The State Fair of Texas is one of the most massive public events in the United States, with about one million people attending over the course of a month. Up to this point in my career, I don’t think I’ve ever had a huge, endless mob like this watching me. The line to get into the building where I was working flowed all the way down the staircase, through the atrium, out the door, down the sidewalk, and through the street. People waited in line for hours to see the project. It was a rush. I love what I do, but when you have a million people rooting you on it has a way of helping you push your own limits.
They do everything big in Texas, so when the fair approached me to build a project for them, they wanted it to live up to that reputation. My proposal was to build the Dallas city skyline and feature many of its notable buildings. For this I included the JP Morgan Chase Tower, Reunion Tower, the Magnolia Building, Fountain Place, and a few others. I filled out the skyline with some additional structures to make it feel like a city.
This project was special to me because it really forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me take huge risks that resulted in many new techniques that I would go on to use in other projects—all of them perfected by trial and error, and on the fly. For both JP Morgan and Fountain Place, I realized early in the project that if I did not find a way to build these buildings quickly I’d never get done on time, and that meant these would need to be almost hollow structures, saving me countless hours assembling internal rigging not seen from the outside. I knew the fastest way to make these buildings would be to build very thin exterior walls with the cards placed vertically, a technique I was familiar with testing but had never really pushed beyond perhaps 20 levels before—and now I needed to try accomplishing the same method about twice as tall. It blew my mind how well it worked and how fast it was.
But, several other challenges remained, such as how to build the giant slot and rounded top of the JP Morgan Chase Tower, or, even more daunting, the sloping, prismatic volumes of Fountain Place. How did I do it? I’d need pages and pages to explain, but I finished up this project knowing that I was onto something, and that something was that with cards vertical and the buildings hollow, the sky was the limit. So, when the fair asked me back the following year to try and outdo myself by breaking my own Guinness World Record for the Tallest House of Cards, I knew it would be built with the insights I had gathered building the Dallas city skyline, and next time needing to reach over 90 stories tall—a spectacular challenge.