Steve Brown Makes a Few (Smart) Reflections

Museum-Tower1Last week, you may recall, I published architect Scott Johnson’s “open letter” in response to Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster’s blistering –searing — scorching — burning –review of Museum Tower, calling it a “mean girl” who squirted the first ketchup packet at The Nasher. And Lamster was all over Museum Tower for being so removed from the street and life of the Arts District except for, well, housing the folks who live there.

Then last Thursday, Steve Brown asked us all to take a good look at Dallas’ skyline. He asked us to imagine any buildings with reflective glass gone —  the silver glass Hyatt Reunion Hotel, the 72-story Bank of America Plaza, Dallas’ tallest skyscraper, the green rocket Fountain Place tower, the 56-story Renaissance Tower, the gold glass KPMG Center and Bryan Tower and Thanksgiving Tower on Elm Street. Let me add to this the Dallas Federal Reserve and the gold Campbell Center office towers on Central Expressway built with a microscopic coating of real gold in 1972. So reflective are they that almost every driver steering a car on North Central, myself included, has cursed their golden reflective glare from the western sun. Dallas as a city grew like an adolescent boy’s growth spurt in the 1970′s to the mid-1980′s, and mirrored glass ruled. The 72-story Bank of America Plaza (then InterFirst Plaza) opened as the tallest building in Dallas in 1985, peak of the real estate boom. My brother-in-law, Craig Evans, worked in it.

But the disagreement between Museum Tower and The Nasher has led the City of Dallas to consider restrictions on reflective glass as a building material in Dallas.

Steve Brown wisely says that makes about as much sense as outlawing corny dogs at the State Fair.

Mirrored-glass towers have been part of the Dallas skyline for more than 30 years.

The City is tossing around limited reflectivity of new buildings to just 15 percent, basically regular glass plus a bit more.

And as we said last week, it’s the architects themselves who don’t want these regulations passed. If you remove reflective glass as a building material, you leave architects with no choice but to specify dark-tinted windows (much like the cars we occasionally see) to reduce interior heat. We would have buildings of brick or stucco with few windows. Or worse:

“It would result in a whole lot of dark tinted glass buildings, which is very undesirable,” said Kirk Teske of the American Institute of Architects’ Dallas chapter. “It would make compliance with the energy codes very difficult, and it would reduce the number of our glasses significantly.”

I happen to be in the Texas Hill Country right now where the only reflectivity issue is how brilliantly the sun reflects in the western sky over the ponds. We were discussing this with some New Yorkers at lunch yesterday, as I tried to explain the Nasher and Museum Tower dilemma. New Yorkers don’t understand how a building in a major city could ever expect not to have a taller building going up splat next door to it.

My NYC friend, a brilliant publicist, said the solution was simple: Museum Tower should offer some of it’s square footage, base floors perhaps, or maybe it’s campus, to house the damaged art, those pieces damaged by the reflective glare. Parts of Museum Tower  –”It uses the word “Museum” in it’s name, right?”– could thus become an extension of the Nasher, a museum itself.

Not sure that would work, I said, since the tower is itself a work of art and consists of private homes. Would homeowners want to come home to a bunch of strangers on the ground floor of their homes tootling about? Also, this would not solve the roof issue. I went on to explain that the Nasher’s roof is a work of art itself, and the Nasher did not accept Museum Tower’s offer to re-orient the oculars.

Oh, she said. Think harder, I said.

 

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