Victory Plaza, for the American Airlines Center, Dallas, 2000-2001

Victory Plaza, at the south entrance of the American Airlines Center, the new sports arena of Dallas, was defined by the building's architect, David Schwartz, as a 40,000 sq. ft. rectangle over an underground garage, flanked by two allées of planters with trees and two lower office/retail buildings. The space was to be open and truck accessible for multi-use events, although a major water feature was strongly recommended by the architect.

Athena Tacha was selected by the City of Dallas Public Art Committee to design the space and fountain, with the stipulation to create a plaza in the European tradition (at a donor's request, two seated lions like those in Trafalgar Square, London, will be installed at the plaza's south end). Inspired primarily by the famous Campidoglio piazza in Rome, Tacha created a linear pavement design, from which 137 jets rise in the form of water sculptures. But instead of one centralized pattern, Victory Plaza has an asymmetrical design with three subtly irregular star-shaped fountains. Lines of force emanate from each star like rays and cross each other, spreading towards the surrounding buildings. The seven-arm stars are twisted clockwise or counter-clockwise, like turning pin-wheels or spiral galaxies colliding in space, and their "rays" criss-cross like the paths of players during a game.

aerial view with sports arena

The image of star has multiple references ­ to the Lone Star State, to one of American Airlines' logos, to the Dallas Stars, and to all the stars of the Center's teams. The rays are made of granite pavers inset in the buff concrete pavement, red or black for alternate stars. A fourth invisible star, emerging under the arena's entrance, penetrates with its black rays the adjacent alley to interact with the stars in the plaza.

The fountains are about 50 ft. in diameter. Forty-five water jets shoot up from each star, six or seven per arm, forming arcs of water that rise gradually from 3 to 21 ft. at the center, echoing the arena's giant arches and converging in a central spectacular splash. Rows of lights under each arm's water jets contribute to enhance the spinning effect at night, and a complex computer program animates the water in a sequence of changing movements.

night view with sports arena

(Photo by Randal Vanderveer)

The jets are regulated by wind level and turned off when the plaza is needed for events. Their heads are set within the pavement to make it fully walkable, and the subtle inclines of the plaza allow both drainage of water towards each star center yet gentle enough ascents and descents for wheel chair accessibility. As a result, the pavement itself appears organic and dynamic, like an actual landscape or a living body ­ unlike most flat urban concrete expanses. The concrete's construction joints, by necessity irregular because of the crossing rays, have been worked into a complex, non-parallel network in tune with the total design.

plaza general view from south end

Victory Plaza was inaugurated in August 2001, a month after the arena. The SWA Group was Tacha's main collaborator, responsible for all the landscape architecture features, the complex working drawings and general supervision. The fountain system was designed by Fountain People of San Marcos, TX, and installed by Texas Waterworks of Carrollton, TX. The pavement and planters were executed by CSA Concrete of Dallas.