James Corner Field Operations Develops a state-of-the-art public park in Dallas, Tx
A green area mixed into a sea of brick red is innovating the new standard of living and working in a post-pandemic society.
West End Square in downtown Dallas, Texas is called a “smart park”. Named for its innovative technology and design.
On first impression, the park just looks like a place of recreation or another garden.
Beneath the surface, West End Square is a self-autonomous system.
It operates seamlessly and efficiently.
The Square sits in the West End District of Dallas.
Its a key area of the city.
One of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods, it is filled with historic locations, museums, old warehouses, and brick roads.
These days, those old buildings are becoming residential lofts, unique restaurants, and office buildings.
The city is even rebranding the area as the Dallas Innovation District.
The city decided to add a public green space to the West End District several years ago.
It wanted a park that mirrored the innovation of the neighborhood.
What they got from their $6.25M investment though, is a park that doesn’t just match the innovation.
It propels it.
James Corner Field Operations took the lead on this project.
The New York based landscape architecture and urban design practice develops open public spaces.
Teams typically work with cities, but sometimes with private developers building outdoor areas for public use.
It is why park owners and developers, the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department and the non-profit “Parks for Downtown Dallas”, reached out.
The developers asked the landscape architects to determine how to develop and incorporate new technology in a space maintained by public funds and surrounded by a fast changing community.
The landscape architects worked closely with the city to ensure West End Square balanced these needs and would hold up through time.
They carefully chose the technology used in the park.
They evaluated the required upkeep, reliability, and benefits against costs.
The team calls the systems they found groundbreaking, cost effective solutions to maintenance and sustainability issues they often run into.
“You have to design something that the entity and owners can maintain,” said Isabel Castilla, Principal in Charge.
“The park can look great on day one, but look awful later if the maintenance is not what the entity can handle.”
Crews broke ground on West End Square at the beginning of 2020.
They envisioned an innovative smart park that would offer people a place of recreation and an outdoor office space.
A park to match a city on the forefront of innovation.
They didn’t know at the time though that they were creating the new standard for a post-pandemic society.
“The fact that we built the whole thing during the pandemic is pretty incredible,” said Isabel.
“The pandemic was almost a benefit for this project, and really any project that we work on. As landscape architects, we are always advocating open public spaces that provide access to nature.
The pandemic made it so much more evident that people have not prioritized spending time outdoors. It was a good result for an unfortunate situation.”
Technology is deeply woven into the structure of West End Square.
The park incorporates a smart irrigation system with moisture sensors to gauge weather patterns and self-regulate how much water goes to planting beds.
A self-regulating water fountain operates depending upon the weather.
On hot Texas days, a refreshing mister cools visitors.
When it’s cold, it’s simply a reflecting pool with peaceful bubbling sounds.
The irrigation system also communicates with the city. It updates on how much water is being used and if the lines are functioning well.
The smart lighting system also sends the city information about energy consumption and when bulbs need to be replaced.
When the park closes, the system dims the lights to save power and respect the people living nearby. If a visitor comes by though, lights return to full capacity. It helps keep the area safe.
The landscape architects used smart tech to accomplish another main goal.
It offers outdoor office space to companies and professionals in the neighborhood.
Isabel and her team built a workroom with a 50-foot long table, equipped with wireless charging pads to power cell phones, and outlets for laptops and other devices.
Free WIFI is also available.
Benches, separate tables, and swings are provided for a more intimate working space.
A trellis-like structure that surrounds the three edges of the park acts as an armature for the smart systems.
It controls the operating technology.
It also houses empty conduits and extra electrical and fiberoptic capacity to allow for new technology to be added as the park’s needs evolve.
These are all part of the designers goal to keep the park maintained for years to come.
“Technology evolves rapidly over time, sometimes improving while oftentimes becoming obsolete,” says Isabel. “When developing a public park with limited funds, balancing amenities that are traditional and long lasting, such as trees and urban furniture, with something technologically forward is important.”
There are classic features, like the Prairie Garden in the center of West End Square.
The garden beds are filled with native-Texas plants.
Things like the Red and Yellow Yucca, Sweet Scented Marigold, and Purpletop Vervain.
Native trees and grass are scattered through other areas of the park as well.
Visitors will see Texas Redbuds, White Crepe Myrtles, Burr Oaks, and Bermuda Grass, to name a few.
It took about a year to build the park, and the community flocked to it the day it opened.
Isabel remembers a woman bringing her laptop to the table and immediately getting to work, groups of professionals sitting down for lunch, and families spending the afternoon at the ping pong and foosball tables.
“I really reflected on how important it is to invest in public spaces, even a tiny space like West End Square,” says Isabel. “People immediately gravitate to it. I’m really happy with the outcome and I hope it continues to be the neighborhood park that it set out to be.”
Park Sitework: $6.25 million
Size: .78 acre
Timeline: March 2018 – March 2021 (Design, Construction, Opening)
- Isabel Castilla, Principal-in-Charge, James Corner Field Operations
- Stephanie Ulrich, Project Manager
- Kate Rodgers, Project Designer
- Datum Rios, Structural Engineering, Datumrios.com
- HLB Lighting Design, Lighting Design, hlblighting.com
- Purdy-McGuirre, Inc, MEP Engineering, purdy-mcguire.com
- Greenscape Pump Services, Water Feature Consultant, greenscapepump.com
- Jeffrey L. Bruce & Co, LLC, Soils & Irrigation, jlbruce.com
- Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Horticulture, dallasarboretum.org