The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?
All photos by Jane R. LeBlanc

This week, we continue our hunt for Dallas' fugliest building. So far we've attacked the AT&T corporate office, the Dallas World Trade Center and the Turley Law Center.

But the next building on the list is so...out there, it proved polarizing even before this article was written -- the Irving Convention Center. "For the longest time, I'd see it out there in the field and think it was either some sort of industrial cooling tower or weird parking garage," said Managing Editor Patrick Williams. I can see why his mind went to HVAC. But not everyone had such utilitarian thoughts. "Oooo. I love that building," said Arts & Culture Editor Lauren Smart. "Looks like Steampunk meets Star Wars to me." I thought she was out of her mind. How can you love something that looks like a rusted box with wings taking flight? Not that it was always so rusty.

The outside of the building is wrapped in natural copper, which means at one point, the building gleamed like a shiny new penny. But now, it just looks like a regular old penny. Not as exciting. But copper was chosen for a reason. According to center's website, the copper exterior "will weather gracefully over time, aging to a beautiful green patina." A bonus is this eliminates the use of chemicals or paints to maintain the building.

However, it takes copper about four to five years to reach a green color of any kind. The Irving Convention Center only opened in 2011. A year from now, this article might not even exist. But, as of today, the primary color you see from Highway 114 is rusty orange-brown.

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

To be fair, the more research I did, the more I found that the building's external oddities weren't just interesting design elements. The unique box-on-box shape was designed with visitors and the Texas heat in mind. The top box's elongated corners jut out over the bottom box's flat sides to provide shade on sunny days.

The building's vertical design takes up less land than a flatter, spread-out building would (the center and grounds cover 40 acres total) and allows visitors to move more easily between event spaces. And the copper outing is purposefully perforated to allow natural light through the windows and cool air to surround the building, lowering electricity use and costs.

Now, before this starts sounding like a press release, let me say that no matter the noble reasoning behind the design choices, it doesn't make me like the exterior of this building any more. But I do respect it.

Next stop: inside.

In buildings this large, my eyes automatically gravitate up. And while most buildings sport typical rectangular fluorescent lights, the Irving Convention Center was an exception.

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

My initial thought was: these look like cigarettes. My next thought? Magicians' wands. I'm hoping neither of those things were the look the designers were going for, but if they were, well, mission accomplished! After taking in the ceiling, my eyes traveled down to the rest of the interior.

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

Orange. Orange for as far as the eye can see. At first, I was put off by it. It's not exactly the first color that comes to mind when I think interior design. But it works in the convention center setting -- a building designed to represent the community and host a vast range of events. It has an almost whimsical feel while maintaining a polished, modern look. However, knowing the outside of the building will eventually be light green, and that the orange walls are highly visible from the outside, the color clash has the potential to be an aesthetic nightmare. Right now, funny enough, the orange walls match the rusty outside.

The other walls were a bit more subdued, but interesting all the same.

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

The entrances to the halls felt outdated to me. It's not that the entire wall, including the doors, are made of wood. It's the color of the wood -- a dark, flat walnut. Something lighter, perhaps bamboo or maple, might give the building a more modern feel and match better with the (eventual) green outside and the orange walls inside. It would also look better alongside the white tile that covered a few of the walls.

I like these walls. I love that the tiles are laid vertically instead of the expected horizontal orientation. My only complaint is that the dark wood hall entrances and giant concrete columns make it look a bit institutional. Giant concrete columns, I say?

Oh dear. I actually sighed when I saw these. It's not the fact that they're concrete, really. I could see concrete working really well in the convention center. It's the discoloration and prison vibe they give off that bothers me.

I mean, if prisons had elevator bays for inmates, they'd look like this. I think the little circular divots bug me the most. But lest you start to feel like an inmate, just remember: prisons don't have concierge desks.

The Irving Convention Center -- Awesome Futuristic Concept or Super Fugly Building?

I like the white and the internal glow, even though it brings the offices from Ugly Betty to mind. But I was surprised that the desk felt like plastic since I was expecting glass. For a place that markets itself not just to less formal gatherings but high-end events as well, I feel that glass would have been a better choice.

Making my way back outside to leave, I decided to exit through a different door than the one I entered through. Which is how I came across some pretty spotty landscaping.

Now, I'm no green thumb, but I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to see the bright purple watering system. There were several of these rectangular plant beds down the side of the building, and they all featured bright purple watering systems in full view. Clusters of green plants (monkey grass, possibly) were a common theme, but most of the dirt lay exposed, accented only by the lavender tubing. If the owners invested in some landscaping, I think the greenery would be a nice touch to such an industrial-looking building. But for now, it's a bit lacking.

I left the Irving Convention Center more confused than before I visited. The reasoning behind most of the structural and outdoor design choices is commendable, but as the building stands now, creates a couple of dark, rusty blocks. The inside has some interesting, modern aspects, but they're brought down by some less than stellar color and material choices. I just can't get a handle on the Irving Convention Center.

So what do you think -- a building from a galaxy far, far away or a couple of rusty Lego pieces off 114?

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