Meet The Dallas Architects Behind A Reimagined Deep Ellum

One of the greatest gifts an architect can give is a blank canvas. But imagine that beneath the clean slate lie deep roots planted by former slaves who settled in the neighborhood after the Civil War, historic walls built by visionaries like automobile pioneer Henry Ford and cotton gin maker Robert S. Munger has been touched, and a soul intertwined with them is iconic musicians and artists. This was the opportunity given to global architecture firm Perkins and Will’s Dallas studio when it was used to design The Epic, a mixed-use development by Westdale Real Estate and KDC in historic Deep Ellum.

The project pioneered the neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown Dallas and has already landed a huge office lease from Uber – not bad for an area best known for its quirky shops and active nightlife.

The Epic consists of a 251,000 square foot office building (Epic I) and the Pittman Hotel, both designed by Perkins and Will, and a 26-story apartment tower developed by Westdale and Streetlights Residential and designed by LRK. Perkins and Will also designed the Epic II, which will house Uber. The company is renting some of its temporary space as it battles its way through the pandemic, but plans continue to occupy the 25-story Epic II and two floors in Epic I.

Other projects in the Perkins and Will portfolio

The Richards Group
When Stan Richards approached the company to design their advertising agency’s global headquarters, he made it clear that his goal was to preserve and improve the corporate egalitarian culture. This was achieved with a transparent, open office. The elevators were pushed aside so that a soaring atrium was in the heart of the building.

Hope Lodge
Designed as a home for cancer patients and an office for the American Cancer Society, Perkins and Will used natural and healthy materials to create a warm, welcoming, and non-toxic environment.

Baylor Scott & White Health
The US $ 70,000, 300,000 square meter administration office is being built by KDC on the eastern edge of Deep Ellum. The design includes light monitors and light sources in the roof to bring natural light into the core areas of the building.

Ron Stelmarski, Design Director at Perkins and Will, said the process started with the question, “How do you put so many square feet in a space without undermining the integrity of what’s already there?”

In most urban centers, developers will take a prime piece of real estate and build it right in the middle, he explains. Those behind The Epic wanted to create density around the edges to keep the center of the neighborhood.

“But I see this project as a real linchpin,” says Stelmarksi. “It shows that you can do both. It is a hinge between the connection to the wider sense of the city. Many of the developments planned by the master are all about the edges, and [developers] like people walking around but not through it. This one is very permeable, and I think we can hopefully learn that. “

Ron Stelmarski, Design Director at Perkins and Will

Stelmarski, who moved to Dallas in 2001 after a decade in Perkins and Will’s Chicago office, said he was an outsider who allowed him to look at Deep Ellum with fresh eyes.

He immediately hit on the idea that The Epic could put what had been halved in the neighborhood over the years.

“We used this almost scientific understanding that place holds things together,” he says.

For example, 80 foot wide cuts were made through Epic I to allow lines of sight from the DART line across the development to Elm Street, where the historic Temple of the Knights of Pythias was recently converted into The Pittman Hotel, which carries a Kimpton flag .

The structure was seen as a gem, says Kristin Winters, lead architect at Perkins and Will.

“It gave us the opportunity not to have to tear off any of the existing fabrics,” she says. “We’ve been able to keep what’s great about Deep Ellum and build on the edges.”

The hotel was designed in 1916 by the noted black architect and son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, William S. Pittman, and serves as the fulcrum between the older one- and two-story buildings along Elm Street and 16-. Story Glass Epic I.

Standing Tall The 16-story Epic I serves as the gateway to Deep Ellum from downtown Dallas.

Courtesy of Perkins and Will

Although most of the structures in Deep Ellum are built of load-bearing masonry, the Temple of Pythias is supported by steel, with the wooden structure serving as a backup – just like Epic I.

Kristin Winters

Kristin Winters, lead architect at Perkins and Will.

“It’s part of the line to use what was there, which was always a sense of straightness, and that was the nice thing about it,” says Stelmarski.

Perkins and Will highlighted Epic I by lining the undersides of the bricks with lights and using softer colors on the tower’s fins to add depth and movement and low-reflective glass to keep it transparent.

Epic II, which is still under construction, will continue the development of the district and blend more closely with buildings in the central business district.

“Everything changed with Epic I in order to create a full-scale relationship between Deep Ellum and downtown,” says Stelmarski. “Epic II, because it’s much larger, is carved and shaped so that if you stand next to the hotel and look through the slit between the residential area and Epic I you can still see the downtown skyline. We always wanted you to feel like you are in town. “

Although Stelmarski could not give precise details on the next steps, he suggested possible plans. “We have this really interesting map that we made. If you take that [DART] The green line from our office, the beautiful Dallas High School on Bryan Street, next door is the Bryan Tower, which will house the staff. Continuing on the train you will reach The Epic, drive past Hope Lodge, drive past the Baylor Administration Center and then arrive at Fair Park. For us we see a whole range of project types affecting this part of the city. ”

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