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As Curbed points out, 2015 was a very good year for starchitect Renzo Piano, what with the opening of the Whitney Museum and his inclusion in the final round of firms submitting for the Obama Presidential Library.

Piano is, of course, the architect of our own Nasher Sculpture Center, which claims neighbor Museum Tower is threatening artworks in the galleries, burning the plants in the center’s garden and blinding visitors with its glare. For years both parties have been trying to find a solution, but that all stopped last August. Piano has said it would be “impossible” for the museum building to make adjustments to offset the glare.

But he is having a bit of karmatic trouble lately in London, “where his plan for a 72-story skyscraper there, nicknamed the Tube, has been withdrawn due to pressure from locals and protests against the larger development,” according to Curbed. Complaint: it’s too tall and may impose on neighboring developments. The renovation of Paddington Station in West London would have included 200,000 feet of office spaces, restaurants and shops. Developer Irvine Sellar is a huge Piano fan: he previously worked with Piano to develop The Shard, London’s tallest tower and the anchor of another ambitious development. Shard II The Tube was expected to cost up to £600 million ($927 million). But this is an ouch: The Architects’ Journal headline reads: “Piano’s Paddington Pole pulled from planning. (more…)

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According to a post on tech and design blog Gizmodo, design firm REX was commissioned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund in 2012 to design a “third option” to buffer the glare from Museum Tower that was affecting the Nasher Sculpture Center.

From REX:

While any tower would reflect some light back into the Nasher’s galleries and impede views from the galleries to the sky, Museum Tower’s height, elliptical plan geometry, and highly reflective glass greatly exacerbate these problems. A perfect storm is born that will mire the Nasher and Museum Tower in pointed argument, and plague the aura of Dallas’s important cultural district.

The Nasher proposes Museum Tower cover its southwestern exposure with an external louver system. Museum Tower responds that this solution is not structurally feasible, is prohibitively expensive, and will render the residential units less commercially attractive, thereby jeopardizing the project’s profitability. Museum Tower notes that no alteration to its exterior will fully eliminate glare into the galleries, one of the Nasher’s demands.

Museum Tower proposes to redesign the Nasher’s oculi, such that the Tower is no longer visible through the sunscreen and its glare is blocked. The Nasher responds that the sunscreen was considered by Ray Nasher (who passed away in 2007) to be a significant part of the sculpture collection he gave to Dallas, and that adjusting the oculi will not improve Museum Tower’s negative impacts to the Nasher’s adjacent sculpture garden.

The New York firm was tasked with finding a way to reduce the glare’s effects on the landmark museum without altering either structure, cause as little impact on the real estate value of Museum Tower as possible, and be a positive addition to the Dallas Arts District. Joshua Prince-Ramus came up with was “Surya”: a dynamic sun shield that changed shape according to the seasonal light patterns reflecting off of the 104-unit condo tower.

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“Building a static blind of this dimension would block the commanding views from the multi-million dollar apartments on Museum Tower’s southwestern face, rendering them largely worthless,” the report from REX states. “Hence, the shade is pixelized into variably dimensioned umbrellas that “blossom” in the precise constellation needed at any given moment of the day, and retract when not.”

It’s a pretty cool design, which includes a cascade of umbrellas that open and close in succession as the sun moves across Museum Tower. I don’t know what kind of material would be involved, but considering our summers, it would have to be heat-proof and built to weather high winds.

A year ago, Willard Spiegelman wrote this about the proposed structure in the Wall Street Journal:

The second is a bizarre plan for an almost 400-foot construction—part sculpture, part machine—by the architect Joshua Prince-Ramus, to stand between the two buildings and to diffuse the light. It looks like a multidimensional arch that would open and close as needed in order to control glare. The tower people consider this a bold statement that will add to the panache of the arts district. The Nasher people say no: It will be wildly expensive ($20 million to $30 million), and it will overwhelm, as well as overshadow, their delicate museum, what Mr. Piano refers to as “my little gallery.” Goliath threatens David once more.

I wonder if, a year later, Surya isn’t looking a little more feasible. What do you think?

The tweet from the New York Times twitter feed says it all.

The saga over Museum Tower has officially become a national news story. One can only wonder if this is the result of Nasher architect Renzo Piano making good on his threat to “make trouble” for the owners of the high-rise condo development?

No one quite knows what to do. The condo developer and museum officials are at loggerheads. Fingers are being pointed. Mr. Piano is furious. The developer’s architect is aggrieved. The mayor is involved. A former official in the George W. Bush administration has been asked to mediate.

Sounds like things are heating up (pun intended!). Stay tuned …

 

Tom Luce, managing director and founding partner of Dallas law firm Hughes & Luce, has agreed to be the go-between as the Nasher Sculpture Center and Museum Tower look to find a solution to their very, very hot problem.

According to KERA’s Art+Seek blog, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, which owns the $200M Museum Tower, asked Luce to come on board. Here’s what Luce said:

“The Nasher Sculpture Center and the Museum Tower and the developers have jointly asked me to serve as facilitator to resolve all the open issues between the parties.  And they have affirmed to each other and to me that they want to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.  They have asked to help them do that and I’m pleased to undertake the mission.”

Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the very sensitive roof of the Nasher Sculpture Center.

If you’ve already read Tim Rogers’ May D Magazine cover story, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time that the Nasher and Museum Tower have tried to sort out their differences. Here’s how Rogers retells it:

At some point, Strick had had enough. He pushed back his chair and stood up. “As far as we’re concerned, you guys created the problem,” he said. Strick is a soft-spoken man of enormous restraint. He’d clearly hit the breaking point. “It’s your problem to fix. We’re not going to touch our building. We’re not going to study a solution on our side. That’s the end of the discussion.”

Rogers offers some follow-up to the story, in which Nasher architect Renzo Piano says he’ll make some trouble for Museum Tower if they don’t do something to rectify the impact on his creation.

Here’s what I want to know: What do you think is the best solution to the problem? Do you think Piano could win if this goes to court?

The May 2010 D Magazine cover story alleges that Museum Tower is ruining the Arts District.

UPDATE: You can read the words behind the headline on D Magazine’s website.

The tagline of the May 2012 cover story of D Magazine says it all: “How arrogance and greed made Museum Tower a threat to the heart of Dallas.”

Eesh. That’s pretty harsh.

The cover, which D Magazine editor Tim Rogers gave Twitter a sneak peek of yesterday, has a photo showing the glare bouncing off of Museum Tower at 3 p.m. According to the cutline, it’s a strong as “two and a half Suns.”

Knowing Rogers and the D Magazine staff, I’m sure there was a ton of research behind this story. If you’ll remember, Michael Granberry at the DMN wrote a story (paywalled, but worth a read) about the same issue. In Candy’s post covering the issue, she wrote:

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.”

So, Museum Tower is allegedly damaging a museum. I know the irony is not lost on any of our readers. Anyone else curious how “greed” and “arrogance” come into play?

This whole episode reminds me of my childhood. You see, the face of Museum Tower is convex, not unlike a magnifying glass. My brother, like all sadistic little boys do, took a magnifying glass to ants ambling across our parents’ driveway.

Except, the magnifying glass in this case is a 42-story highrise, and the ants are priceless artworks collected by one of Dallas’ most beloved benefactors.

Something tells me this won’t end well.