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Museum Tower Threatens Dallas Arts District

Samantha Katzman |
April 21, 2012 | 4:53 p.m. PDT

Staff Contributor

Dallas’s Museum Tower, a skyscraper built in the city’s Arts District, is beginning to threaten the city’s nearby establishments. 

The structure, set to be the tallest all-residential building in the city, is creating controversy

over its affect on the Nasher Sculpture Center, a gallery home to some of the most notable works throughout history. The Nasher was built with glass panels and aluminum oculi designed to serve as a protective “sunscreen.” Designed by famed modernist architect Renzo Piano, the building aimes to allow for soft natural light to enter, while protecting the works inside. The patented design is considered by the late Ray Nasher to be a part of the art collection he donated to the city of Dallas. 

Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, did not fully realize the gravity of the situation when the roof began leaking light. When he saw the light hit the lobby wall, he turned due north, the direction that Piano designed for viewers to observe nothing but open sky. He, however, saw the glare from the new 42-story Museum Tower.

A worried staff documented the light change, and worried that the reflected light penetrating the Nasher roof could result in damage to upcoming exhibits. 

Strick realized the desperateness of the situation when, after the installation of the 23rd floor, the sun positioned itself to reflect so harshly into the Nasher that prized works by Rodin and Picasso had to be moved to avoid damage. 

In light of this new danger, Strick contacted Dan Boeckman, one of the tower’s developers to explain the problem.

In the coming months, while the building expanded upward, so did the concern by Nasher staff. Reflections fried garden plants and began to affect more buildings than just the Sculpture Center. The harsh light of the building also threatens the Dallas Museum of Art, Hunt Oil Tower, and the Klyde Warren Park over Woodall Rodgers. In March, the towers reflection even raised the temperature in Nasher Garden to a whopping 103 degrees. 

A local Dallas real estate journal compared the building to killing ants with a magnifying glass. “Except, the magnifying glass in this case is a 42-story high-rise, and the ants are priceless artworks collected by one of Dallas’ most beloved benefactors.”

The extreme issues arising from the construction of the building are leaving residents and staff members wondering how a $200 million project aimed at providing housing in the Arts District is simultaneously destroying it. 

“You know, it’s absolutely insane. This is the Arts District. You cannot put in danger a jewel like this. I’m not talking about a jewel in terms of architecture. I’m talking about an institution, a jewel in terms of community life, in terms of quality of life in the town. This is not a private matter. This is the public interest,” said Piano. 

The Police and Fire Pension system, the group behind the construction of the building, has made a public statement about the controversy. They announced their desires to combat the problem, and work in conjunction with the Nasher Sculpture Center to “preserve the architectural integrity of both properties.”

Reach writer Sam Katzman here



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