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Second Man Missing
Lawrence Halprin and Associates' 1970s Heritage Plaza in Fort Worth remains uncomplemented and undermaintained.
By Kevin W. Sloan

Photo by Tom Jenkins
Photo by Tom Jenkins

Planner Edmund Bacon, in his 1976 book Design of Cities, called the interaction between designed elements in an urban landscape the "Principle of the Second Man." "Any really great work has within it seminal forces capable of influencing subsequent development around it, and often in ways unconceived by the 'original' creator," Bacon wrote. Citing the historic accretion that resulted in Piazza Santissima Annunciata in fifteenth-century Florence, he demonstrated how architect Sangallo the Elder made the astonishing proposal to mirror Filippo Brunelleschi's arcade for a foundling hospital, finished 89 years prior, completing the greater cumulative effect of a perfectly symmetrical piazza. The story makes clear that every designer is a Second Man, not limited to replication or symmetry, capable of enlarging—or diminishing—the place in which new works intervene. A case in which subsequent building diminished a place is Heritage Plaza, by Lawrence Halprin and Associates, in Fort Worth, Texas.

More often than not, secluded, walled, or sunken spaces invite crime or become havens for the homeless. This is the case with Heritage Plaza. A lesser-known work by the Halprin firm, Heritage Plaza is now a quarter of a century old and plagued by maintenance problems and occupation by indigents. A parking garage built later by an unrelated design team demonstrates how a Second Man missed the opportunity to transform existing perceptions of Halprin's secluded and contemplative design.

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