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Gary Cunningham at home

Man With a Master Plan

by Helen Thompson | Modern Luxury Interiors Texas magazine | October 8, 2012

In 1989, Gary Cunningham wowed Texas architecture aficionados with an edgy repurposing of a Dallas electrical substation into a spectacular residence for the Meyerson family, for whom the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s building is named. Today Cunningham is turning his innovative eye on one of the city’s icons of modernist architecture, Temple Emanu-El, designed in 1957 by Howard Meyer, Max Sandfield and William Wurster.

Cunningham has been charged with creating a master plan and adding 35,000 square feet. “I am adjusting where things happen,” he says, “such as adding a lobby where there never was one.” But the architect doesn’t believe in creating space just for its own sake. “I always design rooms to be as universal as possible,” he explains, “so that they can accommodate whatever might happen in them.”

The idea is central to Cunningham’s personal vision, too. “I live in one room,” he says of the small space attached to his offices in the Dallas Design District. With exposed beams, concrete floor and movable room dividers, it’s a functional shell that alters easily, as required. “Whether it’s a house or a church, the architecture isn’t a static thing—it’s about making a place where people can evolve.”

Temple Emanu-El; Perot Museum of Nature and Science—the best “starchitecture” building we’ll get in a generation; Museum Tower—it is a very elegant building, and I hope the controversy gets resolved soon so we can move on.

Trends—the idea of trend goes against my process and beliefs; EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System) siding and sheetrock; too much square footage and/or too many rooms in a building