What follows are the write-ups of two days we just spent
touring in these cities: the first in
Our plan was to go to
Commissioned in 1966, Louis Kahn’s fabulous building opened in 1972. It is a one story design, comprised of 14 parallel vaulted segments, arranged with two groupings of six vaulted segments each, flanking a four vaulted segment central group, with the entrance in the set back. Each segment is covered by a concrete barrel vault, 20 ft high, 100 ft long, 20 ft wide—but cycloid in shape. (“The cycloid is the locus of a point on the rim of a circle of radius rolling along a straight line.” From Wolfrom MathWorld; where a more complete discussion can be found: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Cycloid.html ) Each vault is split down the center with a skylight, under the length of which runs a bird’s-wing shaped, pierced aluminum reflector, designed to diffuse the daylight from the skylight onto the curved surface of the vault and thence softly into the room. Kahn described his intentions in a lecture given at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1969:
I felt that the light in the rooms structured in concrete will have the luminosity of silver. I know that rooms for paintings and objects that fade should only most modestly be given natural light.
This light will give a touch of silver to the room without touching the objects directly, yet give the comforting feeling of knowing the time of day.
Light therefore becomes an active part of the wonderful experience of the Kimbell. The silver illumination of the concrete vaults is juxtaposed with the warmth of the travertine of the walls of the galleries and the white oak trim
The ends of each vaulted section have a concrete band between the vault and a lower cycloid arch below. This concrete band is pierced by a variable height arched opening to the outside—higher in the center than at the bases, formed apparently by a circular upper arch, over the cycloid one beneath—punctuating the form with dazzling daylight. Some of the end sections (where there is no other vaulted section behind, as in the one opening on the restaurant courtyard, shown here to the left) have the space under the lower cycloid arch filled in with glass, while most of the end pieces are opaque.
There are two courtyards—the restaurant courtyard and a much smaller one on the opposite side of the building, both un-vaulted and open to the sky. The entrance is a “green room,” with rectangular planters filled with geometrically arranged trees that carry the architectural feel of the building out to meet the green nature of the surrounding park. On each side of the entrance itself are two long pools, constantly overflowing with water.
The outside of the building, while successfully capturing the rhythm and form of its interior spaces, is not nearly as completely satisfying as the totally pleasing and exciting interior. It should also be strongly noted that Kahn has created within his building an extremely successful space in which to display and enjoy art—something that is not always the case in museums.
And speaking of the art, the big surprise was to find that there were some incredible paintings in the Kimbell’s collection. One of the beauties of the Kimbell, is that they display its collection sparingly—which greatly adds to its power, but reduces the percentage of the collection that can be on display at any one time. I am told that there are several other world class masterpieces in the collection; but what follows is a selection of the most noteworthy ones on display as of our visit (2 May 2009). It should also be noted that the majority of the collection was not all that spectacular.
To begin with, there was a rather unusual—but
quite beautiful— Corot, View of Olevano,
1827 (Oil on paper affixed to canvas; at right) which
I was entranced by a lovely Pissarro, Near Sydenham Hill, 1871 (Oil on canvas; at left). It was in many ways typical of Pissarro; yet its palette was softer and less saturated then one would typically expect—but in a completely pleasing way.
There was a Cézanne that captured both our attention. The painting, Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir, c. 1895 (Oil on canvas; at right) was most unusual: it was almost sketch-like in the openness of its brushstrokes; it was particularly adventurous in its gestural use of color; and, while typical of the master in its reduction of the forms of the buildings to more geometric abstraction, and its moving them forward as flat areas on the surface of the painting, the two structures on the right side of the painting were quite unusual in their almost arbitrary form. I was a little troubled by Cézanne’s handling of the central three buildings: there was something disconcerting to me to the way they were canted—probably some vestigial attempt to reflect the realistic effect of the curvature and angle of the road rising around up the hillside on which the buildings were sited; but that felt inconsistent with his abstract reduction of the form for the painting. Nevertheless, it is a most powerful and beautiful work.
