New High-rise Would Round Out Dallas' Skyline

Potential plans for a new downtown Dallas skyscraper never fail to catch folks' attention.But what really turned heads about the latest design was that the building is round.Award-winning British architect Sir Norman Foster designed the new tower for a site on the north side of downtown that's owned by developer Ross Perot Jr. The curved shape of the high-rise would be an eye-popping addition to Dallas' growing skyline.Perot and his Hillwood real estate company are scouting tenants for the planned tower.It seems that every generation or so, a round building shows up on the radar.This one is a doozy.More than 70 floors tall, the modern skyscraper would be one of the tallest in town.Glass atriums in the tower and a lighted glass crown on top would also give the building a unique appearance.But this isn't the first time a round tower has been in the works downtown.Back in 1969, developers unveiled a similar building to be built on the south side of the central business district.Called Griffin Square, the cylindrical concrete tower was to have included office space, a 600-room convention hotel, an entertainment center and a revolving restaurant.Glass elevators would have whisked visitors to an observation deck on top.Thanks to a recession, the project never got off the ground.Another round tower was put on the drawing boards less than a decade later when downtown's Reunion project was in the planning stages.One of the early designs called for a huge concrete cylinder.Architect Welton Beckett went with the lighted geodesic sphere on top instead.The late Atlanta architect John Portman was best know for his round towers in the U.S. His projects in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Detroit all broke out of the box.Dallas architect Larry Good says he understands the design industry's long love affair with tall buildings."What an elemental form a cylinder is," said Good, a partner with GFF. "I think that is the fascination.""And they offer the very most efficient relationship of skin surface area to the amount of area enclosed," he said. "So a wise architect, with a goal of energy conservation and cost effectiveness of skin, would choose a cylinder. And Lord Foster is just that sort of architect."Norman Foster is a big fan of round buildings. His St. Mary Axe Tower — nicknamed The Gherkin — is an exclamation point on the London skyline.Foster + Partners also designed tech firm Apple's huge new round headquarters in California.Architects and developers will all tell you that it's easier to lay out offices, apartments and such inside a box-shaped building.And some round buildings are more about form than function."Round towers are about sculptural purity rather than planning efficiency," said Ian Zapata of the Dallas office of architect Gensler. "A round tower eliminates the traditional hierarchy between front, back and sides; it presents the same elevation regardless of vantage point and breaks with the angularity of the prevailing cityscape."But," he said, "this comes at a cost of planning efficiency."  Continue reading...

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