Architectural Magnificence: A Goal Worth Having for Dallas

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Squire and Partners’ Leaf Conceptual High-Rise Generates its Own Electricity
Squire and Partners’ Leaf Conceptual High-Rise Generates its Own Electricity.

Since the days of our 1980s architectural dalliance, I’ve panned 30-plus years of lackluster Dallas building many times. I mean, of Dallas’ tallest 20 buildings, just one … one … has been built since 1988 … what world-class city’s skyline does that?  (Psst … it’s Museum Tower and it’s only 15th tallest.  Pretty sad, eh?) Most recently I urged Pink Wall residents to at least consider throwing some density shekels at a developer who aimed for magnificence. But what do I think is magnificent?


MahaNakhon 1
MahaNakhon on Right

MahaNakhon: Bangkok Thailand

Opened in August 2016, MahaNakhon is a mixed-use skyscraper containing 77 floors of hotel, homes and lower-level retail. It was designed by German architect Ole Scheeren. At 1,031 feet, it’s the tallest building in Thailand, but when compared with the Dallas skyline, it would be a few scant feet taller than our 921 foot Bank of America Plaza (the green building). Before your propellers start spinning, I’m not thinking of this for the Pink Wall, but imagine something like this anchoring the Farmer’s Market area instead of the bland townhouses that now litter the area?

MahaNakhon 2

The façade’s torsade of bump-ins and bump-outs is described as pixelated … and it allows for some inventive and jaw-dropping spaces. As you can see, indentions are patios while raised areas give way to floating platforms cantilevered out over the city.  A dining table here and no one would notice poison being served. Of course the homes aren’t just any old homes in a building like this.  They’re the Ritz Residences in Bangkok.

Duo Residences, Singapore

DUO: Singapore

In case you think MahaNakhon is a flash in the pan, have a gander at Ole Scheeren’s drawings for an upcoming Singapore project called DUO, which is a mixed-use office and residential project.  You’d pay extra to live in something like this, right? More importantly, since most of us couldn’t afford to live here, we’d dine at the restaurants, we’d take visitors to see it and we’d buy a crummy condo in a building that just glimpses it … and count ourselves lucky … right?

Caneletto London 1

Canaletto: London

Designed by Netherlands architects Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos of UNStudio, Canaletto has racked up more awards than I have fingers and toes … and that started three years before it was even open. There are 191 units and 31 stories to this stunner located in London.  Before you think this is swooningly expensive, it’s not.  The units run from £520,000 to £1,255.000 for studios to two bedrooms (which, trust me, isn’t swooningly expensive in London). A selection of jumbo apartments range from £2m and £5m with an 8,000 square foot penthouse hitting Euro Millions lottery money.

Residential NYC - Tabanlioglu Architects

118 E 59th Street Residences; New York City

Right here in the good old NY of C we have 118 E 59th Street Residences (between Park and Lex).  It’s a 320-foot, 25-story condo building housing 70-75 units (it’s not complete yet). As you can imagine, in midtown Manhattan, buildings are pretty boxed-in.  This building, by Istanbul-based Tabanlioglu Architects, opens as it grows.  The boxes on the façade get larger as you go up to open the view once the structure clears neighboring buildings to offer more sweeping views.  Lower floors with more neighboring competition have smaller boxes to block out the intrusion.  The smaller windows hint at the floors underneath the façade and create a beehive effect.

Loft Gardens 2

Loft Gardens: Istanbul

Another of the firm’s residential projects is 2010’s Loft Gardens in hometown Istanbul.  It’s a 21-story residential project designed to be inclusive of nature with walkout terraces, balconies and garden patios. Units have one-piece floor-to-ceiling windows to bring in light and views.  THIS I could see between Preston Tower and Athena. At 21 stories it would be the same as Athena and shorter than Preston Tower.  It would put the Pink Wall on the map and not just for an aging beige pink wall.

R3 King's Cross 1

R3 King’s Cross: London

Finally, I bring you R3 King’s Cross from Squire and Partners.  It’s not as edgy as the others featured here, but I could certainly see this on the Preston Place lot perpendicular to Northwest Highway.  The nine- and 11-story buildings are not overly massive or tall, and so would minimize loom over the neighborhood.  The pyramidal balconies and angled windows would offer residents downtown views the length of the building. Notice the end units of each section above the fourth floor have taller ceilings than the center units … a bit of luxury for higher-priced units.  And because unlike here, the ends offer views (downtown and north Dallas), open both ends to glass for 3-sided views. Dreaming here, but take it a step further and combine it with the Royal Orleans and Diplomat lots and create the greenspace seen here. Now that would be something.

Squire Leaf 2
Cross-Section of Squire and Partners’ Leaf Concept for an Energy Independent High-Rise

Leaf: Conceptual

This column’s headline picture of Squire and Partners’ Leaf high-rise is pretty darn mesmerizing.  It began as a project to prove a high-rise could generate all of its own electricity. The skin of the building uses a patchwork of transparent glass and solar panels to accomplish its bold premise.  It’s called Leaf because it’s based on the structure of a leaf and how it uses creases and folds to capture sunlight from multiple angles.  The resulting geometry is as stare-worthy as any piece of fine art. Image looking at the Dallas skyline and seeing Leaf instead of another bland, upended shoebox.

Obviously, I’ve not scratched the surface of the magnificence of today’s global architecture. But this gives a tidbit of what’s going on in the real world.  Tenants pay more to live in great buildings. People pay more to see great buildings outside their windows. Buildings like this up the game for every other development in a city.

Don’t believe me?  After Calatrava’s Margaret bridges spanning the Trinity, who’s going to try and foist a bland utilitarian bridge on Dallasites?  And who of us hasn’t tooled over the Hunt Hill bridge just to experience it?


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email



Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

Reader Interactions


  1. Cody Farris says

    Just in NYC, I can think of two additional examples: the Zaha Hadid building on the High Line, and New York by Gehry. I don’t see this type of work regularly coming to Dallas any time soon, because it costs more to design and build. But I also like the old saying: good design doesn’t cost, it pays.

    • Jon Anderson says

      You’re right. There are any number of examples of magnificent architecture being built today around the world…pity none are in Dallas

  2. The_Overdog says

    Architectural beauty is a 2nd order effect of high land values over long periods of time being used as differentiation. We shouldn’t be so hard on all those bland apartment complexes – they exist to identify high land value areas, and that remain valuable – when they are at end of life a few might turn into beauties or they will help anchor areas that have rightfully shown they deserve beautiful architecture.

    The only way Dallas will get 2nd order effects right now is through massive subsidization. If that land was valuable now, they wouldn’t be building generic apartments on it.

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