Finally, Matisse’s L'Asie, 1946 (Oil on canvas;
at left) was an interesting and satisfying painting of a type and period one
rarely sees in
All in all, the presence of great painting like these added an unexpected degree of artistic pleasure to what we had expected only to be an architectural experience.
Art Museum of Ft. Worth
In 2002, Tadao Ando’s
magnificent building for the
The northern section of the museum comprises three rectangular areas, sheathed in glass, that protrude out into the reflecting pond on their east ends—culminating in three Y-shaped concrete columns that support the flat, overhanging concrete roof slab. Most of the display space is inside these rectangular concrete forms, but the museum has very cleverly utilized the space between the glass curtain wall and the outer concrete wall—through which there are visitor circulation patterns—for display purposes, as, for example the marvelously placed sculptural work, “The Etruscan (L'etrusco),” 1976, Bronze, mirror at left). The statue faces an enormous mirror on the concrete outer wall of the space, looking at and touching its own reflection, with the glass curtain wall and the reflecting pool and park beyond reflected behind it. The effect is fantastic. Meanwhile, the two-story interiors of these three protruding rectangular spaces are also used to good effect: e.g., the clever and powerfully positioned sculpture by Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996 (Wood [ash and maple]; at right), which can also be viewed from the second floor interior balcony.
The main entrance to the museum offers no hint of what is to come once one passes through to the far side of the museum. Its interesting, but uninspiring southern façade opens into a very successful and impressive expansive, high interior space; and it is only once one has moved through to the glass wall at the far side of this space that one becomes aware of the reflecting pool and the floating grandeur of the rest of the museum beyond. It is a powerful effect; but I cannot help but wonder whether it is worth losing the general sense of the magnificent floating sides of the building. I think I should like to see that more totally surround the building, and to have the entrance to the building be through that. Actually, as things are set up, many visitors never find their way to the grassy hill that forms the park around the reflecting pool. All of the pictures of the exterior of the building (all taken from the Museum’s website), were taken from that park. Nevertheless, one has to figure out the unmarked route through the cafeteria to get out to this park, which seems quite odd.
All this having been said, Ando’s building is a masterpiece.
And the Modern’s collection is full of masterpieces!
There was a superb paper piece by Jasper Johns, Target, 1958 (pencil, wash and collage on paper mounted on cardboard; at right).
There were also spectacular drawings by Jackson Pollock, but unfortunately there were no images of them
available online. Among the Pollock
paintings, however, was this unusual but wonderful collage, Untitled
(Collage I), c. 1951 (Enamel, silver paint, and pebbles on illustration
board; at left).
There were a surprising number of great paintings by Robert Motherwell. Two terrific examples are Stephen's Iron Crown, 1981 (Acrylic on oil-sized canvas; at left below) and Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 1960 (Boucour Magna paint on canvas; on right below)
There is a simply sublime painting by Mark Rothko, Light Cloud, Dark Cloud, 1957 (Oil on canvas); but, unfortunately, the online image of it is so bad—and its color and subtleties so painfully distorted—that I cannot bear to reproduce it here. It was, perhaps, our very favorite work of art in the Modern.
Among the other treasures of this fantastic place were an unusual
but great Diebenkorn,
On the other side of the Kimbell from the Modern is The Amon Carter Museum, a building that consist of a 1961 original small building at the front of the museum, designed by Philip Johnson, and a 50,000 ft2 addition behind the original section, by Johnson, completed in 2001.
