FAB Studio

Fairmont Manakoba Resort Mexico

I give Dallas grief for building a lot (A LOT) of bad, boring architecture. For those following my train of thought, there’s the semi-regular series Why Can’t Dallas Have Nice Things where I feature international architects who do great work but who have never worked in Dallas. Well, last week I met with the Frank Butler, the president of Dallas’ FAB Studio. Never heard of them? Not surprising as they’ve not worked in Dallas! Ha!

The bread and butter of this firm is swanky resorts where you may have lain your head. Looking at their portfolio, I realized that I had (for the record, Four Seasons Troon North in Scottsdale). Why am I talking about them?  Because they are about to do some high-profile work in Dallas and you should see the caliber of their work. And no, it’s not a bunch of high-rises.


MoMA Extension New York City (53 West 53rd Street)

French architect Jean Nouvel began designing buildings in the late 1960s with his first global success being the Arab World Institute building in Paris in 1981. That building captured the geometry inherent in Arabic architecture by using a lattice of multi-sized mechanical lenses on the exterior. The lenses’ job is to manage light entering the building by opening and closing depending on exterior light levels. Pretty ingenious.

Nouvel continues to work in the Arab world, crafting buildings denoting the region’s specific historical context and modern requirements. Nouvel has said buildings have a specific place and time. He would not design the same building for Doha, Qatar, that he would for New York, New York. Each location required connection and context. Looking over Nouvel’s work, it’s easy to see a focus on texture and light. He layers both with dramatic effect. Nouvel won the Pritzker Prize in 2009 and today his firm employs over 140 in Paris with satellites in Rome, Geneva, Madrid, and Barcelona.

But let’s look at New York City first …


Heatherwick’s award-winning Rolling Bridge (2002)

I’ll admit Thomas Heatherwick’s name has skittered across my design radar for a while without really finding purchase. It was my look into his collaboration with Amsterdam-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for a pair of Google headquarters buildings in London and Silicon Valley that caused my architectural stars to align on Heatherwick. Some of you may have seen his Provocations show at the Nasher in 2014.

Armchair Olympic hopefuls will have seen his work designing the flame and cauldron for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympic Games. That design included a circular fan of “petals” representing each participating nation that were lit and mechanically raised into a cauldron – symbolically bringing together the member nations in competition (see the cauldron lighting ceremony).

The Rolling Bridge above was completed in 2004 as part of a revitalization of the Paddington Basin area of London. It’s one of two pedestrian bridges built within the mixed commercial-residential project. Both bridges are as much for art as utility. The other is called the Fan Bridge. It has five fan blades that open like an Asian fan (see both in action in two minutes).


Republic newspaper building designed by Myron Goldsmith. (Photo: Wikimedia/Don47203)

Columbus, Indiana, is about 45 miles south of Indianapolis and about 70 miles north of Louisville. In such a largely rural state, Columbus is definitely in the boonies. Its 46,000 residents hold a secret that Indiana University, 35 miles west in Bloomington, tapped last week.

You see, beginning this fall, Indiana University’s new master’s in architecture program will be housed in the former home of Columbus’ newspaper, The Republic. Far from any old building, The Republic building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect Myron Goldsmith and completed in 1971. It’s a long, transparent building that riffs on mentor Mies van der Rohe’s style. The building was designed to show the news being born. Onlookers would walk the length of the glass exterior and see the news being written at one end and ultimately printed at the other.

What led to such a building being built in tiny Columbus, Indiana?


Entry Healing Rift envisions a series of underground communal pools straddling the Korean DMZ

On May 17, the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects will be holding their annual awards for projects that haven’t been built and/or have been designed by students.  It’s a great way to see projects that for one reason or another (like working on a school project) haven’t been built.

What’s also fun is that the public can vote on their favorite design via a specially setup website. The finalist group showcases 43 designs that come from across the globe (although being the Dallas AIA, 23 come from Texas). Each visit can only clock in one vote. When faced with good architecture, I generally follow the potato chip philosophy … I find it difficult to eat (or choose) just one.


UNS’s vision for the Chicago Museum of Film and Cinematography

I usually let readers digest a “Why Can’t Dallas Have Nice Things” column before I post a fresh installment, but last night the Dallas Architecture Forum presented Christian Veddeler from Amsterdam-based United Network Studio (UNS). And Dallas really needs to see this firm’s work, if for no other reason than the questions that were asked at the session.

I won’t bore you with the questions, but the answers can be summed up as, “the reason Dallas has such boring architecture is because fantastic architecture requires developers with inspiration, a decent budget (though not always), and a local bench of talent (architects, engineers and craftspeople) capable of constructing such buildings.” Dallas, it seems, is starved of all three … well, unless a Dallasite needs an ego boost with a self-funded, self-named bridge, theater, museum or park. Which, don’t get me wrong, are great and every city needs them, but we also need great architecture in the profit-making world too. (Besides McKinney and Olive, the first in 40 years.)


38-story, 200-room Lusail Hotel and 120 Residence: Lusail City, Qatar (complete 2020)

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, begun in 1979 by Hyatt Hotel heir Jay Pritzker, honored Zaha Hadid in 2004, becoming the first woman and Muslim to be recognized.  It was hardly Hadid’s first or last award for her work. Her designs are radically angled, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” That style earned Hadid the moniker “Queen of the Curve”.

Hadid, who died in 2016 at age 65, was born in Iraq and spent most of her life in the UK. Originally studying mathematics, she transferred to architecture in 1972 where she studied with Rem Koolhaus at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. While she hung out her architect’s shingle in 1980, she was always a teacher, having inspired students at Harvard, Cambridge, University of Chicago and Columbia University. That’s not to say she wasn’t prolific. She and her 400 staff have designed over 950 projects in 44 countries. The firm continues Hadid’s successes having received 31 awards in 2017 and eight awards so far in 2018.


I’ve heard the Olympics are over.  One thing fans didn’t see in Seoul, South Korea, were the as yet unbuilt, Cross # Towers designed by Denmark-based BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).  BIG employs over 450 staff in offices in Copenhagen, London, and New York City. Founding Partner Bjarke Ingels graduated architectural school in the 1990s and founded BIG in 2005 after founding his original firm PLOT in 2001.  Awards? He has a wall full.  Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Rice? He’s taught at them all. In 2016, Ingels was named one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine. Oh, all this and he’s 43.

BIG is the second architecture firm I’m begging to come to Dallas (Studio Gang was first).