UPDATE: Will Architect Renzo Piano Sue Museum Tower?
In the May edition of D Magazine, Tim Rogers reports on the ongoing controversy over the construction of Museum Tower. Rogers has been following Museum Tower’s impact on the Nasher ever since he and Willard Spiegelman lofted a red balloon in the air to measure the impact the building would have on the James Turrell sculpture, Tending, (Blue). Now it is clear that the development will a far greater impact on the museum than ever imagined.
When the Nasher Sculpture Center began leaking light in September, director Jeremy Strick didn’t immediately grasp the gravity of the situation. In the lobby near the cash register, just a few small splotches of light splashed across a travertine wall.
The leak should have been impossible. The Nasher was designed by Renzo Piano, arguably the world’s greatest modernist architect, a man famous for reinventing the roof. For the Nasher, he created an ingenious system composed of two parts: a barrel-vaulted roof-cum-ceiling made of 3-inch-thick, 1,200-pound glass panels and, suspended above the glass, a sunscreen of millions of tiny aluminum oculi aimed due north. The sunscreen was designed using the precise longitude and latitude of the Nasher, and it accounts for every hour of the Earth’s 365-day trip around the Sun. Standing in the gallery, a visitor looking up and to the south sees what appears to be a solid structure through the glass ceiling. Turning 180 degrees and looking north, though, he sees open sky. The system allows into the museum soft, full-spectrum light that is not only safe for artwork but creates ideal, transcendent viewing conditions. The roof system is patented, and Ray Nasher, who died in 2007, considered it part of the art collection that he gave to Dallas.
Strick saw the light hitting the lobby wall and looked north. Instead of open sky, he saw the new Museum Tower, where construction workers were installing glass panels on the lower levels of the 42-story building. Sunlight was reflecting off that glass and penetrating Piano’s roof. Nasher staffers took pictures of the light splotches and talked among themselves about whether they might affect an upcoming exhibit, but no one was ready to sound the alarm.