Tom Phifer Looks through The Park

People / Places / March 6, 2012

It’s what architect Tom Phifer calls a productive moment.

And an enlightened one at that.

Where the Woodall Rodgers Freeway once split the city of Dallas in two, separating arts district from downtown and uptown, a deck now covers the road, with a three-block, five- acre park nestled atop.

It’s all to be mucho green, and landscaped within an inch of its life – a celebratory space for a city of optimists.

Phifer, the award-winning, New York-based master of light and transparency, was assigned the tasks of designing a stage and restaurant for the new urban green space, one that’s surrounded by the likes of Renzo Piano’s Nasher Museum and Edward Larrabee Barnes’ Dallas Museum of Art, among others.

“It seems a simple thing, but it’s quite an extraordinary project,” he says.  “We were given two sites – one for a structure for impromptu moments, and then the café.”

The roof and ceiling of both serve as parasols of sorts, offering shade from the intense Texas sun in summer.  The café’s ceiling is to be built with a white perforated material featuring an abstracted pattern of tree limbs and branches that produces a dappled lighting effect inside. 

“It’s as if you’re in a forest, seeing all this incredibly dense limb structure throughout,” he says.  “It’s a complex array of perforations that allows light to come through.”

The stage ceiling is to be built of polished stainless steel with the same perforated pattern, reflecting all of the landscape around it.  It’s designed to tip up slightly, and point back to an abundance of trees and plantings.

Phifer says he looked to the light-inspired work of architects Don Graham and James Turrell for inspiration.  “I wanted to connect with the changing nature of the landscape,” he says. 

Typically, these two understated structures defer to their surroundings while making their own individual, see-through statements.

“They point back to the landscape, so that it’s the star of the show, and not the architecture,” he says.

For more on The Park, go to http://www.theparkdallas.org/

For more on Thomas Phifer and Partners, go to http://www.tphifer.com/#/home

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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