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Pacific Plaza

A Parking Lot That Was a Park in Waiting

SWA Group Managing Principal Chuck McDaniel is inspired by “creating usable, interesting, highly articulated space where there was previously none.” His words perfectly describe Pacific Plaza, a nearly 4-acre park in the Dallas central business area that had been a parking lot.

Downtown Dallas had traditionally been a city people drove to, worked in, and left, which emptied the urban core on evenings and weekends. To activate central downtown, the City of Dallas and nonprofit Parks for Downtown Dallas identified four signature parks to be developed. Pacific Plaza is the first to open. “More people now prefer urban living and urban green space,” says McDaniel. "That is an amenity that makes people want to live and work there. Parks activate urbanism.”

SWA Group’s landscape design is a layered one. The 7.5-foot grade change diagonally across the park was visible once the parking lot was cleared. McDaniel elevated a low corner of the park about four feet so that people would enter the park on “wide steps that subtly scissor and weave,” says McDaniel. The elevated area is home to a 95-foot x 138-foot ovoid pavilion designed by HKS LINE Studio. Its stainless steel structure is laser cut in Morse code with the names of every railroad stop along the route from New Orleans to El Paso, honoring the region’s railroad history and the Texas and Pacific Railroad, for which Pacific Plaza is named.

McDaniel’s vision for lighting the park was to create a datum for the park edges. The pole heights of Landscape Forms Rama area lights placed around the plaza perimeter were custom-sized so that each luminaire is the same height across the park’s grade change. “Designers too often forget the impact of what the top of the light contributes to a scene,” explains McDaniel. “The poles became elements of the design, like columns holding the park up at the edges. Because they are level, it implies the ceiling across the top of the park. You have a roof over your head. It’s a comforting experience.”

Pacific Plaza includes distinct areas, from the dog intercepts and play area to the pavilion, but McDaniel wanted “one bold stroke in the park that was memorable and durable.” The Thread is a 611-foot long concrete seat wall that meanders, a “‘riveresque’ stroke that makes its way across the landscape.”

The elevated area in the park is home to a 95-foot x 138-foot ovoid pavilion designed by HKS LINE Studio.

Chipman tables, chairs, and stools and GO Outdoor tables in Landscape Forms’ powdercoat finish add a pop of color that is in contrast to the grays, glass, and concrete of the park’s surrounding architecture. “I wanted to create a field of California poppies as you look across the plaza,” says McDaniel. “I think of the site furnishings and play structures as hundreds of little sculptures.” His color palette was intentional. All elements that move are orange. Stationary elements, such as the walkways, The Thread, and cast concrete Silla chairs from Escofet are in gray tones.

“The site elements are a critical gesture within the landscape of the park," says McDaniel. "We wanted all things to be interesting and have the same gravitas. GO OutdoorTables are as important as the swings and the pavilion. Every element works together.”