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A relationship was forged with the local architectural firm of Brown, Reynolds, Watford and
an impressive 21,000 sqft, LEED-certified sanctuary was born in 2008. This reclaimed landfill
now hosts one of the most impressive, and cutting-edge, examples of modern architecture
in Texas.
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a bird in the hand.....
how the largest US urban forest
became a Dallas Jewel
by Shelly Rosenberg

Our fair city is evolving. Citizens are eagerly anticipating  a shift in attention toward South Dallas.
Marked by the notable turnout for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge celebration, Dallas seems ready
to forge a new path and to embrace an area of our community that has received little attention.
The Trinity River Forest is an unusual 120-acre site considered to be the ecologic "crossroad of North  
America." A unique intersection of grassland, prairie and  wetland, this area is considered by
naturalists to be the largest urban forest  in the United States.
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Trinity River Audubon Center - photography by Michael Lyon
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So how is it that most of us don’t know
about this treasure? For decades the
area was ignored and riddled with
illegal dumpsites, accumulating 1.5
million tons of trash. A virtual treasure sat
unnoticed and unappreciated. But,
consistent issues like increased flooding
and erosion finally got the ball rolling. A
decision was made to rescue this dying
landscape.

The pioneering project was the Trinity
River Audubon Center. A
consummation of the Trinity River
Cleanup Project, led by the City of
Dallas, the resulting center became a
symbol of the restoration and progress
we are enjoying today. Our local parks
department solicited bids from around
the world and selected the venerable
Antoine Predock as the designing
architect
Trinity River Audubon Center - photography by Michael Lyon
Paul Fehlau, Executive Senior Associate at Antoine Predock, explains the “landscape-driven
project” delivers two essential components to the concept’s success: “An event space that
allows the public to relate to, and observe, nature and a gateway in which to explore and
interact” with that natural habitat, connecting to an extensive network of hiking and biking
trails. The very structure, does, indeed, foster an immediate interest in, and kinship with,
the landscape.

Three distinct portions of the building literally represent the three main topographic areas. A
wing jutting towards a re-created pond references the wetlands. A second portion, clad in
native Cypress siding, represents the timber forest. And an innovative living rooftop of local
grasses embodies the prairie.
Trinity River Audubon Center - photography by Michael Lyon
Every single substance used, and their relationship to each other, has a purpose. And each
of these elements composes a conscious process to repurpose, recycle or renew energy and
resources. Choose any environmentally savvy technique- heat absorption, noise reduction,
rainwater collection, permeable materials, anti-erosion methods, local resourcing or water-
cooled climate control- and you will find it here. Better yet, these high-tech considerations
are cleverly disguised, within a framework so beautifully integrated into the area, that you
would never know it. The TRAC, as they call it, is a benchmark for regional architecture at its
best.
Trinity River Audubon Center - photography by Michael Lyon
Most important, the experience of this impressive venture feels almost innate, drawing us in
and inviting all of creation to coexist. For one, insects, animals and plants have regained not
only a basic habitat, but a protected preserve as well. The unusually slanted glass walls of the
building aren’t solely meant to appear attractively futuristic- they are actually constructed
to protectively reflect the ground so our revered birdlife don’t mistake windows for sky. Even
humans are specifically guided in order to capitalize on the best the center has to offer.
Circular portholes, cut into iron walls, direct our eyes to specific and notable views on
the property, ensuring we recognize significant viewpoints. This opportunity to educate the
public was a main feature in attracting the Audubon community to the site, says TRAC
Director of Education Ben Jones. “Part of our mission is to pursue audiences that haven't
traditionally been served by the conservation movement. We want to bring nature
alive…” he says.
Trinity River Audubon Center - photography by Michael Lyon
An area rendered almost lifeless is
now a dynamic and animated
community hub. The old city
dumping ground evolves into a
celebrated, modern masterpiece.
And for our distinct purposes,
natch, the ugly duckling becomes
a swan. The Trinity River Audubon
Center is a must see. If not for the
sheer architectural genius, or to
truly experience the wonders of
nature, then to publicly support
additional, and responsible,
expansion of the next great Dallas
development.

for information to visit and explore:

Trinity River Audubon Center
trinityriver.audubon.org