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Dallas Architecture and Real Estate Insights

by Douglas Newby, Real Estate Broker

Dallas Architecture Blog discusses Modern Architecture and Mid Century Modern Homes, Dallas Neighborhoods, Dallas Real Estate and the Aesthetics of the City.

Architect Frank Welch Lived Young, January 28, 1927 – June 22, 2017

Memorial Service at Nasher Sculpture Center September 24, 2017, from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m.

Much loved Texas architect Frank Welch, FAIA
Much loved Texas architect Frank Welch, FAIA

 

Architect Frank Welch was a prince of Dallas architecture, a prince of a friend and of the community. Thinking of Frank is thinking about the impact he had on so many in so many people in so many ways, whether it was personally, by his reputation, or his work.

Frank Welch Propelled Texas Modern Architecture

 

Architect Frank Welch designed this Texas Modern home in Devonshire, a Dallas neighborhood.
Architect Frank Welch designed this Texas Modern home in Devonshire, a Dallas neighborhood.

Designing homes, schools, sacred spaces and commercial buildings, Frank Welch propelled Texas modern architecture in a profound way.  Frank Welch, FAIA, continued defining Texas Modern architecture as the starting point for modern architecture in Dallas and as a current modern architecture in Dallas. He made Texas Modern architecture as relevant in the 21st century as David Williams, FAIA, did when he originated a Texas Modern Style in the early 1930s to be as modern as European modernism while reflecting the indigenous qualities of Texas.

Frank Welch, a Protégé of O’Neil Ford

O’Neil Ford-designed home in Preston Hollow has architectural elements that influences Frank Welch.
O’Neil Ford-designed home in Preston Hollow has architectural elements that influences Frank Welch.

 

O’Neil Ford designed the Haggerty/Hanley home in 1957. The Haggerty house was renovated by Tim and Nancy Hanley making it Texas Modern architecture for Texas art. The influence of O’Neil Ford on Frank Welch’s subsequent work is readily apparent.

This Texas Modern home became a personal gallery of Texas art including a Jomo board by artist David McManaway.
This Texas Modern home became a personal gallery of Texas art including a Jomo board by artist David McManaway.

O’Neil Ford hired Frank Welch in the 1950s, early in Frank’s career. Frank Welch became the architectural flame by which succeeding generations of architects could light their architectural torches and bring forth their own compelling work. These succeeding architects were influenced by Frank Welch’s sense of life, aesthetics, grace and integrity.

Joe Simnacher’s Dallas Morning News obit References Lamplighter School

 

Frank Welch, FAIA, converses with those coming to honor him at Lamplighter School in Dallas.
Frank Welch, FAIA, converses with those coming to honor him at Lamplighter School in Dallas.

 

Joe Simnacher, a talented and important Dallas Morning News obituary writer, referenced in the obituary he wrote about Frank Welch that Lamplighter School is one of the architectural contributions of Frank Welch. This was a poignant choice of work by Frank Welch to highlight. The design of the Lamplighter School reflects the arc and influence of Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and the Texas Instruments semi-conductor building Frank was deeply involved in designing when he was first hired by O’Neil Ford. This project demonstrates the passion Frank had for good architecture and how it affects people and, in this case, young students. The Lamplighter School also shows how Frank Welch enjoyed extending the spirit of the architect O’Neil Ford who designed the original building at Lamplighter School.

Frank Welch Given Lamplighter Spirit Award

 

Frank Welch comments on Erik Jonsson, O’Neil Ford, the architecture of Lamplighter and its students.

A few minutes into his comments on Lamplighter and its architecture, the impulse to pull out an iPhone and video some of his comments became too great. When an architect can make students happy by being in a school he designed, you know his homes make his clients happy.

Frank Welch, The Teacher

 

At the home of Heidi and Bill Dillon, Frank Welch discusses his approach and architectural point of view in an architectural series, Conversation Series: Great Architects. Great Homes.
At the home of Heidi and Bill Dillon, Frank Welch discusses his approach and architectural point of view in an architectural series, Conversation Series: Great Architects. Great Homes.

