The galleria is one of the crown jewels of the Dallas shopping experience. It has set the standard for shopping and mixed-use centers for over 20 years, becoming a shopping icon true to its inspiration-both in name and architectural features-the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Yet, even in the world of shopping, icons fall victim to the passage of time.

When the renovation was originally envisioned, the client was interested in a simple paint and finish job. The design team, however, understood the relevance of the place and took a more holistic design approach. The most striking element of the renovation is the dramatic change in the quality of light achieved through both natural and electric sources. The large continuous vaulted skylight had always been a hallmark of the building, but by the time light reached the main floor and ice rink, its quality and intensity was significantly reduced. The design team focused on how daylight could be used to its maximum advantage, establishing a color palette that reflects the natural light source and transmits it further into the atrium and gallery spaces. Eucalyptus wood panels coupled with transparent and back-painted glass railings replaced the concrete and metal bulkhead handrails. A window-like curtain wall that defines the main entry plaza and valet drop-off further enhances the daylighting effect. Protected by a brieze soleil, the glazing stretches vertically from the main entry to the third floor, allowing visual communication between the exterior plaza and the south escalator court.

On the third floor, the upper-most level of the mall, the soffits-previously treated in a tiered profile with cove and canlights-are now a single profile of white-painted gypsum-board panels paired with a single fixture to wash the surface and further accentuate the panel's subtle curve. The lower levels are defined by cove-lighting, which takes its lead from the elliptical geometry used for the floor openings in the main and secondary court areas. The coves create a visual rhythm that draws the eye along the perimeter concourses. Each cove is painted with a subtle warm color and lit by white cold cathode. Typical for 'retail,' the storefronts are illuminated with recessed 70W PAR30 lamps that provide a crisp white 3000K light. The fixtures are hidden in the narrow reveal where the horizontal plane of the mall corridor ceiling meets the edge of the storefront. This subtle detail provides a continuity of lighting, in both brightness and color rendering, from the retail environment into the public space of the mall.


The abstract streetscape in shopping center design is hardly a new concept. It dates back to Southdale, in Edina, Minnesota, the first enclosed mall opened in 1956 and designed by architect Victor Gruen. In most retail design, the concept is anything but abstract. This is not the case in the first-floor concourse in the Dallas Galleria. The typical lamppost-style fixture is replaced by slender cylindrical pylons randomly situated along the center axis of the mall floor, acting as a reassuring object of scale within the context of the three-story atrium. The selection of a warm Egyptian stone paving provides a neutral and modern backdrop for showcasing the elegance of these luminaires.

Of particular challenge with the use of escalators, is how to provide a comfortable graduated angle for the underside, to a height where circulation can occur below. In this instance, the team employed a simple, but effective lighting solution. Typically one of darkest areas in buildings, the non-navigatable area under the escalator was enclosed with translucent glass panels and then backlit with an array of blue LEDs. This simple arrangement creates a positive space out of what is often a design liability.

The lighting becomes an organizing element, as specific fixtures are used to define each level: cylindrical light pylons on level one; cylindrical pendants on level two; and recessed disc fixtures on level three. Even the mall amenities, such as seating benches, are defined by perforated backlit stainless-steel bases. Inside the bench, a layer of acrylic lines the metal to prevent visibility of the fixtures and glare.

Today, retail design is often more about a 'theme' than it is about design, often resulting in a parade of abstract oversized follies in bright primary colors. The renovation of the Dallas Galleria has not followed the formula that is typical of a shopping center facelift; rather the project is an example of how intelligent design that pays attention to both architectural and lighting details based in conceptual discipline and not thematic pageantry can be applied to retail environments. It is refreshing to have a precedent that illuminates alternative paths in retail design, both figuratively and literally. thomas j. trenolone