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Critic’s Choice: Mark Lamster’s 2014 Highlights

by Jerome Weeks 26 Dec 2014 8:00 AM

We talk with the Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic about the Trinity Tollway, DART, DFW Airport, the change in the city’s talk about its future and one of his favorite small-scale design projects this past year.



Photo: Shutterstock

KERA’s Art&Seek continues to check in with North Texas arts critics to learn what caught their attention this year. Today, we hear from the DMN’s Mark Lamster, who wrote about far more than fine buildings this year.



Looking back over this year in urban planning and architecture, I think it’s safe to say the biggest news story has been the continuing ruckus over the Trinity Tollway.

You’re right. I think that is the big story for the year. I think the galvanization of discussion around the Trinity and also around Fair Park and generally the role of highways in the city has been tremendous. I’ve really seen a change in the city. The attention people are paying to this road is amazing. It’s incredible when you think about education and crime and all these other things being what drive discussion in news in a city, and all of a sudden in Dallas, it’s been the Tollway that’s taken over the headlines as the lead story. So for somebody writing about urbanism that’s really heartening. The question is I hope we’re turning the corner and we’re going to decide the Tollway is a bad idea and get rid of it.

Much of your writng this year hasn’t been what many might think of as architecture criticism. It hasn’t been about individual buildings per se. A lot of new buildings have gone up, but you’ve written about the connective tissue – like the Tollway or the Commerce Street Bridge.

Y’know, the famous architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock liked to talk about two kinds of architecture, the ‘architecture of genius’ and the ‘architecture of bureaucracy,’ right? So you had your architecture of genius, and that’s your museums and your city halls and what-have-you. And those are important, you need those to have a civic life in a city. But city life is defined by that architecture of bureaucracy – the places where we live, the places where we shop, the places where we work. So to me, writing architecture criticism is never just writing about signature buildings. It’s writing about how the city works, about the bureaucratic city and the genius city working and operating as a whole.

And speaking of connective tissue, you also think DART has had a significant year.


DART station at DFW. Photo: DART

Yeah, DART made it out to DFW which celebrated its 40th anniversary in the last year. I think that’s something really to celebrate. DFW had such an important role in the growth of the city and the region. So I think that was a huge anniversary for the city this year. And you know we’re going to see, coming along, a new expansion of DART downtown. I think that will really help the system expand, I’m not sure whether they’ll end up rolling it out in 2015. I’d like to see more bus service. I’d like to see just more clarity in the graphic program from DART so you could actually tell where things are going. Like the D-Link maps are a good example. It’s hard to tell where the thing goes.

Dallas is often known for its big projects, its big ambitions. Is there anything small-scale that impressed you this year?

Actually, I just this week took a trip up to a columbarium, a small, outdoor mausoleum by the architect Max Levy, St. Michael’s and All Angels, I believe it’s called. Just a beautiful sacred space that’s all about nature and the sky and just, it’s just a really great example of modernism working with nature to create just a very sacred, special place.

Gallery photo outfront: Shutterstock