 

People of all ages loved being around Frank Welch. He moved as gracefully in high society as he did with his colleagues, students, professionals and craftsmen.

Frank Welch was a natural teacher and he expressed himself in a number of ways – as a photographer, author, lecturer, panelist, speaker, author, in interviews, in salons, public conversations, private conversations. He would subtly inform his clients on design and materials, regale his architect friends with stories that would inspire. Frank would point out something that he had learned or saw and it was only later one might realize he was teaching and sharing insights dear to him. Frank Welch was incredibly complimentary of other architects’ work, especially those he competed with for commissions.  Yet how much fun it was to be with him and other award-wining architects at Avila’s Mexican Restaurant  as they competed to identify the worst designed residence in Dallas.

Frank Welch Listened Intently, Held Court, Shared Stories

Frank Welch and friends.
Frank Welch and friends.

 

While other architects were designing Georgian estate homes in Bluffview, Frank Welch, FAIA, designed this Texas Modern home in 1979.  It was selected as one of the Dallas Chapter AIA’s 50 Significant Homes.
While other architects were designing Georgian estate homes in Bluffview, Frank Welch, FAIA, designed this Texas Modern home in 1979.  It was selected as one of the Dallas Chapter AIA’s 50 Significant Homes.

 

My first meaningful conversation with Frank Welch was nearly 25 years ago, when we went to lunch at Dream Café to discuss his work and the Texas Modern home he designed in Bluffview that was identified as one of Dallas’s 50 Significant Homes.  At lunch I found it interesting that while I asked him only about architecture, and architecture is what we predominantly talked about, he brought up his two daughters Liz and Woo in different contexts, always with a great story, great pride and some amusement.  In some ways I feel like that lunch not only formed a friendship but my baseline of modern Dallas architectural knowledge.

AIA and Frank Welch Honored Arch Swank

Arch Swank, FAIA, speaks as he was the honored architect at Dallas Chapter AIA 50th anniversary.  From right: architect James Pratt, FAIA; Frank Welch, FAIA; Arch Swank, FAIA; Jim Clark and Carolyn Clark (who owned Howard Meyer-designed home); and Patsy Swank.
Arch Swank, FAIA, speaks as he was the honored architect at Dallas Chapter AIA 50th anniversary.  From right: architect James Pratt, FAIA; Frank Welch, FAIA; Arch Swank, FAIA; Jim Clark and Carolyn Clark (who owned Howard Meyer-designed home); and Patsy Swank.

 

In 1998, Arch Swank, FAIA, was honored at the AIA 50 Significant Homes reception in honor of the AIA Dallas Chapter’s 50th anniversary. The presidents of Dallas’s major museums and cultural organizations who made up the 50 Significant Homes selection committee quickly thought that Frank Welch should be the one to speak about Arch Swank. They knew his generosity and insight was perfect for the occasion.

Frank Welch speaking about Arch Swank, the honored architect at AIA Dallas Chapter 50th anniversary 50 Significant Homes celebration.  In background, left to right: Carolyn and Jim Clark (owners of Howard Meyer-designed home); James Pratt, FAIA; Frank Welch, FAIA; Nancy Marcus; Douglas Newby.
Frank Welch speaking about Arch Swank, the honored architect at AIA Dallas Chapter 50th anniversary 50 Significant Homes celebration.  In background, left to right: Carolyn and Jim Clark (owners of Howard Meyer-designed home); James Pratt, FAIA; Frank Welch, FAIA; Nancy Marcus; Douglas Newby.

 

Frank Welch in card room of the Crespi Estate, points out a detail to Bob Thomas.  Frank said when he viewed the Crespi Estate it was like a beautiful refined woman with much allure.
Frank Welch in card room of the Crespi Estate, points out a detail to Bob Thomas.  Frank said when he viewed the Crespi Estate it was like a beautiful refined woman with much allure.

