Location Westlake, Texas
Client Fidelity Investments
Scope Planning, Landscape Architecture
Size 309 acres
This corporate headquarters campus design distills the essence of the North Texas prairie through careful placement of built elements, a thorough knowledge of site terrain, drainage systems, plant communities and design expression derived from the native landscape. The project includes a 650,000-square-foot office and a parking structure for 2,700 cars, located on a 309-acre site is adjacent to Solana, between Dallas and Fort Worth. The active ranchland is part open pasture and part Post Oak Savannah, and has two existing ponds, wildflower meadows, and rolling terrain. The client directed the landscape architects to integrate the project into the site, capitalizing on all of its amenities and restoring the site to its native state. The landscape architects provided full services for the project, including site planning, architectural massing and configuration, planting, and design of watercourses. Site planning involved a series of collaborative design charettes between client representatives and the design team to set floor plate sizes, relationships to exterior spaces, and overall massing. The landscape architects recorded the spatial character of the site, prepared analysis drawings documenting their findings and identifying opportunities and constraints. They utilized surveys of each tree over 6” caliper to accomplish road networks and building pads, and carefully considered existing topography as a feature for articulating the spatial sequences in the main lobby and dining areas to engage the site, as well as screening the parking structure from the surrounding road networks by notching it into an existing hillside. Every design element helps to preserve as many existing trees, plant communities and habitat areas as possible, and provides for dam reconstruction, pond reshaping, dredging and restoration of edge habitat. From these studies, the design team developed the idea that the campus should emulate the experience of a ‘country home’, with buildings, roadways and garage integrated into the indigenous landscape. Instead of leaving home to work in the city, employees would leave the city to work in a place that was about beauty and nature. An initial decision was to accommodate cars within a five-story parking structure in order to preserve trees and allow flexibility to create a meadow. Drainage from the garage supplies a created wetland that includes phyto-remediating plants. The use of Texas sandstone, steel, and glass on both the building and site work established a palette that harmonizes with the subtle coloration and texture and seasonal extremes of the site. Meadow grasses and indigenous plant material – and minimal use of irrigated turf areas –maintain the qualities of the Texas grasslands. Exterior public spaces such as the main entry are articulated with flagstone, spring-like water features and drifts of dry-land plant materials, such as prickly pear cactus and Muhly Grass. The design established approximately 1,000 new trees for the next generation of forest and addressed low-water use and maximum percolation through planting and construction proposals. Site geometry is purposely non-directional to stitch the new site work into the natural landscape. Roadways are narrow and curbless to express the idea of a country road and allow water to return to the landscape. Roadway lighting is placed in trees rather than on poles, and all site hardware is minimized. The Westlake campus was the first land development along the rapidly-developing Highway 114 Corridor in the Town of Westlake, west of Dallas, where many ranches are under pressure by suburbanization. The project met and exceeded all development standards mandated by the town and has become their model for future development. The team’s approach to understanding, maintaining and fostering ecological systems demonstrates that the unique qualities of a region can be preserved through careful attention and a holistic approach to design.