The 1961 part of the building is a loggia constructed of Texas shellstone, with slender columns of triangular cross-section, that increase in width as they rise from the ground level to the slightly curved tops of the five open bays that they create. (Because of the slender shape of the columns and the fact that they come almost to a point at their bottoms, they were derided as being “en pointe,” and the style of the building unaffectionately was referred to as “ballet modern.”) Behind this almost completely open façade is a curtain wall of tinted glass in bronze mullions—definitely a reference to the 1958 Seagram Building of Mies van der Rohe, in which Philip Johnson collaborated. Inside the curtain wall, Johnson created a two-story high entrance hall, with a warm teak wall articulated with bronze trim on the far side. In the original plan, there was a line of five small galleries on the first floor behind the teak wall, and a row of four offices and a library on the floor above the galleries. This originally was the entirety of the Amon Carter. Within three years, the museum needed to expand, and an addition was built behind the original Johnson structure; and in 1977 another, still larger addition was constructed. A dozen years later, it was decided to close the museum and do a major rebuilding to triple the museum’s size. Philip Johnson was hired to do the new building, and everything was torn down except for his 1961 structure, which was preserved virtually intact, except for the redesigning of the second floor offices as galleries, each with a balcony overlooking the main hall (the image of the entrance hall at the left is of the current arrangement, and the openings of the galleries can be seen in the second floor of the teak wall). In 2001, the Amon Carter reopened in its present form (image at right). While it is not particularly beautiful or successful from the outside, the new structure provides copious and attractive gallery space. The most beautiful element of the new building is its spacious, open central atrium: two stories high, it is topped with a flattened, slightly pointed, groin-vaulted dome, with ample openings at the end of each vault which admit sunlight from outside.
We did not expect to find any art we were interested in the Amon Carter’s collection, as it specializes in the art of the American West. Nevertheless, there was a show in progress entitled “High Modernism: Alfred Stieglitz and his Legacy,” which contained some wonderful photographs. While there actually were few Stieglitz photos in the exhibition, one of the ones in it was so sublime as to have made seeing it alone worth a trip to the museum.
And—last but certainly not least—was our lunchtime excursion to that pinnacle of Mexican food in this town renowned for this cuisine:
T. Garcia’s (
Now this homey, friendly place was extraordinary! It seats over 1,000—and it does a rip-roaring business. I am told there is a beautiful garden in which to eat, but it was raining while we were there, so I did not notice. What I did notice, however, was the food: it was totally delicious. We sampled a lot of dishes, and, while all of them were good, some of them were spectacular: our favorites were the Beef Chile Relleños (the best I’ve ever had anywhere), and the Chimichangas (an intensely delicious treat). It’s inexpensive and wonderful. What more could one ask for?
Our day spent walking in
Nasher Scupture Center (
In a way reminiscent of Louis
The garden contains a wealth of marvelous sculptures.
One of the most unusual aspects
of the Nasher’s collection is the number of
sculptures it has by Willem de Kooning. As
familiar as we are with de Kooning’s paintings, his
sculptures were relatively new to us.
(De Kooning turned to sculpture only in his
later years, after having settled in East Hampton on
The garden contains a very effective momumental Richard Serra sculpture, My Curves Are Not Mad, 1987 Cor-Ten Steel (two inwardly curving steel plates), and a quite beautiful Aristide Maillol, Night (La Nuit), ca. 1902-09 (cast 1960) Bronze (at left).
There is also a whimsical Picasso sculpture, Head of a Woman (Tête de femme), 1958 Gravel and concrete (at right), which I found to be delightfully reminiscent of Picasso’s pottery.
At the end of the garden, behind the terraced plantings, there is a granite path sloping inward toward the cross-sectional center of the garden, and descending to the entrance to one of the more creative and unusual sculptures in the Nasher, a “Skyscape,” by James Turrell, entitled, Tending, (Blue).
Here is the description the Nasher has on its website:
In the 1970s, James Turrell began a series of works that he describes generically
as "skyspaces." These are enclosed spaces -
rooms or free-standing
structures - open to the sky through rectangular or circular apertures in the
roof. While they appear to be architectural in nature, these spaces exist
solely to create the light effects and perceptual events that constitute Turrell’s art. This skyspace, Tending, (Blue), was commissioned as a site-specific project for the
Nestled in a planted berm at the northern end of the sculpture garden Tending, (Blue) is housed in a structure of rough hewn black granite blocks and contains two independently functioning, yet related, components: the entrance vestibule and the skyspace.
The skyspace provides a quiet, meditative setting in which one concentrates on the view of the sky through a 9 ½ x 9 ½ ft. opening in the ceiling. The rim of the aperture is knife-edge thin, which helps heighten the perception of the sky’s proximity. It often appears that the sky has been drawn like a sheet tightly across the opening. Italian limestone benches line the interior plaster walls of the skyspace. They are heated during the winter, and the skyspace is air-conditioned in warmer months, providing a comfortable viewing environment year round.
