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The first major new commercial venture opened late last year in the form of One Arts Plaza, designed by Morrison Seifert Murphy with Corgan Associates as technical architects, that at last brought residential to the area and created viable spaces for retail and restaurants at street level. Marking the eastern terminus of Flora Street, the central spine of the Dallas Arts District, the 1.1 million-squarefoot project is the first phase of a 10-acre mixed-use development by the Billingsley Company. A rigorously modern building, One Arts Plaza assumes the challenging role of being a background building (literally) for a set of dramatic object buildings by an assembly of rock-star, Pritzker Prizewinning architects (Pei, 1983; Piano, 1998; Norman Foster, 1999; and Rem Koolhaas, 2000) and notable up-and-comer Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works. Within such an imposing context, it would have been understandable if Lionel Morrison, FAIA, had set out to compete. Wisely, he elected to lead the project in a straightforward manner. The site plan uses the classical organizing device of a plaza at the base of the tower, one side of which is open to (and acts as the visual terminus of Flora Street). Flanking each side of the tower’s symmetrically placed entry are two low-rise retail and restaurant buildings that continue the lines and massing of the structures along Flora. The plaza is open for both auto and pedestrian use, the combined use animating it in a nicely urban mix of activity and action. The plaza has been unexpectedly successful as a venue for events. Morrison attributes this to its placement in the Arts District and the enclosure of the space by the protruding wings, now being filled with restaurants. (As a cheerful counterpoint to all this rarefied high design and conspicuous good taste, a 7-Eleven store – whose corporate parent is the building’s lead tenant – provides an everyman’s reason to visit the building and enjoy the plaza.) The tower is invigorated by its tri-partite arrangement—levels one through six are parking garage, levels seven through 17 are office, and level 18 through 24 condominiums. The garage mass comprises the building’s base and its parking floor trays are nicely screened. The garage helps to elevate the overall building and the extra six floors support an enhanced visual presence of the building as a terminus of the street. The building’s massing is cleverly asymmetrical, alleviating the potential monotony of its large bulk through a rigorous application of the square grid to the exterior facades. The plaza and tower above it align with the axis of Flora Street, which is bracketed at its other end by the barrel-vaulted entry to the Dallas Museum of Art. The offset of the large square at the top (actually a bank of projected balconies in the condominium units) aligns with the new building’s entry portal, thereby re-centering the facade. The structure and organization of One Arts Plaza is clearly delineated by the grid of precast concrete panels that clad its exterior. A subtle shift in the placement of the exterior glazing signals the change from office to condominium floors. The glass at the office floors is flush with the exterior facade while at the condominium it is set back, forming exterior terraces for the condominium units themselves. The resulting deeply in-set spaces feel like outdoor rooms rather than applied balconies more typically found in most high-rise residences. Detailing throughout the project is crisp and simple, a logical refinement of the overall form of the building itself. Morrison sees this as an expression of the commercial nature of the project. Unlike the showpiece arts buildings with their high budgets and long development and construction schedules, One Arts Plaza is a commercial building with owners and tenants for whom the business constraints and schedule of the project were very real. In many ways the building is a pioneer in the Arts District because it opened well before the other projects and will soon be joined by another building, Two Arts Plaza, also designed by Morrison Seifert Murphy with Corgan as architect of record. For now the views from the tower look out on cranes and construction, but soon they will include the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre, along with the other much-anticipated public spaces and gardens. Projecting a sense of order and authority, One Arts Plaza seems to shelter the buildings now under construction. The success of the building as a terminus of the formal axis and as a backdrop for the district can be best understood from the Flora Street entry to the Dallas Museum of Art. Recently when exiting that building, I was able to look down Flora and actually have the prospect view pleasantly completed by One Arts Plaza. After so long in development, one can only be amazed at how well the Dallas Arts District is coming together and how solidly its initial commercial building has contributed to the success of the larger vision.

r e s o u r c e s precast architectural concrete :

Gate Precast Co.; stone :

Sigma Marble and Granite (Walker Zanger Dallas); limestone : Sigma Marble and Granite (IMC-Interceramic Marble Collection); elevator interior : Travertine; architectural metal work : C.T.&S. Inc.; railings and handrails : C.T.&S. Inc.; wood and plastic doors and frames : Performance

Door & Hardware; specialty doors : Performance Door & Hardware; glass : Oldcastle Glass Company; glazed curtainwall : Oldcastle Glass


structural glass curtainwall :

Oldcastle Glass Company;

graphics : 2cdesign; bath cabinets : Facility Construction Services Inc.; lighting :

Lightolier Inc.

The writer directs the Michael Malone studio within WKMC Architects.

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Texas Architect March/April 2008: The Walkable City  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...

Texas Architect March/April 2008: The Walkable City  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...