Re:Vision Dallas Design Charrette

On Friday of last week I attended the Re:Vision Dallas design charrette, one that hopes to remake a blighted city block of downtown Dallas into a haven of sustainable design and a catalyst for urban revitalization.

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Having procured a 2.5-acre city block just next to Dallas’ IM Pei–designed City Hall that currently hosts a surface parking lot, Re:Vision Dallas invited dozens of architects, engineers, designers, and city planners to City Hall to discuss the design brief. Before opening it up to a competition amongst the wider design community, the Re:Vision team sought the group’s advice and critical eyes. Though most came from and worked in Texas, many for the City of Dallas itself, participants traveled from as far away as Montana and hailed from all corners of the globe. Eric Cory Freed and Brent Brown were amongst the leaders of the day’s events.

Dallas faces a difficult problem, but not a unique one. The site downtown is in a dead zone with regards to residents, amenities, and services that foster a compelling place to live. In addition to building as green a mixed-use block as possible, engineering a critical mass of other residents or visitors to make the neighborhood viable, livable, and desirable is a serious hurdle. Contending with the health and livability problems created by nearby freeways and a part of town almost entirely reliant on cars creates a whole battery of challenges. 

In a morning and afternoon work session we took up revising the design brief so as to reflect issues including safety, commercial viability, water usage, transportation, and a level of sustainability that is both provocative and achievable. The onus is now on the Re:Vision team to refashion the brief, open the competition and choose a winner come May 09. I’ll be monitoring Dallas’ drive toward greater sustainability closely with the hope that other cities will follow its lead.

Image: City planners, architects, and designers sat down to reinvent a city-block-size parking lot (in red) in downtown Dallas.

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