Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

Eating lunch outdoors this Saturday at the Nasher Cafe, here’s my view. Picasso’s staring at a patch of reseeded dirt where there was once lush lawn.

Nasher Sculpture Garden on an overcast noon | August 25, 2012
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) | Spanish
Head of Woman |1958
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas has done so much over the twenty-five years I have lived here to elevate its cultural offerings and profile. The Dallas Arts District is a piece – a large piece – in the success of offering Dallas citizens and visitors visual and performing arts housed in note-worthy architecture. The District has grown to a 68-acre cultural and residential campus.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003, is one of the District’s gems designed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian architect, Renzo Piano. His team took time to study and understand the peculiarities of the Texas climate, especially the brutal summer sun. An arched glass roof with a perforated aluminum screen in an egg-crate pattern directs the natural light into the galleries and anticipates the sun’s daily arc from southeast to southwest. (See image below.)

Close-up of “egg crate”
(photo: Nasher Sculpture Center)

Another architectural firm, Foster + Partners of London, spent one year analyzing the arc of the sun before finalizing its design of the Winspear Opera House which is a 2009 addition to the district. A two-acre, steel frame canopy hovers over the Winspear as a mechanism to successfully deflect the Texas sun, especially in the summer months, and lower the ambient temperature. (See image below.)

 

Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District | 2009
Architect: Foster + Partners led by Spencer du Grey (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

  
A recent addition still under construction and adjacent to the Nasher is Museum Tower, a 42-story residential building. Unfortunately, the design by Los Angeles architect Scott Johnson was not as sensitive to the climate and its impact on the surroundings as the other two architects’ previously mentioned. Clad in convex glass panels, the building is a giant column that magnifies and reflects sunlight onto its neighbors. (See image below.)
Museum Tower diverts sunlight into Nasher’s sculpture garden. Thus, the patches of dirt and brown grass at the Nasher this Saturday.
On a personal note: I find the building itself quite beautiful and elegant, but wish the surfaces accommodated the neighborhood and the James Turrell installation at the Nasher had not been ruined.

Museum Tower seen from Nasher (photo: Brandon Thibodeaux, The New York Times)

 
But, it is not only the Nasher that is hit. The impact is 360 degree.  I have concerns about:
  • The trees and plant life in the soon-to-be open Klyde Warren Park
  • Reflections into nearby buildings, like the Dallas Museum of Art, One Arts Plaza, Hunt Oil Tower
  • This conflict, which has received national and international press, setting back the hard-earned gains in Dallas’ reputation as an increasingly cultural place to live
  • Harming the reasons people will buy a home in Museum Tower. (Note: I want the project be a success for the Arts District, City of Dallas, its investors and the developers.)
  • Museum Tower becoming a scapegoat for any future sun damage in the area, regardless of the real cause.

There many bright minds – hopefully all are well-intended people – working on possible solutions and vetting possibilities. In my opinion, the sooner a workable solution is implemented, the better for everyone involved.

Having a personal long-term view of Dallas as a great place to live, I hope this messy, time-consuming, expensive conflict ignites a larger conversation about urban planning, communities and neighborhoods.

Why not have a thorough design review board in the City of Dallas? Why not have interested neighbors and citizens take time to review proposed buildings for any impact on their homes or institutions? In other places I have lived (granted smaller towns), a design that raised concerns and eyebrows, whether it be reflectivity or height, could be rejected by the town’s zoning commission. Why not here in Dallas?

Along the lines of a constructive dialogue, there will be a panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art.  KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate Aesthetics and the City with panelists Veletta Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Vel Hawes, a Dallas architect who served as Raymond Nasher’s representative for the design and construction of the Nasher Sculpture Center. (Updated on 9/1/2012: The panel has been postponed.)

Show your support as a citizen concerned with finding and implementing a workable solution before more damage is done to the Arts District by clicking on the petition, Stop the Glare. I have signed it because I believe this is a 360 degree issue that needs to be addressed.

I’ll be taking long weekend for Labor Day…be back on Sunday, September 9th.

Enjoy,

Meg

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9 thoughts on “Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

  1. Brilliant job Meg.
    Everyone needs to be concerned!!!
    We are finally beginning to get it right, and another Dallas megastructure ruins it.

  2. Do you know if the Nasher or any contiguous property owner had any discussion prior to the building of the tower? Did they know what was planned, and if so, who on the Museum-side would have raised concerns then? It is hard to imagine that they had absolutely no knowledge of the design or the planned reflective skin. If you know the answers, could you please enlighten me? Thank you. I also appreciate you well-written article, but because you have taken a very civilized, without resorting to some of the diatribes making the rounds now.

    • I don’t know the backdrop for the construction of Museum Tower and the level of involvement/ awareness among the Arts District inhabitants (institutional or residential) about the glass cladding chosen. The height was known. What intrigues me is whether there is a mechanism in place which halts the beginning of construction/ building permit granted should neighbors or concerned citizens raise a “legitimate” red flag.

      In my blog I mention a panel discussion at the Dallas Museum of Art on September 8th. If you were planning on attending, it has been postponed. I wish I could shed more light on progress to-date, and look forward to hearing the resolution. Thanks for caring.

      Have a good Labor Day weekend
      Meg
      http://www.megfitzpatrick.com/

  3. Very well done comments on the Arts Dilemma.
    The Arts Distrcit community would be well served to take a point of view and jointly address the problem of the Museum Tower. Surely there are creative solutions that have positive outcomes for everyone.
    Thanks Meg.
    Mary Bloom

  4. Great job researching, Meg, and written in very understandable terms. Thank you. Thanks for the heads up about the meeting at the DMA and also for attaching the petition. Excellent.

  5. Good luck with the turnout for the meeting. I hope it will raise the awareness of everyone considering new buildings. Stephanie

  6. I agree completely. I would add that the Museum Tower should replace its reflective glass shell at its own expense so as not to destroy the carefully planned Nasher and heat up other buildings already in place. This situation illustrates why Meg’s proposal to have some control over plans is needs.

    • I have one more point to make more clearly. The scrim (or whatever light absorber is used) needs to be placed around Museum Tower’s circumference – more areas than the Nasher in the Arts District are affected. The developer, architect and engineers who made/ approved the current surface decisions should finance the fix, not the taxpayers, Arts District, Nasher or City of Dallas.

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