When construction wraps up in spring of 2014, the sleek new fire station near Preston Center will be twice the size of the building that once stood in its place. The décor is getting quite an upgrade, too.
Station 27’s spare, contemporary design will likely include a large stained-glass piece by artist Rex Kare — one that’s a tribute to the firefighters inside and also an eye-catcher for anyone passing by the Douglas Avenue/Northwest Highway intersection after nightfall.
The proposed image, an abstract take on fire and water, includes bright flames and splashes that seem to be pixelated by thousands of square panels.
“An image of simplicity, of balance, of innate symmetry seemed to be just right,” said Kare, whose stained-glass work can also be found in a handful of churches, including St. Cecilia in Oak Cliff and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano. “I really came down to this simple root of firefighting, this counterbalancing of water and fire.”
Public art such as Kare’s, a $30,000 project to be commissioned with 2006 bond funds, must be highly visible to many passersby. The leaded glass will fit into a 29-foot-by-13-foot window in the new station’s central hallway and face Northwest Highway — a spot chosen because “this is such a busy intersection, [and there is a] need to have something that people will mostly view by vehicular traffic,” said Kendall Ferguson, public art coordinator with the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
That side of the building is also the “architectural highlight,” Kare said. The wall “just screamed … that this is the best place to put it.”
Of course, that can’t happen until the building itself — designed by Perkins + Will architects — actually materializes. A builder’s contract will probably be awarded this month, said Public Works project manager Martha Welch, with construction to begin in March.
Kare has taken input from Dallas Fire-Rescue and the station’s architects throughout the design phase of his project, and because it will run less than $50,000, it doesn’t need City Council approval. But the Cultural Affairs Commission, which meets next on Feb. 21, still has to give it the go-ahead.
Kare plans to contract with Bryan, Texas-based Foster Stained Glass to install the piece when the building itself is finished. Even without the high-end art, Fire Station 27’s $8.3 million overhaul is a far cry from its beginnings. Back in 1948, when the modest building first opened, “it was not well received by neighbors,” reads a history page on the Dallas Fire-Rescue website. “The firefighters worked hard for acceptance — even sending flowers to sick and bereaved families in their district. Before long, the firefighters were considered friends.”