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Reinventing a Classic: Reunion Tower Observation Deck Re-Opens

The geometry of the dome became the foundation for the new design. The band of blue on the dome is the new Cloud Nine Café. Image © Andrew Bordwin

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Dallas has Reunion Tower. And recently, the Reunion Tower’s iconic observation deck and café/special events space re-opened to the public after undergoing renovations. I was lucky enough to be one of the designers who worked on the project.

The question that faced our design team at the onset of the renovations was how do you turn an aging asset into a leading tourist attraction? The answer we came up with: vision. Luckily for us, our client, Ray Hunt, Chairman, President and CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., and the folks at Woodbine Development Corp., had a clear vision of what the observation deck could mean to Dallas, and gave us the leeway to bring that vision to life.

We began by embracing the design of the tower’s geodesic sphere. The geometry of the dome led us to abstract and celebrate geometric forms in a variety of ways. We also found a partner who could help us leverage the power of the latest, state-of-the-art, interactive technology, Stimulant. This fantastic, San Francisco-based firm developed all of the content and imagery for the stories the space would tell.

The view of the downtown skyline from the GeO-Deck is astounding. Interactive screens allow visitors to select information of interest to them. Image © Andrew Bordwin

The design of the space began with maximizing access to the incredible sweeping views of Dallas and keeping the space clean and uncongested even when filled with crowds of people. The GeO-Deck now offers an array of flat panel, touch-screens that rival the command deck of the Starship Enterprise. They are arranged on two sides of the dome and each visitor can select the information they want to explore from moments in Dallas’ history to real-time, high-definition views of Dallas and more.

High definition cameras mounted on the exterior of the tower allow visitors to pick a view of Dallas they want to explore in real time. Image © Andrew Bordwin

But the fun starts before you even arrive on the GeO-Deck. As you are waiting to board one of the high-speed elevators, you can have your picture made, select the image you want when you arrive at the GeO-deck Pix Kiosk, and have the photo framed in the gift shop on your way out.

One of the cool, unexpected parts of the space is the stairway between the GeO-Deck and the Cloud Nine café on the floor above. We took an existing stair, cleaned it up, put in new railings and a very dramatic, industrial chandelier and created an exciting entry to the new restaurant.

The stairway connecting the GeO-Deck to Cloud Nine went from dingy to dramatic. Image © Andrew Bordwin

Wolfgang Puck will now provide food service at Cloud Nine. His Five Sixty restaurant is on the top floor of the dome. Cloud Nine offers a slightly edgier, even more dramatic dining experience with its revolving floor, illuminated bar and sculptural cloud ceiling that includes plasma screens projecting a variety of digital weather patterns.

The Cloud Nine bar transforms at night to a kaleidoscope of light, texture and color. Image © Andrew Bordwin

During the day Cloud Nine is a perfect space for a bridal shower or a business lunch, but at night, the space transforms into a kaleidoscope of color, sound and light. The space is available for private events and is already heavily booked.

Image © Andrew Bordwin

When the observation deck closed in 2007, the city of Dallas lost one of its best tourist attractions. The new GeO-Deck and Cloud Nine will rival anything Dallas has seen before. Our client asked for a world-class experience that would become Dallas’ number one tourist destination. We think we have achieved that.

Cloud Nine and the GeO-deck rival anything else available in Dallas. The clouds in the ceiling celebrate geometric forms and feature digital weather scenes. Image © Andrew Bordwin

Our firm feels honored to have had the opportunity to help Hunt Consolidated and Woodbine Development realize their dreams for the Reunion Tower. This project has been quite a journey into the past and an even more exciting voyage into the future. Under the direction of Jennifer Kolstad and Helen Heitman, my colleagues Dustin Mattiza, Ross Conway, Gianna Pigford and Shannon Carpenter pushed the envelope to make sure that the space really delivered. We look forward to visiting the completed observation deck as guests.

Judy Pesek is the co-regional managing principal of Gensler’s southcentral region and a founding member of the firm’s Workplace Taskforce. An interiors dynamo, Judy lends her considerable workplace expertise as an adjunct professor at UT Austin and as a regular contributor to D-CEO magazine in Dallas. Contact her at judy_pesek@gensler.com.

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