News Article | 8/28/2005

These stylish towers are giants

People are always asking me: What’s your favorite building?

After 25 years of writing about the real estate market, they probably think my answer will be profound.

Actually, that’s a bit like asking a wino about his beverage

of choice. In most cases, it’s whatever bottle he has in hand.

I’d like to think my tastes are a bit more discerning, so here goes.

My favorite building in the U.S. is the Chrysler Building.

Sure, the New York skyscraper is no longer the tallest or the biggest tower on the planet, but it embodies the spirit of the era when it was conceived. When it was built in 1930, designers weren’t worried about what critics would think. They didn’t fret that tenants would consider the building too opulent. How else could they have the nerve to stick giant chrome eagles’ heads and hubcaps on the outside?

The Chrysler Building was built at a time when nothing seemed impossible. All too often these days, we succumb to the notion that very little is in fact possible – just look at the Texas Legislature.

If I could save just one Dallas building from the wrecking ball, it would have to be the Adolphus hotel. No local structure is its match, past or present. (With the recent addition of its fabulous spire, the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a close second.)

The Adolphus was built by a beer baron and has statues of half-naked ladies and gladiators on the roof. A giant beer bottle is perched on one corner. Let’s see one of today’s minimalist designers top that.

The Magnolia Building has also been on my “best” list since I climbed to the roof and perched under the rigging of the flying red horse. What a thrill. Or maybe I just had a buzz from all that red neon.

I’ve never made a secret that I’m smitten with old buildings, old houses and old cars. I practically grew up in one of the big houses on Swiss Avenue, and I live in a 1920s bungalow that’s like something on Green Acres – i.e., you don’t turn on the toaster and the microwave at the same time at my place unless you like eating breakfast in the dark. That’s decidedly unmodern.

So you might wonder why I’m a fan of the new W Hotel going up near downtown.

It looks nothing like the Chrysler building, and I’m sure it will have enough electricity to run a warehouse full of toasters.

But in the last few weeks, as the tinted glass exterior has gone on the upper floors of the slender tower, I’ve found myself sitting in traffic and fancying how it’s going to look.

It’s a little early in the construction process to know for sure, but I’m starting to think it will be my favorite early 21st century building in these parts.

Of course, I’ll only say that until I see what project gets announced next week. And it could do with a couple of statues on the roof.