels—local, informal, open, and offered free of charge as a public service to the community—led by a moderator who brings a subject of local importance along with comments by participating panelists. Moderators and Panelists have also come from both other Texas cities as well as from national institutions that were connected with particular Panel subjects. Panels offer attendees the opportunity to participate in creating discourse. Important topics addressed in Panels in recent years include: “Thoughts on the Dallas Comprehensive Plan”; “The Kimbell Expansion: A Discussion”; “Filling Out the Dallas Arts District”; and “Re-envisioning the Trinity”.

For more information on the Dallas Architecture Forum, visit For questions about the Forum, call 214-764-2406. To follow us on Facebook visit


  • Matt

    “Fair Park is also a border between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum”

    Uh, what? Cause…no, it’s not.

  • @Matt – I think that is supposed to read as downtown and Deep Ellum on one side, South Dallas on the other

  • brian

    Actually Fair Park separates South Dallas from the Exposition Park neighborhood which next to Deep Ellum.

  • Not mentioned in the coverage is that Fair Park was designed by George Kessler – for more about Kessler and the history of Fair Park, see this at The Cultural Landscape Foundation Web site:

  • I’m actually surprised that the Old Mill Inn stays in business. However, there are quite a number of events that take place at Fair Park every year. The White Rock Marathon, various auto shows, and concerts at the Music Hall. And then there is Starplex. It isn’t completely devoid of activity. There has been talk (for years it seems) of opening the Midway as a year-round or summer destination. Honestly, this is the best proposal on the table as yet to increase interest in the Park as a destination. What doesn’t help the area is the new Perot Museum uplifting much of the Science Place and Natural History Museum to their new digs nex to El Fenix. Not everything needs to be close to the Arts District.

  • Jon Blehar

    I always loved the buildings at Fair Park and I remember going to many events there in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We parked in the yards of residents, sometimes bought food in the neighborhood and felt relatively safe and our cars were always just as we left them. Then society changed and we were convinced it was all for the better.

    The only reason I point this out is to emphasize this is a 50 year old problem. Dallas has either not bothered to solve the problem or not been able to solve the problem.

    I do have a few suggestions: 1.) Exclude the following professions from all your meetings – Urban Planners, City Planners, Zoning officials, City employees and locally-elected minority Politicians. 2.) Give 50-year tax exemption to any business employing more than 50 people that locates immediately adjacent to the park. 3.) Create jobs for residents within 1/2 mile of the park during the State Fair with large vendors. 4.) Keep the fence around the park. 5.) Encourage gentrified dense living immediately adjacent to the park – hey, it’s worth a try.

    It’s a daunting problem. Unfortunately, I believe nothing will change for the next 60 years.