On Montgomery Street, opposite Ricardo Legorreta’s Museum of Science and History, sits an elegant and minimal concrete-and-glass building housing Fort Worth Camera, the epicenter of the local photography community. Bart Shaw, AIA, of local architecture practice Ibañez Shaw, undertook the design of this striking and iconic retail building located on a prominent site near Fort Worth’s Museum District.
The initial impulse was to orient the building and entrance along the thoroughfare of Montgomery Street, but the clients feared that the storefront could be rammed by a motor vehicle and the valuable inventory looted. And so the decision was made to orient the main customer entrance opposite Montgomery, which, due to the site’s natural slope, elevated the retail space above street level.
As the building sits on the residential side of Montgomery, the neighborhood context played a significant role in the design. While interested in the final aesthetic, chief among the neighbors’ concerns were lights from parking cars shining into their nearby homes. This influenced the site strategy and design of the parking lot: The building itself is used to screen most of the cars from the adjacent homes.
The northern facade faces a residential street and is dominated by a long and smooth tilt-up wall interrupted only by a playful protruding steel box, housing a children’s area. The yellow color is a deliberate reference to Legorreta’s nearby museum. The lower wall is poured-in-place concrete with a vertical texture created with form liners. The western facade presents the storefront and main entrance to the shop.
A custom steel system was devised with the glass glazed directly to the steel; no standard aluminum mullions were used in the construction of this project. Steel plates are utilized as bollards to add security.
Inside, glulam beams supporting the roof add warmth to the otherwise entirely concrete, steel, and glass building. The HVAC ductwork is tucked up in between, presenting a clear view from the entrance. Behind the point-of-sale counter is a concrete wall with a matrix of glass shelves that display the owner’s collection of cameras. The lower level contains photo studios and classroom space, which are independently accessible so they can be used outside store hours.
While the entire building is crisply detailed and executed, it can be argued that its most striking and distinctive feature is the aptly dubbed the “Holey Wall” on the Montgomery Street facade. The wall consists of 25 rows of seven holes, representing camera apertures at varying degrees of openness. This pattern became the shop’s logo. The apertures are conical in section, presenting a very narrow edge to the street. They were created by utilizing fiberglass forms fashioned from wood base molds, and their addition creates a dynamic setting for photography: People have their portraits shot on the lower-level porch behind this wall.
Impressive for a retail structure, Fort Worth Camera is worth the visit, whether one is a photography gearhead or not. It is a testament to the architect’s thoughtfulness and attention to detail, as the building elevates the typical retail experience and testifies to the capabilities of design.
Andrew Barnes, AIA, is founder of Agent Architecture in Dallas.