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Architectural Intrigue

Look up: 5 significant Dallas buildings to behold

Photo by Sarah Whittaker
Great National Life Insurance Building

We admire architecture, but most of what we learned in a few art history lectures in college has long since faded away. So we're doing a monthly series, of sorts, looking at significant architecture in Dallas.

Last month, we asked UT Arlington architecture professors Kate Holliday and Douglas Klahr to talk about the art deco wonders of Fair Park.

For this essay, the professors tackle a broader subject: all of Dallas. They've picked five buildings ranging from early 20th century churches to Dallas-era skyscrapers.

First up: the Great National Life Insurance building, which is now the headquarters of the Salvation Army.

"Built in 1963, the Great National Life Insurance building is a midcentury modern classic, by architect Grayson Gill," says Kate Holliday. "What Gill did was make this a sculpture so that there is an incredible repetitive metal armature on the outside of the building that is really a sight to behold."

Photo by Sarah Whittaker
Great National Life Insurance Building

"The reason I like this building is because of the incredible brise-soleil on the outside," Holliday says. "Brise-soleil is just a fancy architecture term for a sun screen. Basically you’ve taken the mini-blinds from inside, all of those glass windows, and put them on the outside."

Photo by Sarah Whittaker
Great National Life Insurance Building

"You may have driven by the Great National Life Insurance building a hundred times without even noticing it," Holliday says. "It’s located right at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard as you’re heading to Love Field."

Photo by Sarah Whittaker
Fountain Place

"I.M. Pei’s design for the Fountain Place skyscraper is certainly something that everyone has seen on the Dallas skyline," Holliday says. "It's a great example of a private developer giving public space back to the city.

"We can’t go into the skyscraper, but we can visit the fountains and the cascades and the pools and the shade of all of the trees planted around the base of the building."

Photo by Sarah Whittaker
Fountain Place

"The part of the building that I really like is actually down at the bottom, which you may not have seen," says Holliday. "This is the design for all of the fountains that give the name Fountain Place, which were done by Dan Kiley and completed in 1986."

Photo by Keith Nix
3701 Turtle Creek Boulevard in Dallas

"Turtle Creek North [3701 Turtle Creek Blvd.] was designed by Kelly and Marshall and built in 1962," says Douglas Klahr. "What I think is so interesting about this building is that when it was first built, it contained a restaurant on the ground floor.

"If you imagine the Mad Men era, and people living that sort of lifestyle back then, you get a pretty good idea of what that building must’ve been like when it first opened," Klahr says.

"Take a drive on Turtle Creek Boulevard and see how lovely it’s situated slightly above the boulevard."

Photo courtesy of Dallas Scottish Rite of Free Masonry
Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral

"Another favorite building of mine is the Scottish Rite Cathedral, located on the corner of Horowitz and Young Street," Klahr says.

"This was built in 1913 by Hubble & Green, and it is an excellent example of what we call beaux-arts architecture, which means that these architects were able to utilize architectural motifs from several different classical periods and combine them basically into a unified whole."

Photo courtesy of Dallas Scottish Rite of Free Masonry
Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral

"You can take tours of the Scottish Rite Cathedral," Klahr says. "You do have to book ahead, and if you do take the tour, I recommend looking at the first- and second-floor lobbies. They are the best areas of the building, in my opinion."

Photo courtesy of Dallas Scottish Rite of Free Masonry
Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral

"You will get a very clear idea of how space is proportioned beautifully and how architectural details are used correctly in this building," Klahr says.

Photo by Conner Howell
First Presbyterian Church

"Another of my favorite buildings is the First Presbyterian Church on the corner of Harwood and Wood streets," Klahr says.

"What I like about this building is that it has two main entrances. Each entrance is equal, which is something you rarely see in a monumental building, particularly of that period. [The current church opened in 1913.]

"This was done so that it would address the vistas from both streets, because both streets were very important at that time in Dallas," Klahr says.

Photo by Conner Howell
First Presbyterian Church

"What’s so brilliant about the First Presbyterian Church, I think, is the way they resolve this obtuse angle of two entrances with a dome in the center," Klahr says.

"This is a classically French maneuver — you wouldn’t know necessarily just by looking at it — but that’s one reason I really like this building in Dallas," Klahr says. "It’s very sophisticated in the way it is arranged."