Architecture & Design

How Arrogance And Greed Made Museum Tower a Threat to The Heart of Dallas


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.

Continue reading the article here.


  • Mandy

    Wow. This article breaks my heart. I hope something can be done to protect the Nasher.

  • Laray

    Excellent story: one of those intricately webbed stories that leaves a person dumbfounded. Aren’t architects in the business of planning? Don’t they spend inordinate amounts of time concentrated on the probable outcomes of their creations?

    As Rogers points out, Piano did his due diligence in designing a finely tuned roof based on the movements of the sun. Johnson appears to have given little reflection to reflection. Essentially the Museum Tower Committee has built a giant magnifying glass that pops ants. Or in this case, other buildings, art and plant life. It is a situation that must be remedied quickly. Nobody wants to be the kid caught with the magnifying glass when everybody else reaches the conclusion popping ants is not nice.

  • Wow. The poor grammar in this article breaks my brain.
    “than”, not “then”.
    There are enough dangling participles here to strangle a cat. Who proofread this?!?

  • Palladio

    The hubris of modern architecture is laid bare for all to see.

  • Darren

    I’m very surprised the City of Dallas does not have building codes or ordinances that prohibit new developments from negatively impacting its neighbors.

  • Ty

    This is a result of the Dallas Fire Dept/Police Dept. pension fund scrapping the original architects plan when they bought him out. Read the full article (3-4 Pages) in the D Mag.

  • mickeygil1

    I am so glad that there was not a bit of Arrogance or Greed coming from the Nasher side of this ordeal. Hey, jack asses there will be no Policemen or Firemen living in the Museum Tower promise.

  • Charles Laffiteau

    What person in their right mind would want to live in a building known as the “Solar Cooker”? I can imagine a conversation that goes like this: Woman to male or female friend, “Where do you live?” Friend, “I live in the Museum Tower.” Woman, “Do you mean the building that cooks everything in the museums around it?” Friend, “Oh yeah, THAT building.” Woman, “OMG, well I hope you don’t take too much of a loss when you try to sell it. Even in a good real estate market a property like that will be hard to sell.” Friend, “Yeah I am already painfully aware of that. I would like to sell it but I’m not sure I could even give it away.” The Pension Fund needs to face the reality that selling (or even renting) units in the “Solar Cooker” is going to become virtually impossible unless they pony up the money to fix the problem they created for the “Museum” in their current name. No Dallasite or even an ‘out of towner’ with any real estate savvy would ever buy a unit in that place. Maybe they could find some renters but even then they would have to advertise rental rates below what other high rise apartments in the area rent for. But even if you rented, who wants to acknowledge they live in a “Solar Cooker” rental unit?