If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picnic table is worth a thousand architectural renderings. In a display of what is best described as active urbanism, the Deep Ellum Foundation, in collaboration with Studio Outside, Gensler, and Design Future Dallas, among others, is spearheading an effort to rapidly introduce much-needed public open space in one of Dallas’s most popular neighborhoods, Deep Ellum.
Reimagine Crowdus is a month-long temporary public space along Crowdus Street in Deep Ellum, intended to serve as a quick and cost-effective experiment to determine the public space needs within the community. For the month of September, Crowdus Street has been transformed into a new pedestrian plaza offering a variety of seating, street trees for shade, a cool new shade structure designed by Gensler, and an art installation gateway designed by Design Future Dallas. Throughout the month of September, free events such as concerts and outdoor movies are helping activate the space and serving as an example of what the space could eventually become.
At Studio Outside, we’ve been helping to lead the conversation on the future of Deep Ellum for a while now. Our Deep Ellum Vision Plan, a volunteer effort in our office, helped initiate a conversation about public space, multi-modal transportation, and managing future growth in the district. We talked one-on-one with stakeholders such as developers, business owners, and residents over the course of a year, eventually producing a book of ideas and possible scenarios for future growth. Shortly after the Vision Plan was completed, two different teams from Studio Outside completed in the Crowdus Street Design Competition, hosted by Design Future Dallas with the challenge of creating a walkable public space along the length of the side street. As an exercise in (almost) unrestricted creativity, the competition entries were diverse, with solutions ranging from movable, flexible street furniture to grassy lawns and performance spaces. Some entries expanded the typical design vocabulary of public plazas, using the alternative character of Deep Ellum as inspiration.
The Deep Ellum Foundation invited the top two teams, Gensler and Studio Outside, to help design and install the Reimagine Crowdus space, and the results have already been overwhelming. Last Thursday, an office happy hour capped by an outdoor movie showed us how natural it was for people to occupy and enjoy the space. It was especially gratifying to see people relaxing in the bright pink and green rocker chairs that we built and designed! (A future post will be dedicated to the design and construction of these.)