September 16, 2013
by Sumandeep Singh

No matter what, Dallas does not stop surprising me, this city being an eclectic mix of various styles of everything, from food, to people, from languages to buildings. So I was not surprised even though I was surprised when I came across a geometric Mass, twisted , stretched , lifted up and sunken down in all possible directions, and guess what, it turned out to be a building. It was the Irwing Convention Center, I came across the structure while riding on the DART train to Irwing, a suburb of Dallas. Its unique shape dominates the relatively desolate countryside around. The Dark Brown metal structure seems to be levitating from a distance. It compelled me to just get off the train and take an architectural ‘Pit Stop’.

As I mentioned earlier Dallas is a mix of cultures, another example of which was encountered when I visited the Hindu temple of Irwing. Unmistakable Indian in building vocabulary, the temple is a worshipping center cum Community get together place. The Central hall is bathed in natural light given the generous-sized skylights. Devotees seated on the floor on mats pray to their favourite Gods, shrines of whom all lined up on all four sides of the central hall. Adjacent to the temple is a large auditorium which doubles up as a community lunch hall besides being a performance area.

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I also got to see a different perspective of the city, this time from the top of the 30th floor. Magnificent Downtown Dallas in all its glory with DART rails running like blood through its veins, the various paving patterns(mostly star shapes owing to the ‘lone star state’) on the crossings which we would otherwise ignore all giving the city a distinct character.

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While doing a walking tour as I usually do in the evenings, I came across an interesting visual frame which got my attention at once, it was the view of the fountain place tower, from a couple of blocks away, the green-blue glass reflecting the light of the setting sun, its sharp edges exaggerated and the simplicity yet complexity of its form providing a delightful view to the onlooker. I won’t say further, but will allow you to see it for yourselves! And as we advance to the building itself, the building more than lives up to its name by ushering in a plethora of various fountains, water pools, cascades at different levels treated in various ways giving the feeling of a rain forest in the middle of the city at the base of the 60-storey fountain place tower.

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As I walked further towards the Dealey plaza and past it, I arrived at the trinity river viaduct, it is an old bridge across the trinity river and offers the most perfect sunset view that I have encountered in Dallas till date, the silence surrounds you while walking across the viaduct, the vast flood plain of the otherwise narrow river, the distant view of the Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt hill bridge all sum up to a peaceful introspective mood. And as you look back towards the city you have left behind, you can see the skyscrapers gently reflecting the setting sun preparing for the night, some of the lights inside them have lit up. Its silence and I can almost imagine a country song by Richie Valens playing in my mind.

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This past weekend took me to Fort Worth with Taylor and Robert, Robert is an intern with HKS and part of the Red team. It was a clear day, a bit warm but not uncomfortable when we arrived in Fort Worth, the city ‘where the west begins’ as its commonly said! While driving we came across a familiar red logo on one of the buildings, yes! It was the HKS logo on a yellow brick building, our Fort worth office, but since it was a Sunday we decided not to try and enter! , we were headed for two of the most famous landmarks of Fortworth, the Kimball Art museum and the Modern museum of Fort Worth, both designed by Modernist Masters of our time, Louis kahn and Tadao Ando respectively.

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The Massive concrete vaulted roof of the Kimball has a central linear punctured skylight allowing light to gently follow the curve of the vault and give a unique character to the interiors. The place was full of people, watching in awe this masterpiece of modern architecture. It happens to be the last personally supervised project of Kahn. The building itself is artwork, the grey exposed concrete walls are complemented by beige travertine stone to provide visual warmth. Walking through it one gets a castle-like feel, which is characteristic of Kahn’s buildings.

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The Modern is just the next door neighbor to the Kimball, Tadao Ando’s newest creation in this discreet texas town. The High roofs at once make for a grand entry, the Y-columns in concrete support the flat slab roofs delicately. The 8 inch deep watrbody all around with pebbles on its base provide the perfect Zen like environment needed to appreciate works of art. In all the modern is beyond words and description, it’s a building that can only be experienced, and hardly be described.

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A visit to FortWorth is really Worth it if one visits the Stackyards station, an old rail station has now turned into a shopping and entertainment hub of the city, but its not a shopping mall, its more of a ‘bazaar’ feel to it, streets lined up with shops and bars. Texas souvenirs can be bought here. The Stockyards experience is the real Texas Experience, complete with the atmosphere, the friendly, honest people, the cowboy hats and not to forget the Texas longhorn Bulls.

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This Friday we had the 2103 Forum retreat at the Marriot Hotel. This retreat was also special because of it being our Chairman Ralph Hawkins’s last retreat as HKS Chairman and CEO!. We were introduced to Dan Noble as the incoming President, so it was a special retreat where we, the Forum Representatives got a chance to interact with the mangement.The meeting started with Ralph outlining the agenda for the day in terms of presentations. We had Presentations by Dan Noble, Peter Braun, Mark Jones our COO was also present. During Lunch we had a special discussion session with four ‘Women at HKS’ , the topic was ‘Being a successful woman at HKS’. Ana Pinto Alexander, Bernita Beikman, Kelly Knowlton and Emily Gossett talked about the various aspects of Balancing professional and personal life being a woman at HKS.  It was really an engaging conversation over lunch. The Day concluded with Dan and Ralph addressing a detailed list of questions by the Forum body of the 1000-strong HKS family.

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