Every great city needs a landmark, like the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle or the Gateway Arch. All of these monuments evoke their host cities in any context. Here in Dallas we have Reunion Tower, an illuminated ball on a stick just west of downtown. Reunion Tower looms large in the mind of Dallasites, which is a good thing because its really not that big.
According to Wikipedia, Reunion Tower is the 15th tallest building in Dallas (tied with CityPlace and Museum Tower). I think most people here would be surprised to hear that. Anyone who’s seen the Dallas skyline could tell you it’s not the tallest thing in town, but you’d expect it to be in the top ten. Nope. At 560 feet, it’s pretty short for a Dallas building.
As a Dallas-based graphic artist, I’ve done more than a few renderings of our city’s skyline. Not only is Reunion Tower shorter than most illustrations would lead you to think, it’s also further away. Thanks to Dealey Plaza and a series of railroads, Reunion is a good half-mile from the skyscrapers of the central business district. This is most noticeable in photographs taken from the north or south. Interestingly enough, the tower’s distance makes it look bigger. If you moved it to Main Street, it would be lost altogether, much like Dallas’ older landmark, the Red Pegasus.
People in North Texas exaggerate the size and location of Reunion Tower, but we also get the shape wrong. I said earlier in this article that Reunion Tower is a “ball on a stick”. It’s really more of a can on a tripod. The stick part of the building is made up of four pylons and the ball is a cylinder in a geodesic cage. Therein lies the beauty of the building. It’s designed in such a way that our minds fill in the details, turning the cage-like polyhedron into a perfect sphere and making the structure more prominent than it is in real life. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas. What better monument could we have than a moderate-sized building that looms large in our minds?