Washing the interior walls of the skyspace with various combinations of red, green, blue, and yellow light, Turrell conditions the eye in a way that affects one’s perception of the sky’s color, distance, and density. The sky seems to take on extraordinary colors and, framed by the knife-edge rim of the aperture, appears extremely dense and flat. At sunrise and sunset, when changes in the coloration of the sky are most rapid and pronounced, the experience can be especially mesmerizing. Just before sunrise, the lights inside the skyspace begin to change gradually, slowly shifting the perceptible hues and tones. At sunset the changes are more dramatic, eliciting vibrant colors and sharper contrasts. The light program becomes more active after sunset, cycling now more rapidly through a variety of colors, some seemingly impossible. The entire system is coordinated by an astrological clock that constantly monitors the changing times of sunrise and sunset at the specific geographic location of the skyspace. The interior lights of the skyspace do not normally change between sunrise and sunset. However, if a photo sensor registers the external ambient light below a certain level during this period, it triggers a brief, quickly paced "storm" cycle of saturated colors and abrupt lighting changes.
Turrell has programmed 10 different light cycles for the skyspace and is planning a total of 12. With such a variety of lighting cycles playing against constantly changing atmospheric conditions, Tending, (Blue) displays a seemingly endless variety of moods and experiences.
The Turrell Tending, (Blue) is amazingly successful: it creates a powerfully orchestrated experience, culminating in the skyscape room itself, where the knife-edged square cutout in the ceiling is visually intense in a way that is hard to describe and difficult even to imagine. Even once I knew what it was (which did not happen for some time), I could not believe it was simply a void in the ceiling; it much more appeared to be some intensely lighted square of frosted glass.
And while the collection at the Nasher far exceeds the museum’s capacity to display at any one time, the art on display in the gallery during our visit was diverse and wonderful.
There were a number of fantastic small de Kooning sculptures: for example, his delightful Clamdigger, 1972 Plaster (at left). There was also a very satisfying late painting, Untitled IX, 1984 Oil on canvas (at right), which is a terrific example of his late style.
There were a pair of interesting Giacometti nudes; a lot of sculptures by David Smith—some wonderful, many good, some not (and the painting of his typically bad); a great Lichtenstein, Double Glass, 1979-80 Painted and patinated bronze; and an excellent Calder mobile, The Spider, 1940 Painted sheet metal and steel rod.
There were three fabulous small Matisse sculptures, two of which were particular standouts: Large Seated Nude (Grand Nu assis), 1922-29 (cast 1952) Bronze (at left), and Madeleine I, 1901 (cast 1903) Painted plaster (at right).
Picasso’s Flowers in a Vase (Fleurs dans un vase), 1951-53 Painted plaster, terracotta and iron (below, left) was a great example of the joyful exuberance of his pottery style.
And finally, there was a very successful and very unusual Chamberlaine, Zaar, 1959 Welded steel, painted (below, right)—much more open and “un-compacted” than most of his works.
Opened in 1989, The
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is an elegant,
open building by I. M. Pei. While the plan’s underlying structure is
founded on his more typical rectilinear forms,
Pei relies more heavily here on
curving forms and spaces than he usually employs, giving the building an
organically expansive feel in a most successful way. As
The plan of the
The building program required a design that would accommodate two different, but related, functions. Of paramount importance is the performance hall.
In contrast to the necessarily closed character of the performance
hall, the surrounding public areas are transparent by day and night, offering
an inviting place to congregate when performances are not in progress. These
intricately glazed spaces have been designed to provide visual excitement
through the manipulation of light, movement, and changing perspectives. In this
The 50 ft. high Grand Lobby is filled with light from the
huge conic windows
The 85 ft. high concert hall itself, which seats just over
2,000 people, is an interesting combination of traditional and modernist: its overall shape and feel is that of a
symphony hall, but there are many modern elements and touches—particularly in
the warm wood panels of African and American cherry used in many places
throughout the hall. There are
acoustical canopies over the orchestra which are adjustable to the varying
requirements of symphonic music as well as smaller performances. In
Its forms and shape are the result of rigorous adherence to the acoustician's requirements for audience distribution, unobstructed sight lines, and acoustical excellence. Seating 2,062 people on four levels, the concert hall focuses on the performance platform and on the grand concert organ.
