Viewing entries tagged
Fort Worth

The Kimbell Is Forever

image courtesy Universal Artists

image courtesy Universal Artists

In December of 1971 United Artists released the seventh James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. It cost $7.2 million to produce. A few months later, Louis Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum opened in Fort Worth Texas. It cost $6.5 million to build.

I'm not quite sure what to think of that or which of those two endeavors had the greatest cultural impact. I do know which one had the greater impact on me. I did, after all, decide to become an architect as opposed to a British spy.

Regional Classicism

When I was growing up in north Texas we would often take Interstate 30 into Fort Worth. The elevated highway crossed the southern part of downtown and in a questionable urban design move, separated a line of building from the rest of the rest of the central business district. These buildings (all of which were designed by Wyatt Hedrick) included the Texas and Pacific Railroad Passenger StationTexas and Pacific Railroad Warehouse and a U.S. Post Office.

As problematic as it was to have these buildings separated from the rest of the city, one unintended consequence was that as you drove past them you were able to see these buildings from a perspective you normally don't. Certain details that weren't necessarily noticeable from the ground become more prominent when your view becomes elevated. For example, if you look closely at the building's Corinthian columns, you'll notice their capitals contain Texas Longhorn and Hereford cattle.

This was not as it was in ancient Rome, but it provides a great example of how even a codified architectural style can be made local in a way that is both appropriate and compelling. 

Angel Butts

The front of Bass Performance Hall appears on the left while its rear appears on the right

I was in Fort Worth over the weekend for a conference and had the opportunity to walk around downtown a bit. I grew up near Fort Worth so I've spent a fair amount of time there, but it's changed quite a bit since then. I've changed a bit since then, too. 

There's something incredibly fulfilling about rediscovering a place you thought you knew. Fort Worth has always had a nicely scaled downtown. It has skyscrapers but somehow even they feel more humane than in other cities. And there has been considerable investment by the Bass family among others to revitalize and infill the core of the city to make it a truly vibrant place to be. Fort Worth has also always struck me as a city that is comfortable with who it is. Austin wants to a city on the west coast, Dallas wants to be a city on the east coast and Houston wants to be, well, Houston wants to be something. But Fort Worth was always wanted to be Fort Worth. It's a cowtown and it owns that fact.

But one building has always bothered me. Bass Performance Hall was built when I was still in architecture school and I remember it receiving a lot of favorable press in its day (at least in the local newspaper). Call me crazy, but I thought its front facade with its 48' tall angles with gilded trumpets projecting out over the street was, in a word, tacky. 

My feelings towards this building remain unchanged.

I think what bothers me most is that the building just seems out of character for Fort Worth. Don't get me wrong, Fort Worth has some amazing cultural institutions, many of which perform at the Bass Performance Hall. But the architecture just seems to be trying too hard. It didn't have to do that. I would have much rather seen a performance hall designed for Fort Worth than one designed for Paris (or at least Disneyland Paris).

Anyway, when I was walking by the building over the weekend I saw a part of the building I hadn't seen before - it's backside. I'm not saying it's purely functional stucco facade is better than the front - it's not an either/or proposition - but it did make me smile because I realized I was technically looking at angel butts.

That's the problem with putting a 48' tall angle on the front end of your building - eventually someone is going to see their rear end as well.