The Dallas Renaissance

By: RGK • Feb 13, 2010 • 0 Comments

DALLAS, TX. Flying into Dallas, which I had imagined was a post-modernist city like half a dozen others, my perception was immediately colored by a glimpse of the ruby red drum I had heard so much about. It’s the audience chamber atop the recently opened AT&T Performing Arts Center. And, it is everything its admirers and critics say it is.

Fired to see more, I asked the cabbie to do a drive by. The near-floating complex of performance spaces sparked a connection I never expected. Dallas is in its Renaissance. What’s more, it may be the rising star on the horizon of architectural tourism. Like its much-heralded cousin, cultural tourism, architectural tourism is destined to awaken an awareness of the link between the built world and art.

Think that’s a stretch? Then consider for a moment the defining characteristic of the Bauhaus. Rather than separating architecture from art or artisans from painters, the Bauhaus encouraged, indeed demanded, of its creative student body an interdisciplinary education. That concept changed the form of architecture, design and art forever. In this context, architecture is among the leading art forms.

In Dallas, the precepts of architecture as art come together as nowhere else. A single contiguous square block area offers outstanding examples of the work of four Pritzker Prize Winners. What that means is if you took I.M. Pei’s (1989) Myerson Symphony Center and Renzo Piano’s (2003) Nasher Sculpture Center , the 2009 Winspear Opera House designed by Sir Norman Foster with its Wyly Theater from Rem Koolhaus and put them anywhere else, they would just be beautiful buildings. Standing as they do, in proximity on this landscaped prairie, the buildings, serve as introduction to the 21st Century’s master architects.

Add to that the arts you will experience within - sculpture at the Nasher, music at the Myerson, and at the new AT&T Center a range of presentation arts that span opera, theater, dance, jazz, concerts, lectures and films – and you have more than enough reason to visit Dallas. Still more reason to get out of the car and walk the park that joins them as you decide which of their many events you will savor first.

One thing I did discover is that most of the events are in high demand and you may not be able to get the seats you want if you wait until the last minute to buy. It’s better to plan ahead, if you can. If you can’t, there’s no dearth of other activities to choose from.

Dallas has become a design capital with small, inviting arts districts that offer something for each taste. The most impressive of these is Slocum Street, a short taxi ride from the Uptown Arts Districts. Outwardly, the slew of low rise buildings is nothing much to look at. But once inside, you’ll feel as though you have stepped into a wonderful land of designer showcases, collectibles and antiques. Slocum Street is home turf to several of Texas’ name designers, including Joe Minton and the inimitable Jan Showers. If you time your visit right, you can take in “Slocum Street Style Night,” which, for the past 11 autumn’s, has been a Dallas must for trendsetters.

A few blocks away, the old warehouse district, centered on and around Dragon Street, is being gentrified with contemporary art galleries and retail shops. Calling itself “The Intersection of Art and Design,” the area, currently boasts 50 shops and galleries. Unless you lose yourself on Slocum Street, a possibility that is well within reality, you can do both districts in one day.

With so much activity in this city of little more than a million people, it’s no wonder that the top tier celebrity chefs have seen and embraced opportunity here. Nobu Matsuhisa,Tom Colicchio and Charlie Palmer have joined Wolfgang Puck and a stellar group of home grown talent. These restaurants are as you would expect are deserving of reservations if you expect to make dining a highlight of your Dallas sojourn.

Naturally, there are still plenty of great bar-b-que joints as well as Tex-Mex and Mex-Mex, but organic salads and light fare is just as popular. If it’s Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys are playing, you might want to mingle with the locals in a sports bar. There are almost as many as there used to be honky-tonks. If you are really lucky and have Cowboy tickets, you will round out your architectural tour with a visit to the new stadium.

If you’re wondering where the where-with-all for the Dallas Renaissance comes from, all you have to do is think F-500 companies. Dallas ranks just behind Houston and New York in that department.

THE BASICS:

Most major airlines, including American, Delta, Continental, serve the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Southwest Airlines flies in an out of Love Field.

PLACES TO STAY:

Posh choice: Hotel Crescent Court, known to locals as “The Crescent”, Uptown

The scene: Hotel Zaza, Uptown

Urban attitude: Hotel Palomar, Mockingbird Station

Boutique elegance: Hotel St. Germain, Uptown

Modern Glam: NYLO, Las Colinas 

PLACES TO EAT (THE TEX-MEX DESERVES ITS OWN SECTION):

Italian: Cibus by Lombardy, NorthPark Mall(which isn’t just a mall, but the way…NorthPark is another Nasher landmark of architectural significance)

Cozy Sushi:  Teppo, Lower Greenville

Pub Grub: Capitol Pub, Henderson Avenue

Tapas: Café Izmir, Greenville Avenue

Thai: Royal Thai, Old Town

Steak and Seafood: Hibiscus, Henderson Avenue

American with a twist: York Street, Lakewood

THE TEX-MEX:

Mi Cocina and its sister restaurant, Taco Diner, West Village

Luna de Noche, NorthPark Mall

Mia’s, Lemmon Avenue

Javier’s, Knox/Uptown