The hardest thing about the 2014 TX, NM, & OK Whirlwind Architectural Photo Tour for me, photographically speaking, has been seeing my hometown with new eyes. While this road trip has presented both treasures and challenges along the way, I never found it hard to be amazed and surprised when coming on a new building, large or small.
But stepping out to photograph the city that I grew up in and know like the back of my camera has proved more than difficult. I squint, cross and uncross my eyes, and let my vision go defocused, all in the effort to squeeze some newness out of my surroundings. I am not sure that I have succeeded. But here are my choices for my brief architectural exploration of the city I love — God forgive me — Big D.
You may have noticed — if you have kept up with this entire 13-day journey — that I seem to have a thing for churches. I do. I'm not sure why that is except that they often seem to be the most architecturally interesting structures in the neighborhood. Is that me or is that, indeed, true?
Since a church is an expression of all that is good in mankind and seeks to praise God in that expression, it seems logical that the architects and the congregations who commission them would often go the extra step to reach an aesthetic that reaches beyond the designs of secular structures. So I pay homage to that effort, that aesthetic, by including some of them here.
At some point, a building can become co-opted by its neighbors. They take "ownership." You see this most vividly in the tags and mural art left by artists of varying degrees of talent. They make the building into a canvas and, suddenly, it has a new use, probably unintended by the architect. Nonetheless. . . .
The last couple of years have seen the revivification and repurposing of an old Oak Cliff landmark, the Kessler Theater. The Kessler has marvelous acoustics and gives artists a place to really connect with an audience, and the audience a chance to see, up close, some excellent performers.
Nearby, the neighborhood south of W. Davis St. is mostly quiet but on this hot summer day you can almost hear the sound of children screaming, "Lemonaaaaaaade!" at the tops of their lungs. The perfect libation for a-sittin' and a-rockin'.
Right on the edge of downtown Dallas, just east of US 75/Central Expressway on Live Oak Street, the Latino Cultural Center occupies a spot a few blocks north of Deep Ellum. It is host to a constant variety of events for the Hispanic community and those who appreciate their many, varied cultures.
For whatever reason, parking garages have a special place in my heart. Probably because they get no respect whatsoever. Across Live Oak from the Latino Cultural Center, Elan City Lights is being built. Another apartment complex for the flush, upwardly mobile young person who want to live near downtown; the downtown that just can't seem to get defibrillated to the point that its heart has a beat of its own. But, I digress. At some point, I may see if I can photograph this new structure more closely. For now, it sits. Waiting.
In keeping with the healthcare motif of the area (which is home to Baylor Hospital), the Rehabilitation and Wellness Center helps folks overcome addictions. And, obviously, does it in excellent style.
Down the street from where I live, in the non-profit section of Swiss Avenue, is this beautifully designed home of Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). They are advocates for abused children. Glad they're around to help these kids.
Downtown, the skyscrapers are still growing. The older ones, like Republic Center, hold their own. And the new ones keep sprouting like kudzu.
When I was a kid, Republic National Bank was the coolest skyscraper in the world. It had a rocket on top of it, for gosh sakes! It was one of those buildings (and still is) that I could not NOT look at when driving by the city skyline. Then, of course, there was Time & Temperature sponsored by Republic National Bank. I still remember the number. Back then, there were no area codes and we had names for the exchanges. Say it with me now: Riverside 7-6651.
Wandering to another area of downtown, I came across this little gem, below, at 1700 Pacific Avenue. In the brief time I was there shooting the cave-like niche in the building, I saw no fewer than 4 people step in from the sun and the traffic to make a call. The important thing, however, is that it exists at all. A fairly small, dark inset on the side of a building that gets a lot of use from people who a) want to make discreet phone calls or 2) need a place to get in out of the elements. In an age of the mega-scraper, knowing that there are architects out there who design for the human scale, for incidental use by people who may never cross the threshold of a building's portal gives me great comfort.
Before moving on, a slight turn to my left revealed another skywalk. Setting up quickly, I was able to capture a few people rushing through my frame to some important destination. Opting for black and white instead of color, I chose to keep a small splash of red — the cap of the bicyclist — as a way to direct attention to the object of my affection.
Okay, call me gullible. As I was walking, head down, checking my last shot, I was startled by the gentleman you see below. I thought he was just resting a moment from sweeping all that trash. Then, I realized he wasn't real. I'm not really sure what his significance is but I feel cleaner knowing he's there.
Behold, the AT&T building. If you squint, you can almost see a block-like, very geometrical sphinx. Wearing some very cool shades. Rather imposing, don't you think? And inscrutable. I know this because I had to call AT&T Customer Service yesterday.
It wasn't until later in the day, sitting in front of my computer, editing photos, that I realized that this was the Dallas Branch of the Federal Reserve. Thought they moved to Woodall Rogers and Pearl. This must be the old location. Somehow this smaller one looks sturdier.
Museum Tower, below, owned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, has been mired in controversy at least since its completion. Evidently, someone didn't do their homework regarding the glare caused by the glass panels. They reflect an enormous amount of light onto the Nasher Sculpture Gardens, ruining, according to one artist, his sculpture. At his request, the Nasher closed down the exhibit to the public. That would be some pret-ty bad glare, my friend. Perhaps, they could start issuing welding goggles with every admission. A word of advice to the architects on future jobs: Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. Sun 101.
Another favorite piece of architecture that has stood the test of time — and that's saying a lot in Dallas where it gets torn down if it's older than fifty years — is the Wilson Building. The interplay of light across the surface of the building is always interesting and photogenic at anytime of day or night.
Among the new, there are always the skeletons of the old, sometimes with a little flesh hanging onto those bones as a reminder of what was. I can't remember where the bars on the ground were, inside or outside. I believe it's the inside we're seeing with the reflection of the buildings across the street and diagonal. Somehow, this photograph makes me very sad.
The Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Reaching for the heavens, it appears to be much larger than it really is. Surrounded by giants all 'round, she goes about her business quietly and does the work she was meant to do.
A difficult image to create, my impatience shows here with the Belo Mansion; I couldn't wait for a minute or two for a cloud to pass so that it was in direct sunlight like the Museum Tower, behind it. The contrast between the two was almost too much to overcome.
This view of a parking garage at 606 Harwood dominates the skyscrapers around and behind it. It serves the building across the street, home to KPMG, the "audit, tax, and advisory services" powerhouse.
A simple wall, which, I believe, is around the Crow Collection of Asian Art, could have been left unadorned and no one would have said anything about it. But someone decided to line it with bamboo and it became something remarkable.
The entryway to the Crow Collection of Asian Art is, by any standard, quite impressive. This very quick study shows me the possibility for a beautifully lighted photograph. "If you don't ask, the answer is always NO." Words I live by. Now, I just need to find the right person to ask. What I have in mind is referred to by some as "light painting," taking a base exposure with very little light showing and, then, exposing a large number of frames with a flash or flashlight of some kind aimed at specific areas. All these exposures are stacked in Photoshop and blended so that they eventually light up the entire scene.
There is more but I need to stop and catch up on my image editing. Check back soon.
We're about to wrap up this road trip and call it a drive. We're working on a special section of the portfolio to display a selection of the images on a permanent basis. Tell us your favorites in the comments section and we'll see about adding them.
~Lawrence Standifer Stevens