News Article | 2/1/2008

Going Up

Once a desolate brownfield, Victory Park in downtown Dallas is an energetic destination where people come for work and play. The 72-acre mixed-use development has a variety of venues and facilities, including the American Airlines Center (AAC), buildings displaying eight 15- by 26-foot LED moving video walls, and the W Dallas-Victory Hotel & Residences.

The 33-story W, housing both hotel rooms and high-class condominiums, pays homage to Victory while offering spectacular views of downtown to the guests and residents within its walls.

“It’s a very thin and vertical fa├žade, which has a series of balconies that project off of that end of the building. The big gesture there was to allow hotel rooms, which are the first 15 stories of the building, and then the residential units, which are the next 15 stories of the building above that, to be able to interface with this American Airlines plaza,” says principal designer Eddie Abeyta, AIA, of design architect HKS, Dallas. The balconies, he adds, allow people inside to go outdoors and engage with the activities at the AAC; thus, the facility encourages interaction between the two projects.

Andrew Casperson, the facility’s general manager, agrees. “You can sit on your balcony and enjoy the energy from there. … It’s pretty awesome.”

The tall, slender tower contrasts with the AAC’s six- to eight-story scale and helps define the space, framing views back toward the central business district and interfacing with the space, he says. “It really becomes an important element that helps to structure the way people experience that environment,” says Abeyta.

The hotel’s lower levels interact with the public on the street. Hotel rooms are stacked above those levels, and residences above those. A 16th-floor, open-air pool; Bliss spa; and a 17th-floor fitness center offer spectacular views and allow residents and guests to commingle, as does a chic Ghostbar lounge at the top of the tower. Thus, the energy felt outdoors at Victory Plaza can circulate into the building, straight up, and out again.

Typically, in buildings such as this, the residential component occupies the top floors. The inclusion of public spaces throughout the building and at the top impacted the design of stairways and exiting requirements because of much higher occupant loads in public spaces, says Abeyta. The exit stairs are larger throughout the building. Separate entrances and elevator banks allow both privacy and security to residents and guests, and an express elevator takes passengers straight to the top.

Glowing Glass, Distinctive SkylineA partnership among Hillwood, Gatehouse Capital Corp., and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide made the hotel happen. “They wanted something that was very progressive, modern, and forward-thinking … something that was more hip and cool and energetic, something that would fall in the same parameters as what W Hotels promotes – a modernistic flair and character to their projects,” Abeyta says.

Yet, the design team also wanted a facility that would take advantage of the sun, a big element in Texas. They chose a light color palette of materials to play up the building. The facility uses 1-inch insulated clear glazing with Viracon low-e reflective coating.

Such a neutral palette allows the flair for color to stand out, such as at the top of the building, where, according to Karen Yeoman, CCCA, of HKS construction services, Color Kinetics’ (Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions) blue LED ColorBlast light fixtures highlight the top cap of the building, which conceals a private helipad. Says Casperson, “People definitely appreciate the look of the building, and that glow really helps draw your eyes to it. I think it’s absolutely beautiful.” The lights can be remotely controlled to change colors, flash, and dance, though they’re usually left blue for the Dallas Mavericks and to distinguish the W in the Dallas nightscape.

At street level is perhaps the W’s most distinctive feature, which starts at the drop-off area at the exterior of the building. “You’re led in by this big, glowing LED wall, a backlit glass wall, that leads you through the building,” says interior designer Dan Worden of Shopworks, Napa, CA.

The 60-foot-long wall is 20-feet tall at the building entrance, but reaches 40-feet tall inside the building. Color Kinetics ColorBlaze and ColorBlast fixtures, concealed in a void space at the bottom of the wall, shoot the light upward. “The reason we can do it all from the bottom is because that particular LED fixture is so powerful. It’s very intense, but it does need to reflect off of a surface,” says Pamela Hull Wilson, IALD, of PHW Architectural Lighting Design, Dallas.

The colors on the 40-foot wall change every 30 seconds and can be adjusted seasonally, for client need, or whatever the occasion; the wall can use upwards of 200 color schemes. “It’s a stimulating sort of visual element that grabs your attention and draws you into the heart of the hotel,” Abeyta says. The wall divides check-in and living-room (lobby) spaces and extends two floors, adding to the drama.

Another dramatic feature inside is a series of stunning, 20-foot crystal chandeliers that hang from a 30-foot ceiling. The crystals were shipped from Czechoslovakia and installed by hand. To accommodate the heavy weight, cast-in-steel embeds were installed when the floors were being poured, says Yeoman.

Wilson describes the chandeliers: “Long strands of imported crystal hang from recessed boxes, which contain several low-voltage downlights with varying beam spreads. The downlights are creating pools of light on the tables below. Within the chandelier there is a string of quartz lamps adding sparkle.”

Guests are led into the building with blue floor-recessed 1-watt LEDs by MP Lighting that provide wayfinding and artistically highlight the space.

The sum total of all these features – from the high-tech artistry to the vertical sensitivity of place – gives the W Dallas-Victory every bit the energy and excitement the Victory Park planners envisioned when they chose to turn a desolate brownfield into a national destination.

Maureen Patterson ([email protected]) is managing editor at ARCHI-TECH.