Great article in Thursday’s Dallas Morning News by Michael Granberry about an ensuing battle between Museum Tower and the Nasher Sculpture Center that we can only hope won’t lead to the l-word: lawsuit. Of course, the story is behind the paywall, and I highly recommend you read it. If not, here’s a synopsis:
Sometimes it’s tough to get along with your neighbors, especially if they encroach on your property. With homes, it can be noise or the neighbor’s dog who defecates in your yard without clean up, or something else obnoxious that disrupts your quality and peace of life.
Well, the Nasher Sculpture Center says it’s the newly installed glass at Museum Tower that’s frying up their gardens and art. The glass is sleek and curved and reflects the sun just so efficiently — too efficiently — that the Nasher folks claim the building’s oval shape actually “directs the glare from its exterior into the Nasher galleries.”
Further, they contend that the effects of the tower’s glass appear to violate a city code and contradict a 1998 covenant covering the tower site that was drafted before the death of museum founder Raymond Nasher in 2007. (The covenant expired in 2008.) “It all comes down to a very basic principle,” said Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center. “You don’t do harm to your neighbors. And if you find yourself doing harm, you fix it. You stop and you fix it. In this case, Museum Tower is causing harm to the Nasher and to the Arts District as a whole.”
Oh boy, we have five months to go before August and already the fun has begun. Museum Tower has firmly said they will be good neighbors. Crisis PR expert Merrie Spaeth who apparently represents the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, is on the job and wasted no time reassuring:
“We are completely committed to studying this issue and offering expert-based resolutions. This is a complex issue and we are confident that we are close to identifying a mutually beneficial solution. We have come to the table to partner with the Nasher and will continue to do so.”
So what’s the deal? It’s not as if the Nasher and half the country has NOT known about Museum Tower going up for what, four years now, and that is made entirely of glass? This is not a surprise structure that just showed up. The issue, according to Granberry’s fine reporting, first cropped up in September when the glass was installed. “Weird reflections “started to occur. At first, just a few, but then they became more pronounced.” Nasher director Jeremy Strick says “measurements taken in the garden in January found pools of light caused by Museum Tower to be 10 degrees hotter than surrounding areas. Measurements taken in March, he said, recorded the same pools as 25 degrees hotter.” August might fry the thermometer.
Such sharp increases “can damage or kill the plants,” Strick said. “We are looking at the potential effect of our garden being destroyed.” Dr. Robert E. Moon, the Nasher’s horticulturist, agreed in a report dated March 14.
On the other hand, I am seeing a way to perhaps create some cheap energy here… hmm.
Granberry reports that when Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the Nasher, he was operating under a 1998 covenant, which limited the height of the tower and reduced the glare. Originally, MT was supposed to be 21 stories tall but was stretched to 42 stories, the highest high rise in Dallas. The news touched MT’s original architect, Renzo Piano, who said he was “deeply disturbed by the damage being caused” to the Nasher.
“No building in an urban environment exists in a vacuum,” says Piano, adding the Museum Tower has “given us an example of how things can go wrong when the context of the city is ignored.”
Nasher officials complained to the city of Dallas, and Mary Suhm is concerned. Very concerned about this pickle:
“They’ve spoken to us. They told us about the pickle they’re in. It’s something I’m concerned about. I’ve been assured by both sides they’re going to work it out. It’s not something we have jurisdiction over.”
Jeremy Strick says it all started in 2008, months after Nasher’s death. MT’s four developers brought in a new architect, Scott Johnson. Strick says the new team unilaterally increased the “degree of allowable reflectivity to 35%”, which was not discussed with MT’s neighbor, and which Strict only learned about through a public filing.
The good news is they are communicating: four meetings since September, but Strick says thus far “solutions they recommend so far are changes to our building.”
That’s probably because MT commissioned their own engineering study which says the solution lies with Nasher. Nasher’s study, meantime, suggested a mesh fabric or louvers or something that would “span all 42 stories of Museum Tower and nullify the glare.”
The 15-page report by the owners of Museum Tower concedes the reflectivity of the glass, but says there’s really nothing you can do about it. Correction: THEY can do about it.
“No matter what the normal reflectivity is,” their report reads, “glass becomes very reflective at high angles of incidence. Changing the glazing will not help for these circumstances.”