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Parish Episcopal School Remembers Architect I.M. Pei

Parish reflects on the passing of architect I.M. Pei whose eponymous firm designed the School's original building.

Parish Episcopal School remembers modernist architect I.M. Pei who died this week at the age of 102. Pei made a big impact on our School and the skyline of Dallas with his designs including Dallas City Hall (1977), One Dallas Center (1979), Energy Plaza (1983), Fountain Place (1986), and the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center (1989).

Pei’s architecture firm, Pei Cobb Reed & Partners was behind our School’s building which was built in 1982 as the ExxonMobil office complex. Henry N. Cobb and Theodore J. Musho served as the lead designers on the research and engineer building. According to the firm, the 337,000 square foot complex, situated on a wooded site off Midway road, was constructed to provide offices and research laboratories for fuel exploration and related technologies. The white and red building, with clerestory lighting, housed a four-story cylindrical administrative tower and a two-story laboratory spine. The atrium with a kinetic sculpture was designed to connect the buildings and promote communication among those who worked and researched at the site. The infamous blue pipes that sit on top of the building were a nod to the oil and gas industry as were the sunlit curves of the Great Hall. The building buzzed with research, innovation and activity until 1999. It sat empty until 2002 when Parish Day School decided to look at the building as a possible location to expand.  As school history goes: Gloria Snyder, Parish Head of School 1980-2009, and several faculty members walked into the building and immediately realized it was the “perfect” building where Parish Day School could grow into Parish Episcopal School, now a leading PreK-12th grade college preparatory independent school. 

Thanks to dedicated faculty and staff and to the generosity of the Parish community, the old ExxonMobil building slowly transformed into the bustling academic center it is today. The atrium, now Kleinert Commons, fills with the chatter and laughter of 3rd-12th grade students eating lunch each day; a loading dock holds the Black Box Theater, where Middle and Upper School students produce musicals and plays; a former office/filing area became the space where students attend daily chapel. Parish has since added additional facilities including a gymnasium, the Gene E. Phillips Activity Center, the Gloria H. Snyder Football Stadium and playing fields. In the fall, Parish will break ground on the Noble Family Performing Arts Center. The additions to Parish always come with thoughtful attention to the original vision of the famed building. 

“I tell people frequently when touring them through our facility that those of us who work and learn here are blessed to spend our days in a facility that, in a silent way, instills in us an appreciation for the aesthetic,” said Dave Monaco, Allen Meyer Family Head of School. “Given the season or time of day, our space – and especially the Great Hall – presents such a wide array of lighting and ambiance that speak to you and make it an ideal environment for a school seeking to cultivate creative learners.”

Pei once said he wanted to “bring out the best in a community and contribute something of permanent value” with his architecture. That philosophy lives on at Parish Episcopal School. Pei’s innovative spirit continues within our School walls where our students thrive in signature programs in STEM and the Arts. Our creative thinkers and bold leaders continue to use the Great Hall to navigate their way through classrooms, laboratories, art galleries, locker rooms, computer labs and design spaces. The research presses on; the ideas flow freely; the kinetic sculpture still spins in the atrium; and a community of parents, students, faculty and staff continues to enjoy the value of this architectural gem. 

“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.” 
― I. M. Pei

 

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