“Dallas is a city that happened very quickly,” says the artist Jorge Pardo. Born in Cuba and now based in Mérida, he has made bedrooms that function as installation art, lights that look like curtains, and even a sailboat-slash-obelisk. In the process, he has won a MacArthur “Genius” grant and spots in the permanent collections of MoMA, MoCA, and the Tate. And like Texas’s largest city, the site of his latest project, it all happened very quickly.
But when Headington Companies, fresh off the success of Forty Five Ten and the Joule Hotel, asked him to do something with a drab brown brick-and-concrete building downtown, Pardo wanted to take his time.
First step? “I took a color inventory of the center of the city,” he says. “It’s kind of gray, so I thought it would be interesting to have something that reflects the sky and is a break with the architecture.” He developed a palette of blue tones, set up panel systems to see how the shades interacted, and then found ceramic tiles made in Guadalajara that could withstand the Texas climate.
The result is Commissary, a five-story market and espresso bar covered, inside and out, in a vibrant combination of more than 27,000 blue and white tiles. “Jorge is a master of twisting the mundane into the memorable,” says Headington Companies president Michael Tregoning. What looks blue doesn’t stay that way: “The temperature of the light changes during the day,” Pardo says, which changes the tile's appearance. “In the morning, the light is cool, then becomes very bright and washes [the tiles] out, and towards the end of the day it turns orange or purple depending on the smog levels.” The process may sound methodical, but took just over a year.