Nasher Sculpture Center is Dandy!

December 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Went to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a few days ago. My primary reason was to watch the RedWings beat the Stars (which they did 7-3) and then to get some time at the center. I got exactly 30 minutes.

It’s ok though, the nice guy at the door charged me 3 bucks and I spent four of those minutes talking about how Michigan needed to get Miles or Harbaugh after they fire Rich Rod. I’m not saying I hope Michigan loses Saturday, I just can’t stand an offense that is so amazingly unpredictable fronting a defense that has been disregarded as important. But enough.

There are three things I want to mention about Nasher. The building, the James Turrell “Tending”¬† installation, and the landscaping.

So, of course, the building is gorgeous – kudos to Renzo Piano again. Love the guy so much. What he does well here, and why I like the Kimball so much, is he controls light and atmosphere with the building. Piano is amongst the masters of the architectural engineer. The details for his vaulted glass and steel roof assembly is so beautiful that it is their brochure! The great thing about the building itself is that it can be appreciated quickly, as I had to prove. It leaves a great deal of separation to itself and yet is tied together so nicely by material and craft.

The second thing that really blew me away was the landscape work of Peter Walker. I read that Piano had envisioned apple orchards but was talked out of it. Good idea, because I’m not so sure how well apples do here in the Texas spring and summer. Without going into great detail, the layout follows from the buildings five vaults and lines geographically well with reflecting pools, stands of bamboo, lined giant Oak, and sculptures that are the main focus. The two features I’d like to point to are at the back of the garden, the terraces and the pools. At the back of the garden Walker offers such a great layering views between the garden and the busy street. He does this by placing various yet measured planting of whimsical deciduous trees such as weeping willows in the forefront while terracing back into brushy coniferous trees at the back. In between there are small flowering plants and dark stone walls that look right out of a Irish¬† sheep wall. The views are just endless, and with the wind blowing it was like a walk in Tim Burton film. The two pools that ran horizontal to the entrance of the James Turrell exhibit also caught my eye. One relecting pool was bubbling and moving, adding that sound of water to bounce off the walls. Another pool between it and the entrance was calm. Now, either the circulation was busted or it was intentional. If it was intentional I’d like to say it was like taking two turns into the sanctuary at the Unity Temple…. and the Turrell installation was the sanctuary.

I will be honest, I’m not a big fan of the lighting schemes James Turrell is well known for. I thought his work at the Chinati Foundation was really dissapointing. Maybe it was a bad day. But his work at Nasher was spectacular – top notch. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get to see Roden Crater, so this was the closest thing to it I’ll see for a while. It is great, almost excellent. The entry had a dark right turn, with some lighting accents/hues for a threshold, and the blasted doors blocked the sounds of everything outside. The execution of the entire chamber was just – well – in a word – beautiful. The sky was blue as the ocean and after having rained all morning I couldn’t help but look at the drainage system he had designed. Everything had a slight slope and the water always found a one inch seam to fall through and be carried out. The noise of Dallas comes wafting in like a fresh pie, helicopters and all, and just bounces off the white walls and gray granite seats. I always wonder how open air works of art can last, but the Pantheon seems to be holding up.

In a very short period I gained an appreciation for what Dallas has to offer architecturally. There is always a lot to hate or be disgruntled in – but from the arts district I can see some good things.

I’d like to do another little piece of an old house I came across that was holding like a tin soldier to the mammoth towers that loomed over it. A rickety porch, an old Ford Ranger, and a bleached plastic Santa stood post as the big money grabbed it’s neighbors and waited for the moment to add to the Dallas skyline.


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