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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

October 2006 Issue

STILL WALKING ON WATER
Iconic landscapes around the country are dropping like ninepins, but Dan Kiley’s Fountain Place remains firmly in place. What’s the secret?

By George Hazelrigg, ASLA

STILL WALKING ON WATER George Hazelrigg

When Dan Kiley first visited the Allied Bank Tower site in Dallas in the early 1980s, he knew almost instantly that he wanted to create an urban swamp in the city’s central business district. The office tower, designed by I. M. Pei & Partners, would be a dramatic 60-story prism-shaped green reflective glass structure. Kiley and Peter Ker Walker, at the time partners, were invited to design the plaza at its base. Kiley later wrote that he told lead architectural designer Harry Cobb that Cobb would walk on water in the urban landscape that would be built and become known as Fountain Place.

Kiley’s concept for the site meshed well with the desires of the client, developer Bill Criswell, who wanted spectacular architecture on the edge of Dallas’s Art District, not only as an imposing addition to the city’s skyline but also as a public space that would be attractive at street level. Walker recalls the client emphasized his desire to have a project where people would want to be, a space in which they would feel comfortable. Everyone—client, architects, and landscape architects—signed on to the concept of a building and trees rising out of a large body of water that would comprise 70 percent of the plaza’s surface.

Fountain Place opened on October 9, 1986. The building and Kiley’s plaza were the first phase of what originally was to have been a larger complex at the site with a twin tower, rotated 90 degrees, and a hotel. A real estate collapse precluded the latter phases, but while there would have been some additional plaza landscape, Kiley’s water garden was not compromised. In the next several years, the landscape and tower won a number of awards. Four years after its opening, Dallas architectural critic David Dillon wrote that the measure of Kiley’s success was that the plaza, although privately owned, had become a de facto public space appropriated by the Dallas citizenry (see “The People Commandeer a Plaza,” Landscape Architecture, January 1991).

So, after 20 years, how has Fountain Place fared?

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