SWA Group recently designed Pacific Plaza, the first of an ambitious four-park initiative spearheaded by Parks for Downtown Dallas in a public-private partnership with the City of Dallas. The 3.74-acre greenspace in the middle of downtown transforms a former industrial site into a lively, welcoming urban environment for the 21st century.
Surrounded by high-rise buildings, Pacific Plaza replaces a barren surface-level parking lot that was previously a site of railroad, auto and other industries, creating a much-needed outdoor amenity for downtown's burgeoning population. The new park incorporates an adjacent stand of 23 mature live oak, introduces flexible space for a varied programming and intergenerational appeal, interprets local history, all woven together in a design of sophisticated and lyrical detail.
"Quality green space is part of the transformation of Dallas," commented Chuck McDaniel, Managing Principal, SWA Dallas. "The first in a chain of parks throughout downtown Dallas, Pacific Plaza enhances the quality of people's lives by offering a place of natural respite amidst the downtown bustle and by mitigating the effects of the urban heat island."
SWA's design preserved and incorporated Aston Grove, a stand of 23 mature live oaks, offering the new park the shaded majesty of a more established place. A grade change was introduced to elevate the park, buffering it from the surrounding city streets and orienting visitors to a one-acre+ central lawn that accommodates everything from concerts to soccer games. The park's connective element is 'The Thread,' a solid, 614-foot-long Indiana limestone seat-bench wall, which gracefully traverses the entire plaza. Nineteen-inches-high and varied in width, its sinuous, sculptural form offers shaded, semi-shaded, and full-sun seating and unifies the park into a cohesive whole.
Anchoring the park's southwest corner is an iconic 95' x 135' elliptical pavilion designed by Heath May of HKS Architects' Line Studio. This dramatic stainless-steel structure expresses the site's railroad history through perforated Morse code signatures for every stop along the Texas and Pacific Railroad between New Orleans and El Paso-resulting in an enchanting play of shaded patterns throughout the day. From under the pavilion, visitors can look upon decades of Dallas' urban architecture.
The park is 100% accessible by pathways and paving. Other design features include a multigenerational play environment featuring custom swings, seesaws and other play equipment; custom-designed 'dog intercepts' - irrigated stations of decomposed granite-that are strategically located to welcome dogs and minimize their impact on the park's horticulture; and native and regionally adapted low-water use vegetation.
Photography: Bill Tatham, Courtesy SWA Group