Arts & Culture News

Wait, Is This the Fugliest Building in Dallas?

We're on an architectural hunt to find the fugliest building in Dallas. The first contender was the AT&T building in East Dallas.

I get stuck in Dallas traffic a lot. It could be typical 8 a.m. rush hour, the noon feeding frenzy or a random 2 p.m. hate spiral of "Hey, let's all look at a dead skunk on the side of the road like it's the damn Mona Lisa." It always sucks, and it always ends in an existential crisis. But there's one place I hate being stuck more than any other. On I-35E North, right around the Oak Lawn Ave. exit. Why? Because right there off the highway is the squat, sad, god-awful, fugly Dallas World Trade Center building.

The Dallas WTC building was dedicated in 1974 and expanded from seven to 15 floors in 1979. The 3 million-square-foot space hosts the Dallas Market Center (a wholesale merchandise resource) and features hundreds of showrooms -- everything from rugs, fabric, rugs, jewelry, rugs and clothes. Seriously, the entire first floor is almost exclusively rug shops. Maybe they could spare a few rugs to wrap the outside of the building. Because it desperately needs it.

Being that I'd only ever seen the monstrosity from the highway, I was hoping that a visit would prove me wrong. Maybe up close, the miserable duct tape top would have a certain subdued elegance. Maybe the grounds were lavish and would make up for the lack of building design. Maybe there would be free money at the door. Anything to redeem it.

Sadly, things just got worse.

The Dallas WTC building is made of: a base made of the cheapest-looking concrete brick layout to ever grace a construction site (and curved in a swoop, at that) and three dismal cake-layer-shaped sections that I'm convinced are wrapped in off-brand duct tape. The whole thing makes me depressed. It absorbs most of the sunlight that dare touch it, makes me worried about the employees inside and offers absolutely nothing aesthetically pleasing to the city of Dallas.

Take, for example, this creation by Yugoslavian artist Dusan Dzamonja. Titled "Cortens," it's one of the first things people see when they walk up to the entrance. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't typically put my ugliest knick knacks out on my front porch for all the world to see. But yet, here sits this drab ode to a severed mushroom, greeting visitors and employees every single day. What exactly was going on in Yugoslavia to cause this?

And that's not the only art the World Trade Center presents out front. A couple of blocky, ceremonial horses stand proudly on either side of the entrance, perfectly accenting the white, default-font building name plastered across the (also) white, concrete entryway.

After taking in as much concrete as I could muster, I started to make my way inside. And that's when I was greeted by one of my most hated modern inventions: the automatic rotating door. Whoever invented this took an already crappy thing, the revolving door, and just added an annoying, anxiety-laden component. What could make this claustrophobic, dizzying door even better? Oh, let's make it motorized! Not only that, but my eyes were assaulted by the building's name (again), this time in all-caps and bright white on a bright red background. Just in case you forgot where you were since seeing the name a few feet back.

Oh, and on your way in, don't look up.

A geometric skylight design, that might actually be kind of cool were it maintained in any way, is up there. You'll get a lovely view of the blue Dallas sky and puffy white clouds accented with black mold and numerous bird droppings. It's so caked on, I doubt even the pounding of acidic city rain could wash any away. A little Windex could do wonders. Or, hell, throw some rugs up there.

The most frustrating part of this whole mess is how impressive the inside of the building is. If you were blindfolded and brought inside, you'd never guess upon reveal that you were in a building as dreadful-looking as the WTC.

Look at the flags, the hanging plants, the store fronts. It's as if I were transported to a parallel universe, one in which concrete wasn't a design statement, duct tape was saved for ducts, and skylights were actually clear.

There's even this really serene, black infinity fountain in the middle of the first floor. It's begging for pennies, you guys. Maybe if we chuck enough in, they can remodel the outside of the building. Here's wishing.

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Jane R. LeBlanc
Contact: Jane R. LeBlanc

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