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Robert R. Bruno (1945 – 2008)

Trammell Crow (1914-2009) The noted Dallas developer Trammell Crow passed away at his East Texas farm on Jan. 14. He was 94 years old and had apparently been in failing health for some time. While Crow’s reach in the commercial real estate world was international in scope, he left an inescapable legacy in his hometown of Dallas. Crow came to epitomize the larger-thanlife, risk-taking entrepreneur, a mythic image that readily transferred from the oil patch to speculative commercial development. He didn’t merely respond to the needs of building users,

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as architecture. He shook his head and calmly replied, without pretense, “This is sculpture.” While the exterior of the Steel House is magnificent and unique, the interior spaces supersede that awe and delight by further engaging and overwhelming its inhabitants. In my first and only tour of the house, I had goose-bumps on my arms and butterflies in my stomach. The sculpted walls of steel plate seemed to unfurl around me as I moved from one space to the next, an experience that can neither be captured in photographs nor satisfactorily described with words. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal noted that Bruno, born Jan. 30, 1945 in Los Angeles, was also recognized for the design and creation of the first solar-powered surge valve and “fertigation” system (the application of fertilizers, soil amendments, or other water soluble products through an irrigation system) for row crops through his Lubbock-based irrigation manufacturing company, P&R Surge Systems. His design has been used worldwide for over 25 years.

he created markets on a grand scale. Within the development community he is a seminal and legendary figure whose influence is impossible to overstate. Many prominent developers learned the secrets of the trade under his wing. From an architectural perspective his Dallas buildings leave a mixed legacy. His wholesale market center complex dominates a huge stretch of Stemmons Freeway (I-35) north of downtown. The best of these is the 1959 Dallas Trade Mart by Harwell Hamilton Harris, a vast yet humanscaled building with a facade of Wrightian details and an atrium flooded with natural light and crossed by graceful bridges.

Crow also built two towers in the 1980s’ boom that are prominent in the Dallas skyline and architecturally ambitious, both designed by SOM Houston. The first, arguably his best project in Dallas, is the fittingly named Trammell Crow Center, completed in 1985 (originally the LTV Center). The office tower is a slender campanile occupying a prominent location in the Arts District. The second is the Chase Bank Tower (1987), an opulent and expressive skyscraper with a signature “hole” in its upper reaches and an encyclopedic array of zmarble and granite on the exterior and interior.

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(left) ©2008, Kelly Ludwig, (right) courtesy

Robert R. Bruno, known for his idiosyncratic Steel House that evolved over three decades of design and construction, died Dec. 9 at the age of 63 from complications of cancer. A member of the faculty of Texas Tech University’s College of Architecture in the late 1970s, Bruno later taught courses there periodically. Over the years, thousands of Tech’s architectural students learned about Bruno and his 110-ton sculptural work-in-progress at nearby Ransom Canyon. Bruno began construction on his Steel House in 1974 at a residential development overlooking the Ransom Canyon reservoir about six miles southeast of Lubbock. The eye-catching anomaly, an ovoid formed of rusted steel plate standing on four short columns, starkly contrasted with other dwellings built in the vicinity. As Bruno often explained, the design of his house was an ongoing process that unfolded throughout its construction. Individual ele-

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ments, even if considered “right” at their time of conception, were always subject to later modification. “What you’re seeing is 33 years of design, not three months of design and 33 years of labor,” Bruno told AIArchitect for an article published in August 2007. (See www. for a slideshow of the construction.) The Steel House appeared in many professional publications, was featured on HGTV’s “Extreme Homes” and The Learning Channel, and served as the backdrop for the 2007 Fall Neiman Marcus fashion catalog. His motivation as an artist was to create something of aesthetic value and, in the case of this sculpture, something he eventually could live in. Bruno actually took occupancy early last year. During my years as a student at Texas Tech, I never had the opportunity to take a class of his, but the first time I met him I eagerly introduced myself as a great admirer of this work. I remember the encounter vividly as he invited me into his house. I recall asking if he viewed the project

Texas Architect March/April 2009: Adaptive Reuse  

Texas Architect, March/April 2009; Official magazine of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA

Texas Architect March/April 2009: Adaptive Reuse  

Texas Architect, March/April 2009; Official magazine of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA