June 22, 2012

Lush Hour

In response, the Nasher Sculpture Center gathered key players in global gardening, all of whom are designing Dallas gardens in varying stages of completion, for a symposium this past spring. “Dallas also has a remarkable history of designed landscapes, and these signature spaces will only play an increasing role in the public life of our city,” says Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, who helped plan the symposium.

Dallas will soon have as many significant public green spaces as it does important buildings. The city boasts buildings by six architects who’ve won the Pritzker Prize, the industry’s top international honor. “There’s no equivalent of the Pritzker Prize in landscape design, so not as much attention is paid. But we’ve got the best landscape architects in the world in this room today, and they’re all working on gardens in Dallas,” said symposium moderator Peter Walker, whose West Coast-based landscape design firm created the gardens at the Nasher and, this spring, completed a $30 million garden project at the University of Texas at Dallas, funded almost entirely by philanthropist Margaret McDermott.

UTD Provost Hobson Wildenthal was the impetus behind the idea to landscape the school, where concrete buildings and parking lots resembled “an abandoned Walmart, as one national magazine put it,” says Wildenthal ruefully. The new gardens encompass 800,000 square feet planted with 5,000 trees and shrubs, many of them native; a mall groomed in St. Augustine grass; six pools, including a circular one that pumps a continuous column of fog; and four human-scale chessboards.

From this fall through 2013, at least four other major gardens will be complete. The Crow Collection of Asian Art will unveil a new public sculpture garden in October, filled with Asian antiquities and contemporary sculptures, along with gardens designed by master gardener and Japanese garden expert John Powell of Weatherford Gardens. “They will take the visitor on a journey, almost like a Japanese stroll garden,” he says. The George W. Bush Presidential Center includes a 15-acre urban park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. A 5.2-acre wedge of land spanning across Woodall Rodgers Freeway, dubbed The Park, is intended to draw pedestrians into its promenade of gardens, gathering spaces and performance venues. The project is led by Houston- and West Coast-based landscape architect James Burnett. The 14-story Perot Museum of Nature & Science’s cube-shaped structure was designed to float over the site’s landscaped base, which is an abstract cross section of Texas prairies and forests, and its roof deck plaza will be planted with native prairie grasses, designed by Coy Talley of Dallas.

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