Save the Leaning Tower of Dallas (at least for a little while)

In the meantime you have at least seen the so-called Leaning Tower of Dallas, the eleven-story metaphor next to the Central Expressway known on the Internet. It’s a crooked mess of concrete and a blank blackboard at the same time: project whatever Dallas narrative you like onto it.

It’s a symbol of our demolition culture and disregard for history. It is evidence of the incompetence of the private sector (I mean seriously) and the negligence of the public sector (which has allowed this to go down or not to go down in the first place). It is evidence of our collective hubris, a response to the greed that enables rampant, uncontrolled, and aesthetically poor development, a sign of the environmental depravity that perpetuates culture. Uff.

Perhaps you are more optimistic about things – that would be very Dallas of you. In this case, the tower could be a sign of urban maturation. Perhaps if an inconspicuous building falls down, it might not be a huge loss to encourage development and density (5 million square meters of commercial, retail and living space) in a passable (relatively) area next to the city center.

Or maybe it just doesn’t mean anything.

Whatever your theory, it’s the gift that you keep giving – on social media anyway – and that you will do until Lloyd D. Nabor’s demolition quits the job on Monday.

Though maybe not. Inevitably, a clever opponent has started an online petition to preserve the city’s new icon as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and landmark of the state of Texas. “The demolition will soon be completed to make way for the civil residents of Uptown Dallas for even more dire stores and condominiums,” it said. The reasons for preservation: “Cultural and historical importance; Glue it to shotty [sic] Developer; Prevention of overpriced housing; Adds character; Thanks memes. “

It had more than 1,200 signatures when it was last checked.

I admit there is something about the tower that appeals to me in the raw exposure of its unruly entrails. In that respect, it’s very un-Dallas, a city with pretty surfaces. If there’s a stereotype about Dallas – its architecture, its people – it’s superficial. To look at the architecture of the city means to understand it: Dallas is a city of mirrors, of reflective glass towers, cool, clean and shimmering, that hide their interiors like the shadows of an airplane.

Architecture is about more than this type of surface art, and the Leaning Tower, in its confused, distorted grandeur, is a reminder that there is more to a building than meets the eye. (And sometimes it’s not pretty.)

This is reminiscent of an essay about another building that stood after an attempted explosion: the fictional Nakatomi Plaza, the hijacked tower of the 1988 action classic Die Hard.

In an essay on this film, which has become a classic in its own right, author Geoff Manaugh described how John McClane, the film’s hero played by Bruce Willis, uses the building’s infrastructure – elevator shafts, air ducts – against himself. “If there isn’t a corridor, he makes one; If there is no opening, there will soon be one, ”he writes,“ and otherwise explores the interior of the Nakatomi Plaza in virtuoso navigational acts that were neither imagined nor physically planned by the architects. “

The former core shaft of the adjoining Computer Services tower will be in Dallas on February 17, 2020. A demolition on Sunday morning left the single tower behind. (Juan Figueroa / employee photographer)

Manaugh’s essay itself was inspired by the work of the Israeli architect and theorist Eyal Weizman, who examined how the Israeli Defense Forces created alternative infrastructures – underground tunnels, holes in walls – that enabled his staff to move undetected through Palestinian territory .

In its underground pedestrian network, Dallas has its own alternative system of urban movement, a hidden infrastructure of mobility, but created with friendlier aspirations.

Manaugh called this type of ad hoc alternative infrastructure “Nakatomi Space” and suggested that it offered new ways to think about and design architecture. To the extent that the Leaning Tower does, it is a worthy monument, if only a temporary one.

Yippee-ki-yay, Dallas.

A jogger (far left) drives past Martyrs Park (far left) in Dallas on Thursday, January 23, 2020.  On the right is the triple underpass and behind it the Dealey Plaza.

UPDATED February 22nd at 9am: This story has been updated with the scheduled demolition date for the tower.

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