Michel's Texas Adventure
When in Rome, do as the Romans do…I abide by this rule when ordering at a restaurant. I taste foods that I never would have ordered and the waiter’s insight has yet to misguide me. Who better to turn to when planning our Dallas weekend but my fellow Spacesmither Amy Jarvis, a TEXAS insider...see what she recommended.
One great advantage of being from Texas: no geographical explanations are required - unlike being from some obscure country - say Luxembourg.
Here the recount of a great weekend with some ‘Republic of Texas’ trivia to enlighten the weekend:
- Joined Union: Dec. 26, 1845 (only state that was an independent country)
- Name Origin:‘Tejas’ in Caddo language means 'Friendship'
- Cattle Population: 12 million heads (13% of entire US)
- Human Population: 27.5 Million (second most populous)
- Machine Guns: 28,690 (registered)
- Dimensions: 770 miles x 790 miles (two day driving - still Texas)
- Size: 268,581 sqm (second largest - twice the size of Germany)
- Economy: 7th largest economy in the world (should Texas be independent)
- Power Supply: Texas supplies its own; 2 other US grids are Eastern & Western
- More facts: http://www.onlyinthestateoftexas.com/indexmob.html
- The Lone Star List - The New York Times
In the 1960s & 1970s, Europeans took offense to the Texas oil tycoons buying their treasured art. Many years later and with my newly acquired US passport, I have come to experience the collections, now assembled around the Dallas Art District and beyond. Enjoy the tour!
Kimbell Museum - 1966 by Louis Kahn: Delightfully small in scale, yet power equivalent to the Hagia Sophia. Delicate design, muscular structural articulations, fine woodwork contrasting rough concrete vaults, refined natural lighting, etc. I get the goose-bumps every time I visit MY FAVORITE ARCHITECT there's nothing like it.
Kimbell Extension - 2011 by Renzo Piano Extension: An academic analyses of what makes Kahn's building then architecturally transposed: mass vs. void; open vs. closed; curved vs. straight, hard vs. soft; etc. The extension exists through the soul of the original masterpiece.
Nasher Sculpture Center - 2006 by Renzo Piano: The vaulted ceiling is spectacular; open egg shaped volumes, blended together and oriented to block the direct sunlight yet filter daylight throughout the gallery spaces. The center also takes homage from Louis Kahn's Kimbell Museum, albeit freely and independently. The garden is a delight; just imagine the welcome reprieve from the Dallas summer heat.
Dallas Art Museum - 2007 by Edward Larabee Barnes: Could be an IM Pei project too, successfully integrates the museum into the surrounding urban fabric, a novelty for Dallas' tyrannical car culture. You can also enjoy a variety of concerts and performances, from classical chamber music to the Late Night After Hour Showcase and more.
Fort Worth Art Museum - 2002 by Tadao Ando: Variation on Kahn's museum, masterfully interpreted with Asian sensibility, rendered into its own masterpiece; a unique experience, worthy of a DFW detour.
The JFK Memorial - 1970 by Phillip Johnson: The first time I heard about Dallas was breakfast November 23rd, 1963, when my mother told us about President Kennedy. I distinctly remember the terror in her eyes, her voice trembling. The Cold War in full force and tomorrow was unknown - dark and somber. I sensed that same terror when visiting Phillip Johnson's 1970 JFK Memorial. Designed like a 'cenotaph' (open tomb), it sits up on a slight incline. 72 precast concrete columns eerily define the roofless room, 50 feet by 50 feet and 30 feet height. The walls hovers two feet over the ground and with just two narrow entrances at either end, they impose a suffocating sensation: 'not seeing yet being seen'. The monument is debilitating, like being trapped in a coffin - the open sky is out of reach. It is the most haunted public space I have ever experienced. One feels exposed and threatened - just like the victim to the assassin, an unsafe refuge separated from the surrounding chaos that brought about this moment.
Fort Worth Water Garden - Phillip Johnson designed many 1970s/1980s Texas icons: Pennzoil, Republic Bank Center, Comerica Bank Tower, to name only a few. Yet his most astounding project is the Fort Worth Water Garden, and it is difficult to imagine how it ever got approved. The design consisted of three different water features: the sunken meditation pool surrounded by kneeling cypresses; aerating pool that features multiple spray fountains that give the impression that all stands still; and an active pool with water cascading 30 feet down towards small pools at the bottom. The sound of water is ever present, silencing the urban jungle to enable a theatrical oasis for an entire city to savor. More info.
Fort Worth Stock Yards: A short drive through Fort Worth uncovered a vibrant downtown, authentic character, uniquely Texan. Slightly elevated, the downtown overlooks the historic prairie-like stockyards, now gloriously shimmering under the setting sun. The Stock Yards are a blast, a true tourist experience with a touch of tacky, corny and pure Americana experience. The area is no more than three-four blocks with saloons tempting tourist traps and Western paraphernalia stores stuffed with boots, oversized belt buckles with fake turquoise stones, ten gallon cowboy hats, etc.
Saturday night at the rodeo where I grasped the concept: Texas Pride! I came as a tourist to be amused, only to witness the magnificent force of the cowboy culture on full display. The performance is a community gathering that brings people together, unites them under one roof to exhibit their horse-riding skills. First, the flag carrying woman rider circles the coral, alternating a display of the US / Texas flags; then the ropers competed to lasso the calf (the winner took just 6.9 seconds); followed by the race around the three barrels (winner finished in 9 seconds, a 4 year-old girl took 17 seconds); and many more performances.
Cowboy Boots: The stars became aligned, a thrift store advertising cowboy boots. Let me digress: thrift stores are some of my favorite pastimes, especially in new places. I had been traveling to Dallas for business for the last 2 years and cowboy boots became my obsession not to say a torment. When would I ever wear them up north, can I take them to Luxembourg? I bought a new pair during my next Texas trip, and I have never had shoes that fit so perfectly. I could never figure out what the fuss was about - I do now!
The Texas Fair: If ever you have the opportunity, then attending the Texas Fair is a must. Everything Texas all the way - words cannot attempt to describe the scene.
Three hours into the tour, exhausted, hot and overwhelmed by the never-ending fried food fest, we threw in the towel. We had to return to our culture, and we finished the Texas weekend at an authentic Mexican Restaurant on our way to the airport.
Thank you Amy for a spectacular tour of Texas, a worthy experience!
Michel Franck, Partner