DALLAS — Like spokes stretching from its 400-foot arch, the steel cords of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge propel us from the glossy downtown Arts District to gritty West Dallas.
Renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, performer
Here is a city at a crossroads.
Its image often reduced to fast cars, fervent shopping and the fall of JFK, Dallas is striving to diversify that view while uniting its sprawling metroplex with a string of architectural marvels downtown. "In Dallas, we love the impossible," Mayor Mike Rawlings said at the celebration of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which soars as the symbolic hub of Texas-sized ambitions.
The city's accomplishments over the past few years have turned heads.
To the bridge's east is the Arts District, where the vermilion walls of the Winspear Opera House and the aluminum tube-covered cube of the Wyly Theatre attract curiosity from the Woodall Rogers Freeway.
A bit farther north is the new three-block-long Klyde Warren Park, scheduled to open Oct. 27 with shady paths, a performance stage for concerts, a dog park and a children's garden, where a storytelling balcony will encircle an oak tree. Interactive fountains aim to mitigate temperatures that blazed past 100 degrees for 40 consecutive days in summer 2011. A restaurant is scheduled to open in 2013.
Conceived as Dallas' front lawn and named for the son of a pipeline executive, the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park was designed in part to cover a stretch of the Woodall Rogers Freeway. Its more critical role is to bring a pulse to a dormant zone between the Arts District and Uptown. So a steady stream of free programming will include fitness boot camps, movie screenings, ballroom dance lessons, creative
As intended, the park and other cultural enhancements have stimulated residential construction downtown, but not without courting controversy.
The $1 million-plus apartments of the new Museum Tower overlook one of downtown's jewels, the Nasher Sculpture Center. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano and opened in 2003, the Nasher boasts works by Rodin, Picasso and Degas. On the late afternoon that we stroll through the sculpture garden, Magdalena Abakanowicz's "Bronze Crowd" and the folded-arm figure of Aristide Maillol's "La Nuit (Night)" are bathed in shade. But at times the tower's reflective glass creates intense glare and heat. Fearing damage to its holdings, the Nasher has pressed for corrective measures.
Within a block stand the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The new Perot Museum of Nature & Science, designed by Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne, is scheduled to open nearby in January, pointing to another source of debate: The museums and performing-arts venues are more concentrated here than in most cities. That's convenient in one sense, but natives and tourists alike lament that the cultural attractions, thus far, are unmatched by restaurants, shops or even storefronts that sell bottled water.
A similar vacancy greets us when we cross the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge from downtown.
At the western terminus lie dusty vacant lots, Skittle-colored corrugated warehouses and auto-repair shops. A few blocks away is Ray's Sporting Goods, a gun-lover's paradise.
Some tourists might be tempted to turn back. But staying the course a few minutes southwest, past modest residential neighborhoods and Spanish-language billboards, my mom and I arrive for lunch on the cactus-flecked, tented patio of Bolsa, a cafe known for organic ingredients from local growers. At this laid-back destination of gentrified Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District, bruschetta with melon, cucumber, royale chevre and mint awakens our palates. It's half-price wine bottle day. My mom and I laze more than two hours, my idea of vacation nirvana.
My mom's is fresh-baked pie a la mode. But while Bishop Arts boasts art galleries, vintage shops and boutiques, the Emporium Pies bakery won't open till fall in a converted purple house.
So we drive back toward downtown, where we happen upon the iconic homage to old Texas, the Pioneer Plaza bronze sculpture of 70 larger-than-life steers being herded down a man-made ridge. Like this city's more recent cultural projects, this one spurred protests in the 1990s. Dallas never was a cow town — that's Fort Worth's distinction, said artists who sued to halt the project.
Now, though, that criticism seems forgotten. Children hop along the stones to cross the stream beneath the waterfall, and a family smiles for a portrait on the lawn.
Beyond downtown: Snapshots of a stay
Former President George W. Bushwas eating a souffle at n° 1 rise (5360 W. Lovers Lane, risesouffle.com) near his home when President
The frontier cabins of Texas Town captured my daughter's and niece's imaginations at the Dallas Arboretum (8525 Garland Road, near White Rock Lake, dallasarboretum.org). Benches along tranquil gardens and ponds gave their grandmother a respite. An exhibit of Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures continues at the arboretum through Nov. 5.
With designer fashion and home goods in front and a cafe in back, Forty Five Ten (4510 McKinney Ave., fortyfiveten.com) draws shoppers such as
Borrowing relatives' bikes on a Thursday afternoon, my husband and I cycled the honeysuckle-fragranced Katy Trail from Highland Park south to the
No trip to Dallas would be complete without gawking at the ritzy homes and the Dallas Country Club along Beverly Drive and ending up at Highland Park Village (Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road, hpvillage.com), where my husband and I enjoyed Tex-Mex and top-shelf margaritas at Mi Cocina and watched well-heeled, weekday shoppers at Christian Louboutin,
We noted the absence of pedestrian or bike lanes on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. We then learned of plans to turn the Continental Street Viaduct, which parallels the new bridge (named for philanthropist Hill), into a pedestrian and bicycle passage later this year. A plaza will provide a unique vantage point from which to behold the new bridge as a landmark that broadens Dallas' horizons.