Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 55/60: Dallas Museums

My impression after one day of touring in Dallas is that it is an architecture-happy town, and that it has grown at a phenomenal pace in the decade since our previous visit. There are several more skyscrapers downtown with innovative profiles and materials, and several arts-type buildings by big-name architects. In one day, within walking distance of each other in the Cultural District, we photographed buildings by I.M. Pei, Norman Foster, and Renzo Piano.

We parked at the Dallas Museum of Art but we started by walking to the Myerson Symphony Center, which was designed by Io Ming Pei—his actual name is not that hard—pronounced 'Yo Ming.' Anyway, the building had elegant curves. Then we hiked around the corner to see a first rate, and huge, sculpture by Mark DiSuvero, located on a rise where traffic on a busy highway passes it. This put us in an awkward position behind a huge events center, meaning we had some extra walking. It was about 80 degrees at 11:00. Part of the events center is the Winspear Opera House, by Norman Foster and Partners. We enjoyed the reflecting pools and bold lines of the building. Then we had to hike back to the museum. We were steamy and gritty by the time we arrived.

We took a break in the museum's snack bar. I had an iced latte and fresh out of the oven ("not even wrapped yet") chocolate chip cookies. Dan cleverly drank iced water.

I am happy to say that Dallas has improved their collection quite a bit since we were here. Their American collection and their contemporary collection are pretty good; European work, both the old masters and the 20th C. masters, is spotty, but does include some good ones. Their sculpture garden has a small but tasteful collection of modern works.

Dan and I worked separately and very intensely all day. We had salads for lunch in the museum's café. Then Dan wanted to go over to the Nasher Sculpture Center about 2:00 to get good light on the outdoor sculpture. 'I said no way am I going out with the sun so high. I'll go about 4:00.'

The Nasher is just across the street from the art museum; you can buy a joint ticket. It turns out there are lots of trees in the garden creating a much appreciated island of shade. It was about 88 degrees when I got there. The garden has all the big-name sculptors: di Suvero, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Serra, de Kooning—a dozen or so pieces.

The garden at the Nasher is part of an architectural scandal here in Dallas. In response to the development of the Cultural District, some developer built a sky-scraper, but really high, called Museum Tower, nearby. The problem is the same one I brought up in Oklahoma City: too much glass. In this case, sun reflecting off the west side of the building raises the temperature of the garden 20 degrees above its surroundings. The woman who explained it to me said, "So if it's a hundred degrees, it's 120 degrees in here." Oh dear. Just that morning she had read in the newspaper that they had decided to add a louvered screen on the west side that can adjust with the sun. It will only cost $6 million. They should get that money back from the architect, because he should have been able to anticipate this problem; that's what architects are hired for.

The museum building of the Nasher is one of Renzo Piano's best works. The lines are simple and elegant. The light is lovely. The building is even less intrusive than his usual work.

Our Hilton Garden Inn is located right by a busy off-ramp/on-ramp of a freeway. It is quite hard to even get into the parking lot. Driving somewhere for dinner seemed out of the question, as was walking. So we were forced to eat in the wholly uninspiring café at the hotel. I was interested to see how Dan took control of the situation; we were the only customers. He took the table closest to the TV and demanded the remote so he could choose his news commentator; he made them turn off the loud music. The menu was limited and unappealing; deep-fried and over-sized. Dan made the waitress get the cook to negotiate a meal: a hamburger patty with a double helping of mixed veggies. The cook made a nice job of it. It was a lot like home.

I feel bad that I didn't mention the Superstorm that hit the North East a few days ago. We have watched the news coverage closely. We had just visited some of those places. Also we have friends in New York City, who are okay. Of course, we are very sad and upset, same as everyone, and worried about the future. Can't help comparing this with the big storm in New Orleans. These coastal places are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming.


  1. When you rattle off half a dozen artists' or architects' names, I always want to dash off to the Web and look at their works. But at a quarter to one a.m., I should be in bed. I still have a bunch of emails to clear before I can even do that! I'm always a day late and a dollar short, it seems. Keep the updates coming.

  2. Oops. "When you rattle ..." above was from me, Jean de M.