Kay Bailey Hutchison
Convention Center


Dallas, Texas


1,400,000 sq. ft.

Design Architect


Architect of Record



The exhibition floor is protected from vibration from six roadways and four train lines below by spring isolators
The roof is a structural steel frame hung from 2- 400' twin 50' tall parabolic arch trusses
The exhibition floor is a 400' x 400' column free space design to support 350 lbs. per square foot live load

Engineering the vision for the world's largest, column-free exhibition space

Dallas’ convention center is unique in that it has taken a beautiful George Dahl facility, expanded it to create a modern venue, and built upon Dallas’ heritage of strength, innovation, and leadership. The facility and its improvements through the decades underscore the enduring quality of excellence in architectural and engineering design.

Datum provided structural expertise throughout the many expansions and renovations of the convention venue, spanning 5 decades.


Dallas' convention center expansion and renovation in 2002 marked the creation of the largest column-free expansion space in the world at that time. Incorporating the latest in technology and design innovations, leading to award-winning engineering feats. But this was not the first time Datum created world-class structural designs for this venue. In fact, Datum was first brought on the team in 1968 to design an addition to the Memorial Auditorium and then provided structural expertise for additional renovations and expansions completed in 4 phases over a 5-decade timespan.

Many of the structural decisions made early in the expansion were pivotal choices that impacted all future phases of the project. Of special concern was the need for the facility to span over downtown Dallas streets and adjacent rail lines for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. In total, six roadways and four train lines had to be taken into account.

Project planning was effected by the location of underground utilities, some documented, some not. During the construction, the foundational designs were impacted when the contractor encountered several unknown structures buried within the site. These circumstances created conflicts with the foundation designs, requiring creative structural modifications.

Foundation issues arose during the third phase of the facility expansion. The foundation became more complex as the building proceeded westward toward the shale found in the Trinity River bottom. Therefore, the east end of the structure is supported on limestone and, as the limestone became thinner to the west, the foundations were drilled through the limestone and founded in the shale. Special testing was required to identify the exact locations for drilling through the limestone.

The convention center roof is a structural steel frame hung from twin, 400 ft. parabolic arch trusses, each 50-ft. tall and 4-ft. in diameter. A 5-ft. x 2-in.-thick connection sphere at the end of each parabolic arch ties into the connection truss. The roof was designed as a space truss with columns spaced at 300 ft. x 300 ft. to provide maximum flexibility for diverse convention use.

Related Documents

The Dallas Convention Center: The Epitome of Form & Function

Download the PDF


2003 AISC Engineering Excellence Awards - Award of Merit
Juror Comment: "The use of large-scale pipe (48") for the primary structure is excellent."

Consulting Engineers Council of Texas - Eminent Conceptor Award (outstanding engineering accomplishment of the year)

Certified LEED Silver EB