If Nothing Else, Dallas Urban Lab's "Visionary Proposals" Will Make a Very Nice Art Exhibit

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UT School of Architecture/Dallas Urban Lab
Over on DC9 yesterday, Pete posted the latest Smile Smile video, "Truth on Tape," which is a very naked, guest-star-laden clip shot entirely at the Rachofsky House. So, then, funny thing: When Pete passed along the clip, I went to the Rachofsky House's website, only to find the following heads-up: The Preston Road gallery-manse has been closed to the public of late, and when it does reopen at month's end, it will do with with an exhibition from University of Texas at Austin's Dallas Urban Laboratory. Oh, really?

Back in September, you may recall, I spoke with the lab's director, Dean Almy, about what the Dallas Urban Lab had been up to lately -- and he said, well, not as much following the Great Economic Crash of '08. In fact, he told Unfair Park only yesterday, much of what the lab was doing back then -- creating a "West Dallas Gateway" on behalf of Phil Romano's West Dallas Investments, trying to find a way to link Victory Park to the Design District -- has been scaled down and handed over to Brent Brown's CityDesign Studio now HQ'd in Dallas City Hall thanks to a $2 million grant from the Trinity Trust in October.

That said, the UT School of Architecture students are still tinkering with Dallas's design for living, and the exhibition at the Rachofsky House -- which opens August 30 and runs through September 18 -- will feature what Almy calls "visionary proposals for the Design District and West Dallas, including models and drawings looking at landscape infrastructure, public space, strategies for transit and mobility, different kinds of density models -- like, what would happen if Dallas really did double in density in the next 20 years, and what could this mean for building a real dense urban core using the Trinity River Corridor as a catalyst?"

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Originally, Almy says, the Dallas Urban Lab focused all its attention on West Dallas -- if only because four years ago, few were, and because West Dallas Investments had, if you'll recall, snatched up plenty of property on that side of the Trinity . "What you'll see" at the Rachofsky House, says Almy, "are visions for what a Central Park West would look like in Dallas."

He explains: "The students took a look at: What if you had another downtown on the other side of the river? There were -- and are -- some signifcant bridges being built over there, but Dallas has a difficult time making a connection to the planned park because of the amount of infrastructure in the way. But West Dallas doesn't have toll roads or freeways in between what could be its urban core and the parks. If the park is to be taken seriously and we're trying to get 50,000 people into the park for a big event, how do they get in and get out? Much of that's what drove the West Dallas stuff."

But recently, the Dallas Urban Lab shifted its focus -- from West Dallas to the Design District and the old Industrial District and trying to find realistic ways to merge Victory Park with the other side of Stemmons Freeway. The UT School of Architecture got involved after Wallace Roberts & Todd -- with whom the lab had worked on the West Dallas project -- asked if that was even possible. Almy says the students' latest work has been "instigated by some of the city planning people."

Still, he acknowledges, most of what you'll see beginning next week is speculation and wishful thinking (and it represents only 25 percent of the Dallas Urban Lab's output, Almy stresses). If nothing else, he says, it's "an opportunity to show many of our alumni and donors" the entirely student-done work "and geerate interest in what we're doing."

Tours of the Rachofsky House, for those who haven't been, are done by appointment only. Per the website, "To schedule a tour or other educational opportunity, please call Thomas Feulmer at 214.373.3157 or email thomas@rachofskyhouse.org."
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