Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking Best Advantage of a Building Site

On a recent visit to Fort Worth I got a chance to walk around the new Tarrant County College east campus, which has its grand opening October 1.


I was very excited - months ago - when I drove past the campus on my way out of downtown Fort Worth and I caught a glimpse of the terrific view that the designers opened up.  The north end of downtown, by the County Courthouse, sits on a high bluff that drops down to a loop of the Trinity River - but all this has been hidden for decades by buildings.  When laying out this new college campus, Bing Thom Architects designed a pair of long parallel buildings with a long thin courtyard between them that cuts a descending view through to the river and the historic Stockyards part of town beyond.  Breathtaking.

Tarrant County College, East Campus - view to north

The buildings are interesting, with some nice features like metal fins for shading, though the budget seems extravagant for these austere times.  (No doubt the money was appropriated years ago.)

I do wonder why the buildings had to be gray?  A nice color, sure, and very Architectural, but at this end of Fort Worth the other buildings are mostly Texas pink granite or rosy brick.  I suspect that the architects coming from Vancouver might be a factor in this - northern architects almost always choose darker and grayer materials than local ones, evidence the dark ironstone brick of Dallas' Arts Magnet High School.  Sorry, but North Texas is a tan kinda place.  Prairie?  Context?  (Sorry, this is a thing of mine.)

But the "big" design here - the parti - is very strong.  There are a few awkward details (view above cafe ceiling?), but overall these buildings are nicely realized.  I hope people discover just how cool this place is and adopt it...

Tarrant County College, East Campus - east wing, facing north

The Glory of the place is that canyon of a courtyard, with its amphitheater-like steps, trees,  and wonderful water feature - part fountain, part water-wall or -fall part... rocky mountain stream, burbling between boulders.  Wonderful!

Tarrant County College, East Campus - fountain

I can't tell from what I've found whether the landscaping was done in-house at Bing Thom Architects or if another landscape firm was involved: whoever deserves the credit... deserves credit!

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