The space almost works well: it is an appealing combination of warm and soothing on the one hand, and stimulating and visually exciting on the other. Unfortunately, I ultimately found it far too busy and over-detailed to work for me. And there were certain details, like the over-abundance of large bright brass head rails on all the balconies, that felt almost tacky, in a Donald Trump sort of way.
Our Walking Tour of Downtown
Nancy and I spent a few hours walking the streets of downtown (and into the Historic District), before heading for
the Arts District. Here are some of the buildings we liked, in
the order of our walking tour—which began from in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, headed south as
far as the Magnolia Building, then
looped west to Bank of America Plaza,
and north past Fountain Place to the
Hunt Consolidated Tower, and back to
the Nasher Sculpture Center. You may note that there are an incredible
number of buildings by I. M. Pei &
Partners (since 1989, Pei Cobb Freed
& Partners) in
Situated on a nearly triangular block, two sides of this
surprisingly pleasing 45 story building have flat surfaces that follow the line of the streets
they face, while the hypotenuse side—which is beveled into nine window bays
that run the height of the building and give a satisfying texture when
juxtaposed to the smoothness of the other two sides—is on a more acute angle
than Akard street, which it faces, and the building
actually comes to a point at its northern end, whereas the site itself is
blunted at that end. HKS
Energy Plaza 1601 Byran Street, 1983
Located just north of
Thanks-Giving Square, this 49-story building by I. M. Pei & Partners
consists of three triangular structural sections at different heights: at the
base there is a 6 story high structure; the main body of the building then rises
as an equilateral triangle to 43 stories; with a final triangular shaft rising
another six floors higher. On the north side a vertical notch
carved into the tower rises to the 43rd floor.
It is OK—especially compared to some of the other really bad buildings
This rather large, bulky, 30 story building by I. M. Pei & Partners is actually far more pleasing than one might expect of such a massive volume. It is diamond shaped, and it has two V-shape vertical notches, which—while I usually do not like such contrivances—in this case create some interest and balance to an otherwise plain form—particularly as they play against the strong horizontal pattern of the articulation of the exterior surface of the building by the bands of the continuous tinted glass windows.
after the completion of the Adolphus Hotel,
Adolphus Busch hired the St. Louis firm of Barnett, Hayes, & Barnett (the same
firm that did the Adolphus)to design this 17 story
Gothic Revival early Dallas skyscraper, one block from the hotel to serve as an
office building for the hotel. Originally named the
Adolphus Busch (of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association) built
this 20 story hotel, which opened in 1912. Designed by the
The Magnolia Building 1401 Commerce Street, 1922
this 29 story Renaissance Revival building was completed in 1922, it was one of
the tallest buildings west of the
A giant version of the corporate logo of the Magnolia Petroleum Company, Pegasus, a giant flying red horse, attached to a 50 ft. high metal tower resembling an oil derrick, and brightly lit at night, was placed atop the Magnolia Building in 1934. It quickly became the most famous icon of the city, a landmark beloved by all.
At 921 ft. and 72 stories, the BOA Plaza Building is the tallest
Fountain Place (originally Allied Bank Tower) 1445 Ross Avenue, 1986
Our favorite skyscraper in Dallas, Fountain Place was designed by my Urban Age friend, Harry Cobb of I.M. Pei and Partners (since 1989, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners).
