Working in the Fort Worth Stockyards

The Western character of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District is without a doubt one of the most recognizable features of our city. Locals and visitors alike can identify with the unique experience of strolling through the iconic brick roads, observing the cattle drive, dust in the air, and wearing their boots and jean attire that is not only acceptable but encouraged. People of all ages and cultures are drawn here to work, dine, shop, play, and explore. The many layers of history beyond the eminent street fronts are greatly protected by our community by way of law or by strong, popular opinion.  Knowing the significance of such a task, working in the Stockyards has been a great honor for our firm.  Such an endeavor takes thoughtful consideration, research, professional experience, objective observation, and extensive collaboration to truly appease all parties involved. 

In 2016, VLK Architects embarked on the design of American Paint Horse Association’s new headquarters, to be relocated within the planned restoration of the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards century-old Mule Barns. This effort has been carefully planned for many years prior to our firm’s participation. We knew our process must begin by understanding the many perspectives of all parties involved. We began our research with the developer by taking a deeper look at the past, present, and future missions and values of the surrounding community, in addition to APHA’s goals for their new space. With our firm’s own headquarters located in Fort Worth, our accessibility to the project site and local ties enhanced our ability to understand the context of the design challenge – to create an innovative, authentic, well-functioning headquarters for APHA that operates as an office, gallery, retail, and event space - while also staying true to the western aesthetic and abiding by local and national historical preservation guidelines. 

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Through a series of VLK’s strategic brainstorming sessions, we began to more fully understand the needs of all who would be impacted by the project at hand.  As with any historical re-use project, questions considered include; “What shall be preserved?”, “What shall be restored?”, and “What shall be refreshed, or made new?” We ultimately found that our main objective as architects and designers on the design of APHA’s new headquarters was to preserve the historic nature of the building, while capturing the strong brand of APHA and accommodating the needs of the evolving Western professional culture.

While it may seem tedious to some, working within any historic community such as the Stockyards cannot be rushed. After many years of developing the design for APHA’s new headquarters location, we highly anticipate what this restoration project will bring to our city, specifically to the Stockyards. What was previously parking lots and dismal space between the underutilized mule barns full of potential and character, this restoration project will soon be home to creative offices, retail shops, dining, and an inviting pedestrian plaza to further extend the visitor experience beyond Exchange Ave. As a Fort Worth resident, I look forward to the continued preservation of the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards, while having even more reasons to frequent this treasured destination in the near future.