No one is more in love with the Nasher family, the Nasher Sculpture Center or the people who run it than I am. No one admires more the transcendence accomplished there every day than I do. So I am as horrified as many others are by the harm that Museum Tower, a 42-story condominium closeby, is inflicting on this magnificent setting for Twentieth Century sculpture.
Already one work of art has been destroyed by the tower, which loomed over a magical enclosure by James Turrell designed for a radiant experience of the sky. That’s gone. What you get instead is a view of the condo’s reflecting glass, now raising temperatures in and outside the galleries, concentrating the light of the sun in ways that can scorch the plants, damage the paintings and dispirit the visitors hoping for repose.
It’s too late now to cut the building back to its original plan for 21 stories, or the second proposal for two 21-story structures. Besides, the problem isn’t the height half so much as it is the glare from the reflecting glass that from the beginning was a problematic choice.
The question is why was this wholly un-called- for decision permitted by City Hall? Granted, no changes in the zoning for height were needed, though height restrictions in the Arts District beg for reconsideration. But, that aside, surely this golden territory, repository of enormous effort and expense, promising land of plenty for developers hoping to cash in on the cachet of culture, deserved more official attention than it received in this instance.
To his great credit, Mayor Mike Rawlings has leapt into the breach, naming Tom Luce, an eminently fair-minded lawyer, to mediate the situation. But where action also is need is in the Department of Development Services, which must return to its original role in city planning with appropriate powers to protect and promote a built environment that enhances, not diminishes, Dallas.
A good place to start would be in the Design Studio, run by Brent Brown and initially created at City Hall with private funding to guide growth along the Trinity River. Surely this work, joined with a newly invigorated Department of City Planning, could be extended to cover other areas of Dallas, with the authority necessary to prevent calamities such as the one occasioned, so heartbreakingly, so unnecessarily, by Museum Tower, whose owners themselves would have benefitted from enlightened guidance.