An urban escape in Dallas


Sited on the edge of downtown Dallas, the Nasher Sculpture Center combines innovative architecture, open spaces, and sculpture in a single urban oasis.

The building is Renzo Piano’s experiment in lighting. It has a modular ceiling supported by rough marble pylons, which filter and direct sunlight. The ceiling appears to float magically, and reminds me of Piano’s lighting design for the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. The wonderful light quality, and excellent spacing of pieces contribute to an excellent interior presentation.


But the garden is also amazing. The rigor of the building pylons compliment the rigor of the landscaping. There is a wonderful Wolfgang Puck café at the far end of the building with an outdoor terrace where you can eat lunch overlooking Perter Walker’s enclosed sculpture garden. I come here whenever I visit Dallas and sit, looking at a Picasso concrete sculpture I’ve long admired. I used to think it was huge, but now I see what a wonderful human scale piece it really is. The perfect setting has a lot to do with my reassessment.

In the distance are Magdalena Abakanowicz‘s headless figures standing at attention. The back of the garden contains one of my favorite figurative pieces by Rodin, like the one used by Mies in the Barcelona Pavilion. The Richard Serra wall is like a walk through a canyon.


The parade of trees on the lawn is wonderful. Hedges span the length of the wall, providing some limited transparency into the city between the gaps. Fountains produce white noise, camouflaging the traffic, and  shallow ponds with lily pads line the back wall.

This is a beautiful and precious human-scale garden in the middle of a major city.

Every city needs a beautiful escape like this. Minneapolis has one–albeit much larger–where pieces by Klaus Oldenberg are in a park next to the art museum. I will try to feature this one later. You can enjoy the Nasher Sculpture Center all year round, while the wintertime experience in Minneapolis is sprinkled with snow. The garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park is comparable in ways as it’s also in the middle of the city, but the experience isn’t as individualized as at Nasher.

Every detail is important at Nasher: the roof, the vertical walls, the horizontal enclosing walls, the landscaping. It’s a beautiful confluence of art, architecture, and landscaping.

Don’t miss the Nasher Sculpture Center on your next visit to Dallas.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply