Texas Architect May/June 2012: Urban Design
This “Urban Design” edition’s four features do not deal with urban design as typified by comprehensive plans for large swaths of urban environment. Rather, they represent four works of architecture that, by virtue of where they are, play important roles in a broader urban context.
12 Texas Architect 5/6 2012 News Margaret Hunt Hill Opens to Traffic by Michael Malone, AIA On March 29 the first cars rolled across the long-awaited Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas. Designed by Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, the bridge joins Reunion Tower and Pegasus as a standout on the icon-heavy Dallas skyline. It is named for the matriarch of the Hunt family which, through Hunt Petroleum, donated $12 million to the Trinity River Corridor Project in 2005. Setting a stake in the ground for the whole project — an ambitious plan for improvements throughout a 20-mile river corridor — the bridge is perhaps the most visible and tantalizing sug- gestion of just what the potential of the project is for the city. Calatrava’s design is the most visible component undertaken and realized to date within the overall plan for the reimagined and reclaimed river. Ultimately, the ambitious project seeks to combine recovery of the Trinity River with recreational access and cultural amenities. First approved by Dallas voters in 1998, the effort has moved forward in a fitful manner marked by controversies over the project’s programming, its overall cost, and a proposed toll road. With the bridge opening, the project should not only get a fresh look, but one that sets the tone for the quality and thoughtfulness of all that comes after. Trinity Trust Direc- tor Gail Thomas, Honorary TSA, believes the bridge is the first real symbol of Dallas as a 21st century city. The reclamation of the Trinity as an amenity — and as the symbolic heart of Dallas through access to the river and its adja- cent 6,000-acre Trinity Forest — positions the Metroplex as an exceptional environment for its citizens. The gala celebration and ceremonial lighting of the bridge, which took place during the weekend of March 2-4 prior to the opening for traffic on the 29th, included a street fair on the bridge, a 5K run, fireworks, and parties. A reported 40,000 people attended and walked on the bridge during the celebrations. Whatever the outcome of the rest of the Trinity Project, the bridge itself is stunning. For those lacking opportunity to experience other Calatrava-designed bridges and buildings, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge does not disappoint. It is a tour de force blending of art and engineer- For those lacking opportunity to experience other Calatrava- designed bridges and buildings, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge does not disappoint. ing. Despite the size of the bridge, it is slender and graceful, dramatic and assertive, sparely elegant, yet not flashy. Calatrava shows he is an accomplished artist and gives the city a beauti- ful reminder of just how special the discipline of bridge design once was. Before reinforced concrete technology gave us the flat, feature- less highway bridge that is little more than an extension of the road bed, engineers gave cities the likes of the Brooklyn Bridge and Golden Gate. These were civic monuments that served as infrastructure and a celebratory demarca- tion between places once separate, now formally joined. The original Trinity Project proposed three such signature bridges, ostensibly designed by Calatrava, but the other two are now either in question or envisioned at a reduced scale. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will serve as a reminder of what dramatic entrances to Dallas these bridges could have provided. Michael Malone, AIA, is the founding principal of Michael Malone Architects in Dallas. PHOTOS COURTESY CR AIG D. BL ACKMON, FAIA; MICHAEL LYON Images of Dallas’ Cala- trava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The bridge—a blend of art and engineering— is part of the Trinity River Cor- ridor Project, which was approved by Dallas voters in 1998 and seeks to improve a 20-mile stretch of the river. A reported 40,000 people attended the opening weekend celebrations in March.