Frank Welch, A Favorite Dallas Dinner Guest And Host

 

View from Turtle Creek Drive dining room of Frank Welch-designed home.
View from Turtle Creek Drive dining room of Frank Welch-designed home.

 

Whether it was a gala dinner or a private dinner, people loved having Frank Welch as their guest. A favorite dinner might include Frank and one of his dear friends such as Margaret McDermott. When the two of them were together they would discuss the current state of affairs and on occasion they recounted their overlapping friends, architects, and artists from early in Frank’s career. As they conversed, one felt one was right in the midst of this glorious era in Dallas they were discussing.

Architect Max Levy, Mark Gunderson, Ron Wommack at Frank Welch Home

From right:  Mark Gunderson; Connie Harkins; Deborah Levy; Max Levy, FAIA; Daphne Perry, AIA; Kevin Sloan, FAIA.
From right:  Mark Gunderson; Connie Harkins; Deborah Levy; Max Levy, FAIA; Daphne Perry, AIA; Kevin Sloan, FAIA.

 

It is hard to think of Frank Welch without thinking about his great friends, the architects Max Levy, FAIA, and Mark Gunderson, FAIA, who revered him and who so admired him and who he so admired. Ron Wommack, FAIA, who early on had worked with Frank, was also at this black tie pre-party cocktail reception (see above image) at Frank’s home in Northern Heights, as well as celebrated and cerebral landscape architect Kevin Sloan. In the room there was genuine collegiality among competitors that could only have been developed from the absolute respect and admiration each architect had for one another. There are other architects, like Marc McCollom, who are doing great work who trained with Frank Welch, and other architects who never formally worked with Frank Welch but have been influenced by him.

Conservation With An Architect Features Frank Welch

On occasion I have hosted a conversation series where I invite an architect to speak at one of the homes he or she has designed once the construction is complete, with an audience of architecture lovers. These events are not ribbon cutting events or even a fully furnished home celebration. It is a meaningful conversation with an architect about the home he or she has just designed

As part of this series a few years ago, Frank Welch spoke at the

home he had just completed for Heidi and Bill Dillon. This home is such a good example of how Frank Welch envisions a site. Architect Mark Gunderson brilliantly called the famous Birthday House that Frank Welch designed in West Texas a view with a room. At 3822 Turtle Creek Drive Frank Welch created a lot for a home while others saw the site as just a mass of sloped stone and high weeds.

Frank Welch Could See Things Others Could Not

For his avant-garde modernist clients, Bill and Heidi Dillon, he designed a significant home on a site that didn’t appear to exist.  Here was a remnant piece of land in Turtle Creek Park that was once an embankment of the railroad tracks before the Katy Trail was created. A rock outcropping and tall weeds dominated the narrow incline of land. Frank Welch visualized space for a home in plain sight, but submerged into the environment, incorporating the rock outcropping for the platform of a second-story swimming pool. On this site Frank captured the vertical and horizontal spaces, sunlight from many directions, clean spaces with materials that reflect the site, and windows and balconies that embrace nature.

No Glass Box From Frank Welch, But Even Better Views

The Birthday House shows how Frank Welch can site a home overlooking an endless piece of West Texas land.  Homes he has designed on estate lots demonstrate his ability to work with a large canvas.  The home on Turtle Creek Drive indicates his virtuosity of designing an ample home on a site that didn’t seem to exist.

Bent Tree Modern Home

Frank Welch had a way of sniffing out the best lots in unlikely neighborhoods.  In 1979, the Bent Tree development was being filled with opulent traditional homes with designs popular in the 1970s.  Here Frank Welch not only discovered a lot overlooking Preston Trails Golf Course on one side but also the lot had a massive greenbelt behind it.  This site provided a setting for a very modern home of stacked white stucco cubes linked by terraces, balconies and verandas.

