1627 Pacific Street, Dallas
In the days when I worked in downtown Dallas, the DART train I rode chugged every day past a mysteriously-walled park. A white spiral tower rose at one corner, a trio of bells at another. I finally became curious enough to walk over there. It was Thanks-Giving Square, one of the curious little oases of the heart of the city. One of the things Dallas actually does right.
Philip Johnson (also the architect of the Dallas memorial for President Kennedy), designed the park’s pathways to slope below ground level, concealing it from the sight of surface traffic. Its buildings are understated. Its waterfalls mask traffic sounds. When I walked in, Dallas felt a million miles away.
There’s a sheet of water, some understated buildings, trees and grass. From the park level, that’s it. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of water and shade and quiet. Unless you live or work in the heart of the ninth largest city in the United States, one which prides itself more often on bigness than humanness.
The park’s main entrance features a trio of bells, a multi-racial mosaic expressing the scripture, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and a gold-leafed ring large enough to step through with ease. At the other end of the park, the Thanks-Giving Tower rises in a spiral of white marble aggregate smaller than, but not dwarfed by, the surrounding city skyscrapers. It houses the a small, multi-faith chapel and the stained-glass Glory Window.
The window is the culmination of sixty-seven panels designed by Gabriel Loire of Chartes, France. The abstract designs of the windows spiral around the tower, their colors becoming brighter until they reach the apex. A booklet from the park invites viewers to lie on the floor for an unforgettable view of the design. (There are also chairs from which those less nimble may view the windows.)
In the center of the chapel, below the window, is a seven-ton marble altar supporting a glass bowl where visitors may place expressions of thanksgiving.
Although it is not longer possible to ascend the spiral, the abstract nature of the designs makes it accessible to those of any -- or no -- religious persuasion. Christian and Muslim worship services are scheduled regularly.
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, according to its website, www.thanksgiving.org/ , and easily reached from the St. Paul or Akard DART stations. An exhibition of the works of the Thanksgiving Expressions winners is on display through January 2, 2012.
Also this week: Trains at NorthPark, through January 1, on level two near Barney’s New York. Tickets $6 for adults, $3 for children and seniors, free for age two and under. Proceeds benefit Ronald McDonald’s House. See YouTube for video highlights from last year, www.rmhdallas.org for hours and details.
Tuesday, November 22, is dollar day at the Dallas Zoo. All admissions are $1 (regularly $12 for adults, $9 for kids and seniors), free for children age two and younger. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $7 parking fee, or take DART for a $4 day pass. See www.dallaaszoo.com for information.