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I. M. Pei’s Iconic Architecture in Dallas

Dec 1st, 2021

Globally renowned architect I. M. Pei has projects that are recognized around the world, and five of those are right here in Dallas! Here's a rundown of those buildings, the history behind them, and why they're take center stage in Dallas' robust architectural landscape.

Dallas City Hall

Completed 1978

Dallas City Hall’s new look was a direct result of then-Dallas Mayor Erik Jonsson’s plan to revamp the city as a whole in 1964. The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy right in the heart of Dallas had given the city a bad name, and to many around the world it became known as the “City of Hate.” Jonsson’s goal was to not just bring the city out of its slump, but to give it a whole new facelift, starting with the city hall itself.

That’s where I. M. Pei came in. 

Pei had previously created a building for Jonsson’s former associate at Texas Instruments (which is where the hand-held calculator was invented!), and the architect dove straight into designing a building that would symbolize a sense of community and togetherness that 

Pei spent time talking with and observing the people of Dallas, especially in the Downtown area, and recognized that civic pride was of great importance to many he spoke to across many professions and classes. This inspired Pei to create a design that showed the strength of the people and their pride in their city, while also paying homage to the existing structures that made up Dallas’ existing skyline. 

The result was an inverted-pyramid-like building that faced the city center and slanted out toward a large plaza. The top-heavy design  not only gave the offices sweeping views of the city around them, but it also shaded the plaza from the bright sun above, giving people a place to rest and mingle away from the blistering Texas heat.

The public showed high approval when the 11-year project was completed in 1978, and Pei’s success opened the door to additional contracts in the city. 

One Dallas Center

Completed 1979

Pei’s success with the Dallas City Hall led to another Downtown Dallas project awarded to his firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (then-called I. M. Pei and Partners). Architect Henry N. Cobb took the lead on the design which was originally intended to be a three-building project, although the last two were never built. 

The diagonally-placed diamond shape of the One Dallas Center was designed to give more green space around the building’s entrances, rather than have them flush along the city block. The angles allowed for unique views from the mixed-use interiors and two long notches down the sides of the building created four additional corner rooms on each floor. The glass and aluminum exterior was a large diversion from I. M. Pei’s signature concrete-heavy style, but the choice in materials both reflected the nearby Republic Center’s style as well as a method of conserving energy inside the building.

Energy Plaza

Completed 1983

Another of I. M. Pei and Partners’ contracts was the Energy Plaza, which is currently the ninth-tallest building in Dallas! The building’s shape and design is based around three triangles, reflecting the modernism style of the time.

Fountain Place

Completed 1986

Our personal favorite of I. M. Pei’s design is, of course, Fountain Place (not to be confused with AMLI Fountain Place, which is next door). 

Today there are two gorgeous, blue-green skyscrapers that shoot up through the Dallas skyline like shards of glass, but when the first Fountain Place was completed in 1986, it stood alone among Dallas’ concrete skyline as the second-tallest building in the city.

Not only was the Pei-designed skyscraper a revolutionary concept for the City of Dallas, its elaborate fountain design was the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The plaza’s 172 dancing fountains at the foot of the tower included a fully-automated water show that was unheard of at the time, and its success inspired its creators to design both the iconic Dubai Fountain in the UAE and the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.

Pei’s original design consisted of two buildings opposite each other on the same lot, but the untimely financial crises of the 1980s halted construction after the first was completed. AMLI Residential (hi, that’s us!) announced plans to build the second tower in 2017, and today there are 45 floors of luxurious skyscraper space exactly where I. M. Pei and his associates envisioned it over three decades ago. Wild!

Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

Completed 1989

Arguably one of I. M. Pei’s more famous works in Dallas, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center reflects Pei’s signature pyramid-like designs and concrete-heavy styles. 

The design and construction was a great success, though, and the combination of carefully-designed acoustics with bold structure and positioning resulted in wide praise for Pei’s innovative design, further cementing him as one of the most prevalent and praised architects of his time

If you live in Dallas or in our luxury Dallas apartments, then these pieces of architecture around our city are a must-see! There are only so many places in the world that have the honor of hosting an I. M. Pei design, and here in Dallas we have the immense pleasure of hosting five!


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Features photo courtesy Pixabay/MikeGoad

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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