The Dallas Architecture Forum, on their 25th anniversary, highlighted eight architects in an informative and insightful way. The program at the Dallas Museum of Art was presented in two panels. One was led by Kate Aoki, AIA, who now designs the DMA exhibits, and Kelly Mitchell, AIA, who is a talented architect and who many consider the most valuable player for the AIA for her effort to further the understanding and extending the conversation on architecture. I found this Dallas Architecture program significant and sentimental. Every one of the architects on stage probably still thinks of themselves as young Turks creating award-winning work and garnering more honors than the large Dallas national architecture firms.
Young Architects Now Elder Statesmen Show Work at Dallas Architecture Forum
Now these young, innovative architects who developed their talent under the influence of architectural legends, like Bud Oglesby and Frank Welch, are the esteemed architects who other architects in the community look up to as we saw at the Dallas Architecture Forum.
At the Dallas Architecture Forum, a Glimpse of over 250 Years of Dallas Architecture Reveals our Architectural History and Future
From these eight architects we saw the continuity of architectural themes and the cross pollination of regionalism. The Dallas Architecture Forum format was refreshing as each architect only said one sentence about ten of their projects, allowing time for the architects and the panel to comment or ask questions.
Cross Pollination of Ideas Creates an Underlying Dallas Architecture Style
For 100 years, Dallas has had one of the best collections of architecture in the country. The cross pollination of ideas of architecture in an emerging city allowed a Texas Modern style, initiated in 1927 by architect David Williams, to flourish. Simultaneously, international architects brought in from New York, California and the Midwest encouraged further architectural refinement and presence. A strong studio, almost salon atmosphere, of small Dallas firms let young architects flourish. As a result, this is the reason Dallas has the best collection of 20th and 21st century architecture in the country. We saw a hint of this recently at the Dallas Architecture Forum.
More Distinct Than the Individual Work is the Architect’s Personality and Approach That Was Revealed at the Dallas Architecture Forum
At a glance, one might have been able to shuffle the slides of the different architects and a case could be made that another architect was responsible for the project. What was really fascinating was not the overlapping influence of their modern architecture, but the personality of the architects and how they approached the projects.
Marcel Quimby is a Preservation Architect Leading Restoration of Hall of State
How fitting that the first architect to present 10 of their projects was architect Marcel Quimby, FAIA. Her presence reminds us Dallas really has a strong historic preservation presence despite what people think about Dallas. Also, what better image to start off this Dallas Architecture Forum program than the Art Deco Dallas Hall of State, considered by many to be the best building in Texas. Marcel Quimby has worked on this building twice in her career. Originally, she coordinated basic stabilizing efforts. Recently, Marcel Quimby designed the renovation of the magical murals and details of the Hall of State. She has worked on historic buildings across the state and has also collaborated with other architects on the Dallas Architecture Forum panel.
I recall an SMU Town and Gown meeting where I was invited to debate for or against teardowns in Dallas. As an award-winning preservationist, I assumed I was being invited to speak against teardowns. You can imagine my surprise when I found out I was to take on the role of speaking in favor of teardowns. Marcel was selected to speak out against teardowns. How does one argue against an architect who, at the time, was on the National Trust board? Actually, once I resigned myself to my debate fate, I had the time of my life. My arguments in favor of teardowns included that new big houses, because of Robin Hood, raised more money for South Texas schools, teardowns created more ponds for migrating birds as estate homes expanded their land and a host of other reasons. Rena Pederson, at the time the editorial editor for the Dallas Morning News, said she had not realized I could be so ironic.
Architect Bruce Bernbaum and his business partner architect Patricia Magadini both obtained architecture degrees in Arizona. The Arizona environment is in many ways even harsher than the Texas environment. This background was conducive for Bruce Bernbaum to pursue a Texas Modern style elements to accommodate the Texas environment. It has been fun to see the evolution of their work. A question that came from this Dallas Architecture Forum panel was about his transformation from a commercial architect to a strictly residential architect. Bruce explained this evolution from a mix of commercial and residential work to just designing modern homes. That illuminated my thinking about his work. I always thought of the Bernbaum/Magadini residential work as having commercial overtones. Now, only designing modern homes has accelerated the refinement of the residential details of his projects.
Robert Meckfessel Spans International Work and Niche Dallas Projects
Architect Robert Meckfessel has a small firm, DSGN Associates, which has designed many international projects and also very Dallas centric projects. His international projects give his firm credibility for City of Dallas projects such as fire stations and Dallas’s first fully LEED public buildings and yet the firm remains nimble for designing Dallas modern homes and Dallas passion projects.
Ron Wommack has worked in the Firms of both Frank Welch and Oglesby Group, in Addition to Working Alongside Other Architects on this Dallas Architecture Forum Panel
I have always considered architect Ron Wommack to be the James Surls of architecture – big raw moves that artist James Surls makes with a chainsaw for his structures, and that Ron Womack can execute design in a Deep Ellum warehouse. At the same time, while James Surls can do poetic small drawings, Ron Wommack can create the finest detail in his modern homes, including the modern home he designed on Bermuda Street in Old East Dallas.
Dan Shipley Takes Cerebral and Modern Approach to Architecture
Architect Dan Shipley likes to build his own projects as this allows him to create and refine his ideas on the site. This approach shines through in the award-winning architecture of the Dallas modern homes. Dan has designed in the materials, design and details.
Russell Buchanan Architect
Many architects are aspirational artists. Architect Russell Buchanan is an artist who is an architect. While other young architects might have bene sketching handrails to be compliant with OSHA, Russell Buchanan was designing furniture – really pieces of sculpture. One can see in the design and scale of Russell Buchanan‘s work the elements of sculpture you can see this in the Dallas modern homes he has designed or the Dallas Arboretum building that the Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster has raved about.
Gary “Corky” Cunningham
I just missed capturing the fabulous previous slide that captures the expansiveness of architect Gary Cunningham’s architectural work and imagination. Corky Cunningham was the late Rick Brettell’s favorite architect. I mention Rick Brettell for a couple of reasons. I don’t recall who else was involved in founding the Dallas Architecture Forum, but I am confident it was Rick’s initial idea to start the Dallas Architecture Forum 25 years ago. Rick Brettell was a creative force who initiated more important projects in Dallas than anyone I know. Rick Brettell always thought Corky was the most creative of the important Dallas architects. My impression of architect Corky Cunningham is that he starts with a grand modern idea that he interprets for the site and then fills it with his exuberant architectural magic, experimental materials and details. The Power Station beside the Katy Trail he did for Mort Meyerson on Armstrong Avenue received national awards and helped launch his high profile career. I think the Power Station also served as an early laboratory for Gary Cunningham and his collaboration with architect Sharon Odum who worked for his firm. This experimental project required him to design on the spot.
Sharon Odum, Architect, an Unsung Genius of Dallas Architecture
Architect Sharon Odum is incredibly talented and has done great work, but, like many architects, has a low profile. At the Dallas Architecture Forum panel, Gary Cunningham, FAIA, was sincerely effusive about the contribution Sharon has made on many of the projects on which he was the lead architect and she was the design architect or a meaningful collaborator. Sharon Odum has done great work designing modern homes out of her own firm. She also continues her collaboration with Gary Cunningham and other architects who showed their work on the Dallas Architecture Forum panel.
Dallas Has Bright Architecture Future
Dallas has many younger architects who have worked in the firms of the architects featured at the Dallas Architecture Forum, or have collaborated with them by being influenced by them. These younger architects are stars in their own right. It is fun to see the Dallas architecture talent continue to grow, flourish and continue to be influenced by the Dallas architects who preceded them and the international architects that do work in Dallas.