Braniff Operations and Maintenance Building: Threatened

Image Credits: 
Alexander Calder Painting Beastie on a Braniff Plane, 1973
A number of preservation advocates, including the North Texas (NTX) chapter of Docomomo US, are concerned about the future of the iconic Braniff Operations and Maintenance Building (OMB), located at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. Recent briefings to the Dallas City Council by City of Dallas Aviation Department have included recommendations for demolition of the OMB to allow construction of an automobile showroom dealership.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The 400,000 square foot OMB was designed by noted architects Charles Luckman and William Pereira and was completed in 1958, with a 1961 expansion by the same design team. Luckman and Pereira, based in Los Angeles, were responsible for numerous nationally recognizable designs, including the iconic “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport and the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco. Local collaborating architect Mark Lemmon was an accomplished architect as well, with such notable buildings as the Hall of State at Fair Park in his portfolio.
 
Image: OMB Architectural Rendering, 1956 Credit: University of Texas at Dallas Special Collection Archives
 
The OMB, occupied by Braniff until its ultimate failure in 1982, was an integral part of Braniff’s unique (for the time) emphasis on progressive, cutting edge design. The OMB itself is a unique expression of modern industrial architecture, incorporating a series of steel bents that rise to create an inverted roof form suggestive of flight. The three-story center of the building was given over to office and shop functions, while the two, single-level wings formed giant hangars for aircraft maintenance (site of the fastest engine change for a 747).
 
Other design initiatives of Braniff during this period included their vividly colored “jelly bean” planes, highlighted by the “Flying Colors” series of Alexander Calder jets, painted in an hangar of the OMB. Other innovations included “stewardess” uniforms by designer Emilio Pucci, logos and graphics by Alexander Girard, and cutting edge advertisements that featured likenesses of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and others.
 

Image: Calder Flying Colors of US Promotional Ad

After learning of the threat to the Braniff Building, representatives of Preservation Dallas and DOCOMOMO US NTX toured the building for some three hours. During that period, the DOCOMOMO US NTX representatives were impressed with not only the building, but with its relatively good condition. While there have been some changes made by subsequent tenants since Braniff’s departure, almost all important aspects of the building are intact, including the iconic steel structure and original metal siding. Most modifications appear to be easily reversible.

The Texas Historical Commission (THC), the State Historic Preservation Office, also toured the building shortly thereafter to determine if the OMB is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Image: Braniff Operations and Maintenance Building, 2012. Credit: Anonymous
 
Both DOCOMOMO US NTX and Preservation Dallas have written letters to the THC, stating opinions that the architectural, cultural, and technological significance of the OMB makes it eligible for inclusion on the National Register.
 

At the time of the writing of this article, the THC decision is expected shortly, after which preservation advocates, including DOCOMOMO US NTX, will determine what the next course(s) of action will be to preserve and revitalize the Braniff Operations and Maintenance Building.

Image: Braniff Operation and Maintenance Building Front View, 2012. Credit: Anonymous

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