Trammell Crow visited the new Chicago Merchandise Mart in the early 1950s and decided Dallas needed one.

But he wanted to one-up Chicago’s fortress-like building

and instead design an open-air shopping center concept to take advantage of the mostly temperate weather in our fair city.

Along with Crow, architect Jacob Anderson and landscape architects Arthur

BEST IN SHOW and Marie Berger developed the concept for Dallas’ revolutionary Decorative Center in 1953.

Instead of an enclosed structure, they unveiled a Modernist arcade for showroom spaces surrounded by nonlinear parking in a park-like setting. Fast-forward to today,

the structure of the center remains lovingly the same under the helm of Bill Hutchinson,

president of Dunhill Partners. Impressive outdoor sculpture sets the tone,

like Anna Debska’s bronze Fighting Stallions at the entrance and François Stahly’s marble obelisk Mainandros in the center of the cruciform parking lot.

While most decorative centers in the country are drab, closed-off buildings,

the Dallas Decorative Center proclaims itself a chic, welcoming hub of art and design. Entering the narrative in 2014,

 Hutchinson envisioned a Design District energized as a social, live-work neighborhood,

BEST IN SHOW and set about diversifying the Decorative Center tenants to include full-service restaurants such as

Headington Companies’ Sassetta and Wheelhouse, connected by a patio and artist Daniel Arsham’s Moving Figure.

The showrooms remain the mainstay, however, attracting the design trade industry and their clientele from across the globe.

Scott + Cooner has been “making Dallas modern since 1995,” when they opened their showroom with a few pieces of Knoll furniture and a lot of guts.

The prevailing decorative style at the time was floral chintz and heavily carved brown furniture, so designers and architects looking for a clean,

modern look shopped at contract furniture companies like Knoll and

Herman Miller to furnish contemporary homes, or discovered classics from the 1950s and 1960s at vintage dealers.

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