Texas summers inspire creative shelter seeking, from looking for even the smallest tree cover in the grocery store parking lot to standing in the shadow of a telephone pole while waiting to cross the street.
That’s what makes the Dallas park pavilion design program such a perfect fit for the city. The program, coordinated by Willis Winters, started slowly in the ’90s as a means to replace outdated and dilapidated shade structures in parks across the city.
This sounds like a humble goal, but Winters — with the help of city bond packages — has taken this small opportunity and parlayed it into a creative opening for more than a dozen designers. The program was created to “bring distinguished architecture to the parks and surrounding neighborhoods in Dallas” Winters says.
"In a city renowned for its major public projects, we wanted to communicate the message that the small projects are just as important as the large.”
The designs allow some of our best local architects to experiment, and they are joined by an increasingly broad array of out-of-town practitioners based in Austin, New Orleans and New York.
The park pavilions are also great fodder for a local road trip. While design in the Arts District has been getting most of the attention, the park pavilions provide an eye-opening journey through the refreshing variety of contemporary design.
Architourism may take you to far-flung places like Bilbao to see the Guggenheim or Cairo to see the Great Pyramids, but you can do it at home too.
Click through to see a cross section — from the minimalist to the extravagant, concrete to glass, serious to playful, plain to colorful — and then make up your own itinerary through the summer city. We’re showing six, but there are more than 25 from which to choose.
What: Opportunity Park Pavilion, 2007
Where: 3105 Pine St.
Designer: Elliott and Associates Architects, Oklahoma City
One of the most striking Dallas pavilions is Oklahoma City-based Rand Elliot’s folded steel shelter for Opportunity Park in South Dallas.
Elliott claims inspiration from the form of a butterfly, an ultra-light creature that seems to contradict having its likeness crafted in steel. But visit the pavilion, poised lightly on three points, and you can begin to see the idea.
Silver on the outside and red on the inside, the structure suggests an in-process origami. It stands motionless among the trees, an object in an open lawn in the park, as much a sculpture to be admired as a space to be occupied.
What: Webb Chapel Park Pavilion, 2013
Where: 11428 Cromwell Dr.
Designers: Cooper‐Joseph, New York, and Quimby McCoy, Associate Architect, Dallas
On the opposite side of town, Webb Chapel Pavilion continues the minimalist theme, this time in raw concrete.
From a distance, designer Wendy Evans’ pavilion looks like a massive, brutalist concrete block hovering in the middle of a soccer field. But you have to get close and move inside to experience the whole thing.
From underneath, the ceiling is a radiant yellow, composed of four cones that filter the brilliant sun.
The sheltered space merges into the landscape, a low wall blending into the rise of the hill, providing an informal spot for perching and watching kids play, birds fly and clouds sail by.
What: Lake Highlands North Park Pavilion, 2009
Where: 9344 Church Rd.
Designers: Frank Welch and Associates Inc., Dallas, and Kimley‐Horn, Associate Landscape Architect, Dallas
As simple as Elliott’s folded steel structure is, Frank Welch’s design for the Lake Highlands North Park Pavilion achieves its straightforwardness in a different way.
Here, the shade is provided by an enormous roof supported simply by four poles — taking the idea of a vernacular Texas farmhouse and boiling it down to its cleanest elements.
A standing seam metal roof reflects the sun’s rays, and underneath, a frame of warm wood forms the ceiling canopy. It’s deceptively unassuming in the way it recalls the archetypal image of a house we all share from childhood: a pitched roof providing shelter beneath.
What: Brownwood Park Pavilion, 2011
Where: 3400 Walnut Hill Ln.
Designer: Oglesby‐Greene Architects, Dallas
Joe McCall’s Brownwood Park Pavilion draws on the imagery of tents pitched in a meadow.
The group of three shelters is both timeless in its reference to covered hearths nestled into the landscape and contemporary in its use of painted steel to create a series of overlapping louvers that draw breezes up and though the structure.
The bright red is intense against a blue summer sky and it’s a great design for a neighborhood park, metaphorically suggesting a gathering point for the school and houses around it.
What: Hattie Rankin Moore Park Pavilion, 2009
Where: 3212 N. Winnetka Ave.
Designer: Laguarda‐Low Architects, Dallas
The Hattie Rankin Moore Park Pavilion by Dallas’ Laguarda-Low takes on a different metaphor by examining nature. A canopy of eight leaves supported on slender stems arches overhead, filtering the sunlight through a series of translucent panes.
Hattie Moore Park is just west of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and has been surrounded by light industrial warehouses.
With the new development along adjacent Singleton Boulevard and Sylvan Avenue, this whimsical, bright green shade structure provides an anchor for the park to develop a more bucolic, verdant character.
It’s also the antithesis of the folded concrete structure they designed for St. Augustine Park in Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas.
What: Tietze Park Pavilion, 1934; Restoration, 2008
Where: 2950 Skillman St.
Architects: M.C. Kleuser and Geo. E. Christensen, Dallas
Preservation Architects: Quimby McCoy, Dallas
Not all the park pavilions are new designs. Part of the program has funded the restoration of the city’s original park pavilions, including the Tietze Park pavilion, originally built in 1934.
Preservation architects Quimby McCoy carefully studied the entire park — one of the city’s first — and restored the WPA era stone pavilion in keeping with the original design.
It’s a great place end your tour, a reminder that even in the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the city found ways to use design — even at this modest scale — as a means to provide for the community.