Frank Welch Continually Returned To a Texas Modern Aesthetic

While Frank Welch is associated with repeating patterns and materials of Texas, he never let his ego or distinctive style get in the way of a home or site.

1920 White Rock Lake House

A few years ago clients of mine purchased a 2.5 acre lot on White Rock Lake. They called Frank Welch and asked if he would look at the lot to possibly design a new home for them. Frank looked at the lot and told the owners that the small modest yellow house that existed on the land and was on a hill was beautifully sited, and rather than build new they should consider renovating it and adding a secondary structure for a library and guest house, much like the studio O’Neil Ford added next to the home of artist Jerry Bywaters. The owners were surprised. Most architects are called about renovating architecturally significant homes and then the architect often suggests tearing it down for a new home.  Here, Frank Welch suggested keeping a home that had no obvious architectural importance. The owners agreed to the vision of Frank Welch. The result was a sublime home that celebrates its site and creates much happiness for the homeowners.

Architect Frank Welch created renovation design for 4311 W. Lawther Drive at White Rock Lake.
Architect Frank Welch created renovation design for 4311 W. Lawther Drive at White Rock Lake.

Homage to Architect David Williams

Architect David Williams designed this Texas Modern home in 1933 at 3805 McFarlin Boulevard, next to Turtle Creek and across from Highland Park Presbyterian Church.
Architect David Williams designed this Texas Modern home in 1933 at 3805 McFarlin Boulevard, next to Turtle Creek and across from Highland Park Presbyterian Church.

 

This David Williams-designed home for the mayor of University Park is often cited as the start of the Texas Modern movement. For several years earlier David Williams had been designing homes with strong Texas Modern characteristics. However, the home across the street from the back of Highland Park Presbyterian Church most visibly summarized the architectural direction the homes he designed had taken.

Frank Welch-designed home at White Rock Lake that pays homage to architect David Williams.  Frank Welch designed the Bradfield house at 3535 W. Lawther Drive. It was one of the first modern homes at White Rock Lake where increasingly important modern homes are being purchased.
Frank Welch-designed home at White Rock Lake that pays homage to architect David Williams.  Frank Welch designed the Bradfield house at 3535 W. Lawther Drive. It was one of the first modern homes at White Rock Lake where increasingly important modern homes are being purchased.

 

The Bradfield home Frank Welch designed on White Rock lake was inspired by the home O’Neil Ford’s mentor, David Williams, designed on McFarlin Boulevard in University Park, alongside Turtle Creek.

The Bradfields loved and supported chamber music and here is a room Frank Welch designed for their organ.
The Bradfields loved and supported chamber music and here is a room Frank Welch designed for their organ.

 

At the Bradfield house Frank Welch captured the views of White Rock Lake and created a room for a magnificent organ and chamber concerts, a passion of the owners.

Architect Frank Welch Instills Warmth and Intimacy in Estate Homes

A stick ceiling is both light and warm in Frank Welch-designed home.
A stick ceiling is both light and warm in Frank Welch-designed home.

 

A Texas Modern home designed by Frank Welch brings warmth and intimacy to estate property.

In the Devonshire neighborhood on a large estate lot, Frank Welch designed a very large home that is open, expansive and defined by walls of windows.  Yet, this substantial home has the same warmth and intimacy of his smaller projects.  The prudent selection of materials and proportions creates a substantial home that invites versus overpowers.

Frank Welch Was Designing to the End

Collaborating with architects Scott Marek and Max Levy, Frank Welch had exciting projects on the boards in the months leading up to his death. Just this summer a potential buyer was looking at a four-acre property at White Rock and when I asked who he would like to have design a new home for him on the site and he quickly answered Frank Welch.

Vibrant until the end, Frank Welch feels like he is still with us, with the memories he provides, the structures he has designed across Dallas and Texas, the friends who continue to revere and adore him, and those who never met him but associate him with the best of Dallas.

 

Frank Welch

Dallas Modern Homes

Architecturally Significant Homes

Frank Welch Lamplighter Video

 

 

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