Situated in downtown Dallas at the base of the city’s skyline, the Nasher Sculpture Center represents Raymond D. Nasher’s vision to create an outdoor “roof-less” museum that serves as a peaceful retreat for reflection of art and nature and public home for his collection of 20th-century sculpture. The goal was to produce a structure of lasting significance that will sustain the legacy of the collection-- a kind of noble ruin reminiscent of the solidly-grounded archaeological sites of ancient civilization and their continuity through time.
From the outset, the idea was to create a quiet oasis amidst the busy activity of the urban center. The resulting design encompasses an indoor gallery and outdoor sculpture garden. The gallery building features long walls faced in two-inch wide slabs of Italian travertine that define five, equal-sized, parallel pavilions. The exterior stone is rough and pitted, while the interior walls have been smoothed and honed to remove the weathered outer layers, exposing the creamy surfaces beneath that will serve as a quiet background for the sculpture. The understated architectural palette endows the building with an enduring quality, ensuring that the timeless works of sculpture within will be appreciated for generations to come.
Building upon the concept of a “museum without a roof,” the building’s barrel-vaulted ceiling features delicate glass panes suspended atop narrow steel ribs and supported by thin, stainless steel rods. An innovative, cast-aluminum sunscreen device, specifically designed for this project, floats above the glass and allows controlled natural light to filter into the galleries, eliminating the need for artificial illumination much of the time. The three central pavilions on the main floor serve as galleries, while the outer two accommodate offices and public space, including a store and cafe. The lower level houses an additional gallery for the display of environmentally and light sensitive sculptures and works in other mediums, as well as an indoor auditorium that opens onto an outdoor terraced garden.
A seamless flow of space between the galleries and sculpture garden provides visual continuity throughout the site. The gently sloping garden enclosed by travertine-clad walls excavated slightly below street level produces an archaeological landscape that is in sharp contrast to the urban context. A variety of foliage, including cedar elms, live oaks, crepe myrtles, and willows, define intimate viewing spaces and create virtual “outdoor rooms.” Installations from the Collection rotate throughout the gallery and garden periodically, contributing a lively quality to the peaceful atmosphere of this unique public space.
Links to pages in this section:
Nasher Sculpture Center Garden-Side Facade, Mark di Suvero's Eviva Amore in the Foreground
Bird's Eye View of Nasher Sculpture Center' Downtown, Arts District Site
Rendering of Nasher Sculpture Center, Aerial View, Interloop A/D
Rendering of Garden, Terrace, and Auditorium, Interloop A/D
Nasher Sculpture Center Under Construction
Roman Ruins, from Renzo Piano Building Workshop's 'Inspiration Board'
Conceptual Sketch, Renzo Piano
Overhead View of Nasher Sculpture Center Site Model, Renzo Piano Buikding Workshop