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An Ode to Mark Lamster

Over the weekend, I delighted in reading Mark Lamster’s review of the expansion at First Baptist Dallas. Peter mentioned it in Leading Off this morning. I can’t help myself. I just went back and reread the piece. It really is something. Read this excerpt slowly:

The new First Baptist butts up against that old building, subsuming it within an anodyne corporate environment of reflective glass and pale concrete paneling. Where old and new actually meet, the architects have abased themselves, putting up a faux facade that substitutes false history for the real thing. Aesthetically, the whole is more befitting of a commercial office building than a center for divine transcendence.

This is characteristic of the Beck Group, one of the nation’s premier construction firms, now also practicing architecture. Tasked with the realization of another architect’s grand vision — Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center is a good example — the firm’s work can achieve a rare tectonic eloquence.

Beck’s own architecture does not always approach that level of creativity or sensitivity. The firm’s design for the nearby Stephan Pyles flagship restaurant looks more like a Lexus dealership than a fine dining establishment. More troubling is its Hunt Building, an overgrown mini-stereo system that reaches for every device in the designer’s playbook — cylinders, curves, bands, lighting effects, dancing fountains — to animate its massive bulk, which looms ominously over Klyde Warren Park. It’s the LEED-platinum urbacide of the well-intentioned.

Beck’s work for First Baptist doesn’t fall to that level, but neither does it achieve anything beyond an efficient and conscientious banality.

Put aside, for the moment, the points he’s making. Smart stuff, all of it. But just look at the way he makes those points. His writing is so good that it feels out of place in the Morning News.