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SURYA
Dallas, Texas

KEY AWARDS International Design Awards, Bronze Award, 2014
CLIENT Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund
PROGRAM 
400-foot tall, dynamic, sunlight-responsive sculpture to block glare from Museum Tower onto the Nasher Sculpture Center
SURFACE AREA 5,360 m² (57,600 sf)
COST Confidential   
STATUS Concept Design, 2012
ARCHITECT REX/Front
PERSONNEL Adrian Betanzos (F), Adam Chizmar (R), Danny Duong (PL), Richard Green (F), Ramon van der Heijden (F), Anthony Kantzas (F), Joshua Ramus (R), Marc Simmons (F), Yalin Uluaydin (F)
CONSULTANT Magnusson Klemencic

In 2003, the Renzo Piano-designed Nasher Sculpture Center was opened to world-wide acclaim, joining the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Dallas Museum of Art in generating critical mass for the Dallas Arts District.

An innovative cast aluminum sunscreen—specifically tuned to the building’s longitude and latitude—floats above the Nasher’s glass roof. The sunscreen’s patented egg crate-shaped “oculi” allow controlled natural light to filter into the galleries and provide a dramatic view to the sky when looking north. 

The sunscreen’s unique design appears to have overlooked the Dallas Arts District’s master plan, designed by Sasaki Associates and adopted by the City of Dallas in 1983. This plan zoned an “as of right” skyscraper on the site due north of the Nasher, directly in the line of sight through the Nasher’s oculi.

In 2011, Museum Tower—a 42-story, 170 m (560 ft) condo tower—began construction on this site, delivering the promise of much-desired residential activity into the Dallas Arts District. 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.

In 2012, the team of REX and Front was commissioned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund (DPFPF)—Museum Tower’s developer—to explore a “third option,” one that would not require changing the construction of either Museum Tower or the Nasher.

From the outset, REX/Front and DPFPF agreed that any third option had to achieve three objectives:

1. completely protect the Nasher’s galleries at all times of the year;

3. cause as little impact to the real estate value of Museum Tower as possible; and

3. be a positive addition to the Dallas Arts District in its own right. 

It was acknowledged that any third option would not be modest given the height of Museum Tower and its close proximity to the Nasher, and might serve to show why alterations to either Museum Tower or the Nasher would be more prudent. 

To avoid simply repeating the problems created by Museum Tower, the intervention must be composed of a matte, light-diffusing material with a neutral grey tone.

To determine the intervention’s extents, the reflections from Museum Tower were mapped at each time of day for every day of the year onto a vertical plane running down the center of Olive Street, the road separating Museum Tower and the Nasher. (Follow links to the left to see these sun analyses).

This analysis circumscribed the silhouette required to block all reflections, a shape roughly 343 feet tall by 168 feet wide and elevated 57 feet above grade.

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. 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. 

A perimeter ring is constructed to hold the umbrellas in place. To reduce its size, weight, and cost and to provide an armature on which to fix the umbrellas’ stems, the ring is transformed into a bicycle-wheel structure.

Supporting the intervention directly from below is unfeasible, as it runs down Olive Street’s right-of-way that houses significant city infrastructure. Supporting it from either side of the street would block all sidewalk access. Hence, it is supported at its hub by a tripod reaching from a parking lot adjacent to Museum Tower.

The result is a 400-foot tall, dynamic, sunlight-responsive sculpture which blocks glare from Museum Tower onto the Nasher and which equally serves as an identifying symbol for the Dallas Arts District. Each moment of day, every day of the year, the sculpture generates a unique composition of “blossoms.” 

On November 19, 2012, The Wall Street Journal dubbed REX/Front’s proposal “a bizarre plan.” But one doesn’t make modest plans in “Big D.”

Image Credits: 1,14,15: Luxigon

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