What was once a parking lot in the West End Historic District will soon be home to the second of our four priority parks: West End Square. The site is bound by North Market, Corbin and North Record streets, as well as the previous Spaghetti Warehouse building, placing it front-and-center in a truly iconic part of the city.
For James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), the landscape architecture firm leading the project, balancing that rich history with a cutting-edge park became a top priority early in the design process. The firm has designed a flexible public space that uses technologies to support park maintenance and operations, reinforcing the West End’s emerging identity as Dallas’ Innovation District.
Among the amenities, which include an outdoor workroom, prairie gardens, porch swings and game tables, will be a standout water feature unlike anything JCFO has designed before. Known as the Water Table, this feature will measure roughly 20 feet by 11 feet and will be made of Mesabi Black granite—but the basic specs are just the beginning. What really makes this feature one-of-a-kind is its dynamic modes of operation, each corresponding to a different weather pattern.
“The weather in Dallas can be quite dramatic with very still days, framed by the warm glow of the Texan sun, to dramatic storms and very dry, hot days,” says Isabel Castilla, JCFO’s Principal-in-Charge for the project. “We wanted to design a feature that would enhance the visitor’s experience by providing a unique and changing experience as people visit the project during different times of the day and across the seasons.”
To keep up with the forecast, the Table will have three distinct modes. On calm days, it will serve as a reflecting pool; on windy days, it will have bubblers; and on particularly hot days, it will create a cloud mist with potable water for cooling. The decisions about which modes to use were not made lightly. When planning, JCFO felt it was important to take in the larger surroundings and how they could be best framed through the use of the Water Table.
“We worked closely with GPSI, the water feature engineers, to arrive at a number of effects that would visibly interact with the weather, and by doing so, make visitors aware of their immediate environment,” she explains. “For example, a reflecting pool for still days would frame the sky and large canopy trees above.”
But what makes this feature technologically exciting is that it can toggle through its three modes automatically, as well as be controlled remotely, thanks to weather sensors built into the design. In other words, when the wind picks up in the area, anemometers can detect the breeze and immediately trigger the bubblers.
Though the feature was uniquely designed for West End Square, New-York-City-based JCFO did pull inspiration from popular past projects, including a potable water mist at Brooklyn’s Domino Park and a sundeck water amenity at New York City’s High Line.
The Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) Foundation made a $300,000 gift to ensure that this park element becomes a reality. “The DDI Foundation is pleased to make its very first grant to Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy and West End Square. This water feature will make this public space both unique and welcoming to everyone living, visiting and working in Downtown” says Kourtny Garrett, CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc.
Construction for West End Square, which kicked off at the beginning of this year, is slated for completion in early 2021. Once finished, it will mark the end of an almost 20-year process, beginning when the area was first identified as a priority park site by the 2004 Downtown Parks Master Plan.