U.S. Department of Energy HQ Sun Wall (32,000 square feet of solar panels and water heating – Unbuilt)

In my quest to diversify Dallas’ architectural landscape, I’ve run across a firm that could be a great candidate for Dallas developers looking to make their mark. But first, a history lesson.

Back in 1931, Lou, Irving, and Sylvia Solomon opened shop in Chicago. At the time, it was more than an architecture firm, with Lou the designer, brother Irving the builder, and sister Sylvia the project manager. The trio bought up parcels along storied Lake Shore Drive and began building apartment buildings. In 1956, Englishman John Cordwell came aboard after resigning as Chicago’s Director of Planning.

In 1957, the pair won the commission to build an urban renewal project just west of the city’s tony Gold Coast area. The project, named Carl Sandburg Village, encompassed nearly four city blocks containing six high-rises and a mix of mid- and low-rise apartments encompassing 2,600 units. The apartments were converted to condos in 1979 and probably 10 years later, I explored purchasing my first high-rise home there.


Begun in 1979 by the Hyatt Hotels’ founding Pritzker family, the Pritzker Prize in architecture is considered to be the Nobel Prize for architects – in fact, if you Google “Nobel Prize architecture,” the Pritzker Prize is the first result.  The prize is awarded annually for a body of work versus a single building. The first winner was Crescent Court architect Philip Johnson.

The 2019 winner is 87-year-old Japanese architect Arata Isozaki who was quoted as being “overjoyed,” adding with an impish grin, “it’s like a crown on a tombstone.”  Isozaki grew up in post-war Japan where much of its buildings had been lost to war. His early career rode a second wave of rebuilding.


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.)