From the description on the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners website, in order to create for the client, “both a unique identity on the skyline and an inviting public presence at street level,” the firm came up with the following:
solution takes the form of a glazed prism informed by a rigorous and precise
geometrical procedure employing the diagonal of a double square in plan and
section. The resulting skyscraper contains office floors of 36,000 to 1,500
s/f, with an average of 21,000 s/f. At the tower's base, half of the building
volume is carved away up to a height of sixty feet, allowing the water garden
with its ordered forest of bald cypress trees to flow through beneath. This
eventful garden, designed by the landscape architect Dan Kiley,
is the essential heart of
The 60-story, 1.3-million ft2 office
tower is clad in green glass, and its appearance changes depending on the
from which it is viewed. This sculpted prism-- Harry Cobb as described
it as “What's left after carving into a square prism”—begins as a parallelogram in plan at the ground level, becomes a
square on levels 6-13, and, beginning at the level of the 14th
floor, has two huge triangular sections on opposite sides of the building which
are cut into the building’s volume, gradually sloping upward and inward, and
ending at a point from which the gabled roof of the upper stories springs. At the apex of the structure, in between its
two gables’ ends, is a central ridge line.
Overall, it is a rich, graceful, and vibrant form, exhibiting a feeling
of novelty and change, but with a high degree of balance and stability. Both Nancy and I felt ourselves wishing that
the gables were not isosceles
triangles (they may even be an
equilateral ones, I do not know)—feeling that asymmetry in this roof feature
would have been far superior, and would have been a solution that would have
been both richer and actually more in keeping with the richness of the
experience of the building. (Of course,
in deference to the architect, the sides of the gables often appear in the ever changing experience of the building to be of unequal length—and that may
ultimately be truer to the way the structure works.) The building powerfully commands a visual
place in the
There are two very effective entrances to the building, created by undercutting its north and south corners (q.v., image at type left of the description). The triangular shape created above each entrance is strongly punctuated by the glass-clad “leg” which the building seems to place down to root itself—to “take a stand”— at the apex of each overhang; and the height and scale of each opening announces a monumental importance to the building one is about to enter. Both entrances are approached through plazas containing a series of descending pools and waterfalls, highlighted by bald cypress trees, positioned in round concrete planters. The organic and biological feel of these wonderful plazas (designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley)—with their trees, water, and rounded forms—create a marvelous counterpoint to the flatness and shiny modernity of the building itself. They also create an inviting and relaxing environment in which for people to congregate—particularly in the larger, flatter expanse of the northern entrance plaza. The only slight quibble I have with the lower floors of the building is that inside the impressive height of the glass entrance wall, the lobby itself does not fully rise to its height; but rather the upper floor is filled in with a series of glass-cornered offices, the points of which go right up to the curtain wall of the entrance—creating and overhand that diminishes the grandeur of the lobby.
But, in summary, this is one terrific building!
Hunt Consolidated Tower 1900 Akard Street, 2007
This new 15 story building,
designed by TBG,
The landscaping created by TBG is quite successful. There is a fountain and infinity edge reflecting pool that wraps around the front of the building, and these water elements are juxtaposed with desert plantings for a most entrancing effect. The narrow plaza around the building is also dotted with bald cypress trees and massive live oaks, which restores a sense of fertile balance to the area.
Trammell Crow Center 2001 Ross Avenue, 1984
final building on our walk, just opposite the south side of the
At street level, the building is surrounded with landscaping which includes numerous tall trees a sculpture garden. On the north side of the tower is a two floor pavilion which houses the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The entrance through the Crow Collection building—up an attractive flight of stairs with a small, descending fountain of running water (not unlike an extremely miniaturized version of the stair-fountain at Villa Lanta, near Viterbo, in Italy)—works nicely, and leads one into the rather grand, high ceiling lobby of the building (which would be far more attractive, however, with less gaudy trim—especially the polished brass).
And, finally, my restaurant
suggestion (the one place we ate in
Located in the funky, gentrifying
neighborhood of Deep Ellum, Local was an amazing find.
It is in the old
But it is the food that makes Local so special. It is basically American cuisine, with an ever-so-subtle Southwestern character. Chef Tracy Miller clearly has many classic culinary influences—and knowledge; but the preparations she creates are clearly contemporary. She clearly uses only the best and freshest ingredients, and combines them in ways that are both clear and balanced. From the petite soup amuse, to the cranberry thumbprint before leaving, everything was delicious. Local clearly deserves the fact that it has the highest “Food” rating score in the Dallas Zagat’s.