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Dallas Architects and Preservationists Ponder Unified Vision for City

February 2005 KERA Interview with Douglas Newby, by Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter

Transcript of Architectural Interview

Catherine Cuellar, 90.1 reporter: U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was in Dallas today to trumpet Hunt Petroleum Corporation's $12 million contribution toward implementation of the Trinity River Vision Plan.

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: This vision when it is accomplished, is going to be the focal point of Dallas, Texas. It will be the description of Dallas, Texas. It will be what people remember about Dallas, Texas.

Cuellar: Yesterday Mayor Laura Miller was saying the same kind of thing about the proposed Woodall Rodgers Park north of the Arts District.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller: So when people think about coming downtown, they're going to think about this park, uptown, downtown all being one.

Cuellar: Architect James Pratt, who designed Brookhaven College and the Quadrangle and worked on preservation of Fair Park and the Old Red county courthouse, says Dallas high-profile projects alone can't connect the whole city.

James Pratt, architect: We haven't paid any attention to the aesthetics of the city per se, very much. And now we're worrying about Calatrava bridges, which is good, and fixing up the river, so that's the beginnings of what we're talking about. Yes, we're concerned about building handsome houses and good museums, but we haven't really thought about how we dispose them in a city.

Cuellar: Pratt says Dallas projects and their donors have been totally oriented toward big-name architects from out of town. But preservation activist Douglas Newby says Dallas has a better reputation than most people realize.

Douglas Newby, preservation activist: Dallas has the best collection of 20th century architecture in the country. Dallas has always been central, and that's one of the reasons we have the best collection of 20th century architects, because for a city to really have a rich architectural tradition, it has to have local architects, and then it has to have visiting architects. The great Dallas architects held their own or exceeded the Frank Lloyd Wrights or Philip Johnsons.

Cuellar: A group of exhibits which started this week at the Meadows Museum recognizes Dallas' significant architectural heritage. The current show highlights architect Mark Lemmon, who designed Perkins Chapel and most of the buildings on SMU's campus, as well as DISD schools spanning five decades. The series and its companion books on Dallas' architectural history are curated and written by Rick Brettell.

Rick Brettell, curator: The idea for this series of exhibitions is to really look at the very little-known architects who were the most important figures of 20th century Dallas architecture.

Cuellar: Newby hopes the Meadows series builds on a growing interest in architecture.

Newby: Architecture is our public art. And it's the most accessible art, and yet until the last few years, nobody paid attention to who the architects were. If you understand the architecture of a city, you understand the city. You can look at the city like the rings of a tree and if you start at the center you can march out and see the evolution of styles, you can see the flamboyance of a city when it's flourishing and you can see when it retreats, so you really understand, the personality, the soul, what makes the city when you start looking closely at the architecture.

Cuellar: The next Meadows Museum show will showcase modernist O'Neil Ford. Over the next few years, George Dahl, who designed Fair Park; and Howard Meier, who designed Temple Emanu-El, will also be featured. The current exhibit continues through May 1st. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.

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