Once a neighborhood of old warehouses and factories, the West End Historic District of Dallas (TX, USA) is today flourishing with new real estate development and an influx of creative companies. This revitalized spirit recalls the District’s roots as a manufacturing hub and capitalizes on the area’s proximity to downtown Dallas’s entertainment and dining hotspots to attract a wide range of residential and tourist traffic. Designed within this new dynamic context, West End Square by leading international design agency James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) is a modern urban park that fuses technological, natural, and structural elements to create a truly next-generation amenity that explores a model for innovation in public gathering spaces while paying homage to the site’s historical roots.
JCFO worked closely with Parks for Downtown Dallas, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, on the design of the Square. The site, a former parking lot, is confined with a tight rectangular geometry. In the place of asphalt, red bricks from the surrounding historic buildings now resonate on the ground plane, which sits beneath a large steel shade structure that wraps three-quarters of the park. Serving as a threshold between historic sidewalks and the garden interior of the Square, the structure delineates the park’s dynamic programmatic elements, including communal workspaces, prairie gardens, an interactive water feature, and a future-proofed ‘innovation arcade’ designed to host temporary installations and performances.
Spacious and inviting, Streetlife’s iconic furniture is an anchor and activator of life within the park. Various custom fixed solutions were installed, including curved benches, circular platforms for flexible seating, and a seating step feature.
Recalling the best of public life, both past and present, round podiums with generous grandstand-style seating reference the traditional main square parks of prairie towns. Alongside this, a modern-day ‘workroom’ beneath the shade canopy houses a 15-meter-long table from Streetlife’s Solid range that was custom-designed by JCFO in concert with Streetlife’s R&D team to include integrated features such as WiFi and charging points. Adjacent to the worktable are colorful, moveable tables and chairs, which blur the lines between work and play and foster flexibility.
In response to Dallas’s famously hot climate, the shade canopy has integrated fans and lighting while an interactive water table responds to local weather by functioning as a reflecting pool on calm days, and serving as a misting station on hot days. Sustainability considerations also factored into the Square’s lighting design, which uses Eco-smart LED lighting technology to adjust light levels based on volume of use, occupancy, and transition from day to evening, ensuring a rich and tailored user experience without compromising safety.
Woven throughout the Square are biophilic sculptural elements, raised planters, and lush gardens with meandering paths and playful elevation changes that engage visitors and create moments of respite and relaxation. Forty-four newly planted trees and organically shaped planting beds pay homage to the Texas Blackland Prairies. At the same time, a diverse palette of perennials and grasses was carefully chosen for the understory to ensure year-round sustainability and place a focus on native and adaptive plantings that require minimal watering and serve as butterfly pollinators and insect attractors. Streetlife provided classic park elements with a modern appeal, such as sinuous benches that follow the lines of sloping plant beds, offering rest and vantage points. At the center of the park, where the paths intersect, a newly planted Burr Oak is encircled by a circular bench accessible from all sides, creating a central and engaging gathering space for people to rest, relax, and interact.
In summary, West End Square serves the community within which it resides and offers a compelling case study of forward-looking public space. By creating a symbiosis between technology and nature, the Square is a modern yet adaptable green space that expresses the region’s rich historical legacy within an evolving urban context.