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Dallas City Hall

Carol Highsmith, LOC
Carol Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Collection, Library of Congress

In commissioning Dallas City Hall, mayor Erik Jonsson requested “an architecture of outstanding quality, inner simplicity, and the straightforward look that… sums up…how Texans stood up to their problems.” The building was part of a concerted effort to restore local pride following the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.

The muscular 560-foot-long building is a tour de force achievement in architectural concrete, post-tensioned in three directions to create the monumental form. Sloping out at a 34-degree angle in a grand gesture toward downtown, each floor is 9’4″ deeper than the one below so that the building grows from 130 feet at the base to 192 feet at the top. A “landscraper” rather than a skyscraper, its emphatic horizontality responds to the flat ground plane and open sky so characteristic of Texas at the time.

To create a proper environment for city hall (located in a dilapidated area outside downtown), Pei used his deep urban experience to convince the city fathers to buy the adjacent 17-acre block for a grand public plaza and park on the roof of an underground municipal garage. The purchase, initially resisted, contributed much needed open space to Dallas and a powerful catalyst for future development.

Section / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Dallas City Hall was the first major public building awarded to a non-Texan architect. In the following years, Pei and his firm, more than any other architects, would give Dallas an architectural presence it never had before: Pei added Meyerson Symphony Center in 1981; his partner, Henry Cobb, built three office buildings downtown in less than a decade.

In 1979, the American Consulting Engineers Council selected Dallas City Hall for its Excellence Award. In 2003, the project received the Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects, Dallas Chapter, and in 2015, the Texas Society of Architects’ Twenty-five Year Award.

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; Theodore Musho, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners

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