Notes From the the Norman Foster Talk at the Nasher

Krista and I just returned from the luncheon and talk given by Norman Foster at the Nasher. He said a few things of note about his Winspear Opera House, but the real action was at our table, whereat were seated Marion and Nash Flores and Kevin Moriarty. We discussed fashion, drinking in downtown, and rock and roll. Notes after the jump.

— Marion is the CFO of Vistas, the virtual-advertising firm. She also happens to be married to Nash Flores, a partner in Ceres Capital Partners and the guy who brought in the millions to renovate Booker T. Washington. Marion is one of the coolest women I’ve met. We had a good talk about the future of print media. I learned that she and Nash like Nine Inch Nails. Also, for a time, they flew around the country following the Smashing Pumpkins. I’m not making this up. If you know the Floreses, this might surprise you. It did me.

— The Floreses have a daughter named Whidden. She started a band named Wonderbuugg. Right now, Wonderbuugg is on a tour of the East Coast, with some very limited corporate sponsorship hard won by Marion. Again, if you know the Floreses, this might surprise you. Or maybe if you only know them a little bit, it would surprise you. If you know them well, maybe it’s not surprising at all. I don’t know.

— Marion told me that Wolfgang Puck will cater the food at the Winspear cafe, confirming a rumor that I’ve heard now from several other sources.

— Delores and Larry Barzune also sat at our table. Delores is on more arts boards than you can shake a Pritzker at, and the couple lived for years next door to the Winspears. Delores informed me that Bill Winspear’s father, Francis, donated money to make possible a concert hall in Edmonton, Alberta, but that Francis, too, died before he could enjoy the fruits of his philanthropy.

Kevin Moriarty was wearing a tie. The man is known as a jean-sneakers-jacket guy, so I asked him: regarding the neckwear, WTF, mate? He said if a Pritzker winner is present, he generally goes with the tie.

— More important, though, Kevin said his DTC crew is struggling with the same issue we at D Magazine are facing: there is no decent bar within walking distance of the Arts District. Listen, I know what you’re saying, Dali. And, yes, Stephan, I know you’re right across the street from us now. But I don’t want to pay $10 for a Knob Creek on the rocks. The DTC won’t move its offices into the Wyly until December, but Kevin, too, has been searching for a pub-style casual joint where drinks can be drunk for a working man’s price, where work can be accomplished when need be, where folks can relax. We’ve got plenty of showplace, bring-the-out-of-towners fancy joints. But we don’t have a bar. A BAR bar. Basically, we need an Old Monk down here. Are you listening Feargal?

— Okay, on to Norman Foster. He began his remarks by saying how wonderful it was to sit at Nancy Nasher’s table and talk with her about her namesake sculpture center. He declared it a building of “significant beauty.”

— Foster acknowledged that he’d been making the rounds in town, flapping his gums (my words). He said he didn’t want to repeat himself. So he quickly opened it up to a Q&A. Such a move can often lead to disaster — dull, shallow questions. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The audience proved equal to the challenge.

— Q: “How do you balance the demands of running such a large company with the time needed to be creative?” A: (in so many words) “I’m pretty awesome. Also, I’ve gotten to the point where I can now leave all that company-running stuff to other people. I have more creative time now than ever. I’m happier than ever.”

— Q: [Can’t recall what elicited the following answer.] A: He has people working for him all over the globe. Traditionally, you can divide those people into groups geographically or based on type of project. He rejects that notion. He lets his people compete for the same projects, which drives accountants batty. They see it as inefficient. But Foster has learned that when people are passionate about something, they’ll work around the clock. Competition breeds passion. Also, a project like the Winspear is a marathon. It has taken eight years since they were invited to bid on the project. He has learned that he has to let his people sprint, too. Like the exhibit at the Nasher. Putting that together took a couple weeks. But his people loved doing it. (By the way, it’s a great exhibition. If you’re the least bit interested in AR-kee-tecture, as Foster pronounces it in his British accent, you need to check it out.)

— Q: “What’s one thing that turned out better than you expected at the Winspear?” A: (in so many words) “The acoustics. [Which got a laugh, given reports from what happened with his mic last night.] It really delivered. When you look at what happened at the Royal Opera House, you see what can go wrong. They were delayed six weeks. Forget all the computer modeling. You never know what’s going to happen until you actually try it out. The great thing is we didn’t have a tragedy.” The last line got a good laugh.

— Foster excused himself for being anxious to leave. He and his wife are headed to Marfa today, and there are apparently no lights on the runway out there. They had to get moving.


  • Christine

    Never been there, but winder if sunset lounge on Ross has what it takes to be the pub we crave? Or, there is a pub with brick patio outside landmark building on Lamar that coud use some patronage

  • downtowner

    Tim, can’t you guys walk the few blocks to Main Street? There are a few great bars to have an after-work drink that aren’t ultralounges, including Sol Irlandes (Main Street), City Tavern (Main Street), Ravenna (Main Street), Press Box (Elm/Ervay), and Porta di Roma (Main Street). Beer selection isn’t great at Sol’s, Ravenna or Porta, but City Tavern and especially Press Box have a good selection. None are pubs like the Old Monk, but you should check them out before deciding that there are no nearby downtown watering holes that will suit your needs.