North Texas pays a tribute to Pratt, Box & Henderson


Robert Meckfessel


Docomomo US


Newsletter, chapter, North Texas
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The Dallas firm of Pratt, Box & Henderson was the special topic of conversation on May 24th as over 120 aficionados of architecture and planning assembled to hear a series of talks about the influential firm. The event took place at the handsome new Dallas offices of Perkins+Will, located in the recently renovated Old Dallas High School (1907 Lang & Witchell).


Pratt, Box & Henderson (PBH)  was active from the 1950s through the 1980s, founded initially by James Pratt and Harold Box. Philip Henderson joined in the early 1960s. Their work and influence were wide and diverse; the three principals were often at the forefront of significant planning initiatives, vocally urging city fathers of Dallas to create a better city, and usually showing them how to do it. In addition to their urban design and planning work, the architecture of PBH was rooted in its time and place, drawing on traditional, proven means of dealing with Texas climate and culture, while embracing the possibilities and expressions of modern technology. This work was recognized with numerous design awards from the Texas Society of Architects and AIA Dallas. As a firm, PBH ended in the 1980s, with Hal Box as Dean of the School of Architecture at UT Austin (after many years as Dean at UT Arlington), and James Pratt and Philip Henderson opening separate firms.

The evening opened with pithy and insightful remarks from Mark Lamster, architectural critic at the Dallas Morning News and author, about the influence and impact of PBH on Dallas architecture and culture. Mark wrote earlier in the week:


“The magic of the architects James Pratt, Hal Box and Philip Henderson was not so much the thoughtful work they built, but what they suggested Dallas could be: a place of creative invention and human scale.”



Lamster was followed by an overview of PBH’s work from architect and preservationist Marcel Quimby, FAIA. Quimby highlighted some of PBH’s most significant work, including the futuristic Apparel Mart (featured in the cult film Logan’s Run), Brookhaven Community College with its genteel courtyards, the remarkable Quadrangle shopping center (badly renovated in the 1980s), and the haunting St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Mesquite, Texas.


Michael Friebele and Andrew Barnes then spoke about a recent trip to Santa Fe, where they met and hung out with James and Joanne Pratt, who now reside there. Over a period of 36 hours, James and Joanne shared numerous memories, thoughts, drawings, sketches, and artifacts with Michael and Andrew. So moved was Barnes by this conversation that, upon his return to Dallas, he quit his job and opened his own firm, inspired by the passion and work of PBH in their earliest days.

The highlight of the evening was a candid, freewheeling conversation between Philip Henderson and Willis Winters, FAIA about the culture, the values, the goals, the challenges, and the achievements of the firm during its existence over four decades. By the end of the conversation, it was clear to the audience that the three principals — although each talented and strong-willed — enjoyed a shared, fearless commitment to make their city and community more humane, more creative, and more beautiful, and that Dallas and Texas were much the better for it.


Docomomo US NTX thanks our partner Preservation Dallas, and our sponsors, UT Arlington College of Architecture, Planning and Policy, AIA Dallas, the Dallas Center for Architecture, the Dallas Architecture Forum, and Perkins+Will, for their help in organizing an amazing look back at one of the most influential firms in Dallas modern history.