Building an Interconnected Future in Downtown Dallas
By Ian Zapata
Shaping the Future of Cities is a broad mission — but it’s one that begins at a small scale. To shape people’s experience of a city, we have to start by shaping one block, one intersection, or one individual building.
At 400 Record Street in Dallas, a repositioning project presented an opportunity to reactivate the street level around one decades-old building and reengage with the pedestrians of downtown. By increasing mobility throughout the block, the project looks towards a more interconnected future for Dallas at large.
Originally built in the 1980s, 400 Record was a nearly vacant 17-story tower located in an underused area downtown. Reflective of the era, the original building commanded a defensive presence at street level. Gensler evolved the opaque, fortress-like entrance into a transparent connection between interior and exterior.
The striking, 10,000 square-foot louvered canopy appears to glide through the building, providing shade for the large, outdoor plaza and creating a visual connection between indoors and outdoors. The tilted exterior louvers are oriented for optimal solar shading, but twist slightly just before they meet the glazing and then turn flat beyond the glass. This manipulated linear component conveys movement and helps draw the eye into the lobby, with its impressive collection of contemporary art, while further blurring the line between public and private space.
The original building was designed for a time when the automobile was king. The front door was oriented to create an easy pathway from the underground parking garage. At the ground level, solid walls and harsh, deserted public spaces created an impermeable edge condition which reinforced the austerity of the building.
In line with our efforts to improve the mobility of our cities, the project shifted focus back to the pedestrian. By removing the ground level walls and enclosing the double-height lobby in frameless glass, we literally created a new approach to the building. And the dramatic new front door and louvered canopy combine to evoke a welcoming porch or a shady pavilion.
Gensler looked at the building holistically: sidewalks and public spaces were redrawn and re-landscaped to create a more accessible site. The canopy extends over a large drop-off area that improves circulation for rideshare and valet services. Eventually, the building will include a tram stop, connecting to yet another mode of mobility.
Visible from the street and open to the public — the contemporary art flows from the outdoor plaza to the indoor lobby, enticing the community to engage with the space. This artwork creates a dialogue with the sculpture park adjacent to 400 Record, strengthening the pedestrian connection and flow on the block.
Improving the Human Experience
Traditionally, brokers have used a checklist process for amenities in repositioning buildings: Add a gym? Check. Add a café? Check. But Gensler wanted to shift the focus towards experiential amenities, which create true experiences for the patron, and push the envelope of design.
400 Record’s new mezzanine restaurant, Bullion, appears to float in the space as it is suspended over the lobby, and changes the entire experience of how pedestrians and patrons interact with the building. Run by a Michelin star chef, the destination restaurant and bar is presented as a golden, floating, sculptural element covered in copper alloy shingles — a low-tech cladding solution on a high-tech form. Over 18,000 shingles were mounted to a substrate that wraps the restaurant.
With an expansive window facing the street, the restaurant acts as an elevated stage where patrons, themselves audience to an opulent sensory experience, become part of an elaborate performance for passersby. A dramatic glass spiral staircase commands attention from the plaza and draws guests up into the elaborate restaurant suspended above.
Bullion now tops local and national lists of the best restaurants in Dallas. The experiential amenities designed into the space have helped change 400 Record from a nearly vacant building to a viable headquarters and evening destination, elevating the human experience.
Transforming the City
While the solutions to 400 Record were unique to this project, there may be two dozen other buildings downtown, products of the generation they were designed in, which suffer from the same inherent connectivity and mobility issues. Using the same principles, we could transform more buildings on the street, eventually transforming the entire block, and suturing together a previously fractured landscape.