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Architecture & Design

Architecture 360: A Gruppo Architects on the Need for Retrospect(ion)

Behind the scenes of NorthPark's latest exhibit.

Each year, AIA Dallas teams up with local architects and firms to create RETROSPECT, an 18-day exhibition held at NorthPark. Now, in its 25th year, the annual event returns through April 26 featuring three-dimensional installations expressing “Architecture Matters: Past, Present, and Future.”

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of RETROSPECT, I’ll be introducing one of Dallas’ top architectural firms to tell us more about their exhibit and why architecture matters. Today we have Thad Reeves, a principal at A Gruppo Architects which was recently named Best in Class for AIA Dallas’ “10 Under 10” award. He extends a special thank you to Timothy Ballard and Jon Beck for their contributions in putting the RETROSPECT exhibit together.


Tell us more about your RETROSPECT Entry


noun: retrospect; plural noun: retrospects

  • a survey or review of a past course of events or period of time.

D Home photo A Gruppo Exhibit 1RETROSPECT is an opportunity to not only display our work in a very public forum, but also to pause and take stock of what we’ve been working on recently. That respite allows us to step back and track the ideas present in the work and see what issues we want to continue to develop or perhaps discard and start anew. It is a critical act, but I believe ultimately an optimistic one.

One of the consistent decisions RETROSPECT entrants face is whether or not to show architectural projects or develop a sculptural installation. We felt like showing architectural work is at the heart of what RETROSPECT is about. We are also lucky enough to have great relationships with our clients and feel like it’s as much an opportunity to honor them as anything else.

Being a design-build architecture firm, we felt very comfortable with the scale of the exhibit and in fabricating it ourselves. I think our approach embodies how we approach most of our work, which is to identify a clear idea and develop it in as straightforward a way as possible. We thought of this exhibit in two parts.

First, the display of our work. It is a simple solution solved by designing a series of display boards and having them printed.

Second, we needed a way to display these boards. We felt like the most obvious thing was to develop a version of an easel. The materials we chose were cheap, readily available, and didn’t require any type of finish to look good. For the frame we used predominately 1”x1” steel angles. As an office, we sketched out a couple of solutions for ways to connect them and then got started building. We knew the exhibit would need to be leveled on site, so we developed some simple adjustable feet out of steel rods and some off the shelf friction collars. The display panels themselves were made from homasote, which is a recycled, pressed paper product. We were a little worried about it being somewhat top heavy so we quickly poured a concrete ballast to rest in the base to stabilize the easel.


Why does Architecture matter?

My first thought is does architecture matter? One could argue it doesn’t, when you consider that an architect has designed something like only 2 to 3% of buildings. Statistically speaking it seems that it doesn’t matter, but you don’t hear people talking about how great the architecture of the new Wal-Mart is. You can see, however, how much architecture matters watching someone’s face as they walk into the Pantheon for the first (or fiftieth) time. Architecture is something that transcends mere construction and makes our lives better. I think that architecture and design in general have become valued more over the past fifteen to twenty years. Product design from companies like Apple, the proliferation of design magazines, and events like RETROSPECT have gone a long way in advocating for better architecture and design.


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