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Mark Lamster Derides Hall Arts Project for Failing to Push the Design Envelope and Other Sins

KMPG Plaza, the first phase of the Hall Arts project in the Dallas Arts District.
KMPG Plaza, the first phase of the Hall Arts project in the Dallas Arts District. Mark Lamster’s not a fan.

I’m not sure who decreed it’s a really great idea to airlift an “architecture critic” from Rome or Berlin or New York or Moscow into Seattle or Pittsburgh or Kansas City, say, and commence telling Seattle and Pittsburgh and Kansas City how crappy their buildings and their ideas are.

But let’s set that question aside for the moment and ask, shouldn’t the critic at least take more than a paint-by-numbers approach replete with all the latest trendy cliches? Case in point: the lambasting the Dallas News‘ Mark Lamster now has visited on the new Hall Arts development, which will go up on land that’s sat vacant for nearly two decades. Here are six “highlights” from Lamster’s review:

1. “… the jury is still out on what Hall Arts will actually mean for the Arts District.” Sorry, Mark, but: big duh. It just broke ground Monday.

2.  “The buildings … are corporate modern boxes that don’t do much to push the design envelope.” Instead, to “push” this vaunted “envelope,” they should be geodesic domes, maybe—or built like Native American wigwams? Big garbage bins turned into swimming pools at curbside might be a nice envelope-pushing touch, too. (See PARK(ing) Day Dallas.)

Renderings that include the proposed second and third buildings of the project.
Renderings that include the proposed second and third buildings of the project.

3. “This is the architecture of upper-middle management: anodyne, competent, unthreatening, and LEED certified. It’s telling that, when KPMG held an internal competition to name its new headquarters, the name they came up with was ‘KPMG Plaza.’ Snooze.” Okay, you got us there! So, what’s your idea for a better name? Come on, don’t keep us in suspense any longer!

4. “That retail is slated for the frontages along Flora is a good sign, but in renderings and models, the streetscape doesn’t look especially active …” Note to Mark: renderings and models are not real. If the rendering/model-makers had rendered crowded sidewalks a la New York’s Times Square, why do we think you would have been the first to hoot?

5. “As the city’s tunnel system has so unfortunately proven, taking traffic away from the street is not necessarily a good idea.” Ask some of the tunnel people their opinion of your opinion, when it’s 38 degrees outside and they’re ducking into Dakota’s for a nice lunch.

6. “I suspect I was the only one at the Hall event that actually took public transit to reach it, which is a shame. (There was free valet parking!)” That’s a pretty big and condescending assumption there, Mark. For your future reference: You will find that valet stations are ubiquitous in Dallas. But their presence does not indicate that everybody uses them, or that everyone here drives.