Steve Chambers: An Architect Reviews Dallas Historical Architecture and its Preservation

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Steve Chambers, AIA, inside You+Media Dallas offices

At the fulcrum of Commerce, Pearl, and Central is a fittingly triangular-shaped building that is currently home to the vibrant business, You+Dallas and its parent company, You+Media. Most Dallas residents know 2130 Commerce as the former address of KLIF radio, the Mighty 1190. Years later it housed the Dallas Observer, and more recently the ad agency PowerPact.

The Magnolia Petroleum Co. constructed several memorable pieces of architecture; 2130 Commerce is the smaller of two in downtown Dallas. Magnolia branded its identity with many similar three to five-story configurations in what appears to me to be Spanish Eclectic (the AIA book, Guide to Dallas Architecture, describes this building as “commercial Gothic with Prairie-esque flourishes”) styles. Many examples can still be found across the U.S. Southwest. These commercial ‘blocks’ of brick veneer often incorporated flat roofs, decorative cornices, terra cotta tiles and arched openings for drive-through bays within the building. The standardized corporate designs were multi-story versions that usually included office space on the upper floors for Magnolia employees. Magnolia preferred corner locations, allowing for the drive-through bays to access two streets.

Developer Reggie Graham, now owns 2130 Commerce and renovated it, along with nine other distinctively rehabilitated commercial spaces in the area. Reggie’s signature aesthetic (Masters in Architecture, Harvard) is deeply appreciative of the ‘bones’ of these historical structures, which used to house what was known as ‘Automobile Row’ in downtown Dallas. In the 1920s and 30s, automobile dealers, repair shops, and gas stations dotted the landscape of the southeastern edge of the city. Mr. Graham’s renovations retain the outer character of the original architecture and reveal the period craftsmanship of the interior construction. With the juxtaposition of modern materials, details, and views to these vintage structures, new spatial relationships are formed and create an entirely contemporary ambiance without sanitizing history. These sensitive treatments show us Dallas’ own ‘Tale of Two Cities:’ the one with an energetic mercantile past; the other a breathtakingly artistic and creative future.

Northeast view of 2130 Commerce

Southeast view of 2130 Commerce, showing expansive Spanish-style arches

It’s no mystery that the You+Media owners chose this striking piece of geometry for their new home. During Plato’s time, platonic solids like this truncated triangular building were thought to act as a template from which all life springs. Some of the many terms historically associated with the triangle are: creativity, harmony, manifestation, illumination, integration, and culmination. In Platonic Solid Theory, the three-dimensional triangle also represents the dimensions of space, time, and form. The fulcrum is believed to be the agent through which the vital powers of an enterprise converge and reveal themselves.

You+Media is a convergence media company, which takes the best parts of traditional media like radio, television, newspapers and magazines then combines them with online and mobile technology to create more powerful media experiences. It is a content company that tells day-to-day stories of life in cities, neighborhoods, and homes. These narratives are about the people, institutions, and culture that define individual cities. You+Media does this by sharing content created by their clients, combined with the resources of their company to create new content, develop and produce events, and share the advertising revenue streams generated by combined projects.

We welcome this new voice in the Dallas terrain, a business that chronicles who we were, what we are, and where we are going. And it’s singing from the soul of an architectural grande dame!

After viewing these photos, write and let me know what architectural style you think that 2130 Commerce is!

Front view, 2130 Commerce looking west

Interior 3-story atrium of 2130 Commerce

Terra cotta decorative tile and cornices

Decorative magnolia flower detail

Interior bridge between 2120 Commerce and 2130 Commerce

Visitor seating area at You+Media

Interior stair to outdoor roof deck

Reggie Graham: owner, developer, designer for 2130 Commerce and many commercial buildings at the southeast edge of downtown Dallas…and a spellbinding raconteur!

Texas, Oklahoma Residential Architect, Interior DesignerTexas, Oklahoma Residential Architect, Interior Designer