Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center was designed with natural sunlight in mind. A roof covered by pierced aluminum screens allows dappled light to enter its art galleries in subtle warmth. The outdoor sculpture garden is open to the elements and a specifically-planted landscape by Peter Walker reaps the benefits of the Texan sun.
Since its construction in 2005, the museum has become an icon of the Dallas Arts District. In 2011, a 42-story condominium building went up across the street, banking on the popularity of Piano’s art haven. While the glazed curved glass facade of “Museum Tower” offers million dollar views of the museum below, it burns the artworks and plants with a directed glare.
Now, a pair of New York–based architects might have a solution.
A bitter debate between the buildings has ensued; but New York–based design studios REX and Front Studio Architects have been commissioned to propose a solution. Situated over the dividing street, Surya, a 400 foot tall light-responsive sunshade sculpture, will balance the Nasher’s need for shade and the Tower’s client promise of a clear view of Piano’s architecture.
Tracking the movement of the sun on Museum Tower, the firms have determined when the glare on the art center is at its peak intensity. The Surya sculpture is a free-form thin aluminum ring, its shape determined by ability to block the most reflected light while being the least intrusive on views from the built environment. Spokes to the sculpture’s center support sun-reactive panels, which expand under harsh glare and retract in normal conditions. The sculpture will prevent continued sunlight damage to the works and gardens of the Nasher Sculpture Center, and is hoped to end museum-goers’ constant need for sunglasses.
In the debate over which party should take action—the museum or the owners of the neighboring tower—it seems that Museum Tower has made a concrete step for resolve. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Tower’s developer, appointed REX and Front to invent the Surya design and to construct it in the physical middle ground between the two structures.