Wake and Bake: Notes From Last Night's Q&A With Woodall Rodgers Deck's Parkitect

Almost 200 people squeezed into a stuffy Dallas Center for Architecture conference room last night to see plans for the deck park being built over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, and guess what, Dallas! A New York architect has designed a vast mainly treeless expanse with glass buildings for us! Those of us who don't have a lot of hair will be able to play chess at little tables out there and fry eggs on our heads at the same time.

During the Q&A afterward a couple of people -- one a Brit-sounding lady, the other a guy with a great suntan -- asked somewhat timidly about the, uh, well, you know, the heat issue. You know. Like the four months out of the year in Dallas when the sun can kill you like it was a gun. The four months out of the year when New York architects who are designing stuff for Dallas never ever come to visit Dallas because if they did they would slap themselves silly and go back to New York and take all of the glass and brushed aluminum surfaces out of their designs. Those four months?

But the moderator, Dallas's own midway barker of French impressionism, Rick Brettell,

was his entertainingly WASP-ish self in shooting down all heat-related negativism and defending Tom Phifer,

the architect who has designed a glass-walled and glass-ceilinged pavilion and restaurant for the park.

Phifer, for his part, assured the audience that the glass roof of the pavilion will be "perforated" to create a dappling effect that will change "the way people interact with the light." You mean, like, not die?

The lion's share of the crowd was made up of art and architecture courtesans hoping for their own pieces of the pie, so the reception was largely favorable, but I could see a few people shaking their heads in the back of the room.

What do we here in Dallas want most in a park?

What is the thing that draws us like a magnet, the thing we rush toward with blankets and baskets banging at our hips in hopes we can get to it and stake it out for ourselves before anybody else can?


Shade, shade, Mr. Phifer. Above all else, before all else, shade. Shade, shade and more shade. So, feature this. You've got a park baked by glass buildings on all sides, Texas sun above and an entire roaring freeway cooking it from underneath. And you're in the middle of it in a glass box. Are you having fun yet?

On the other hand, maybe the whole park will full of naked Swedes, lashing themselves with birch boughs. I'd go to see that.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze