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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

March 2004 Issue

For Dallas, an Urban Solution
Filling in the Arts District and pulling people downtown.
By David Dillon

For Dallas, an Urban Solution Photography by Timothy Hursley

Anyone who has visited downtown Dallas knows that it is a hot, hard, and arid place where the car is king and the landscape mostly office towers and parking lots. Except for Dan Kiley's exuberant water garden at Fountain Place, completed in 1986, it provides little softness to entice people to linger or return.

But that is changing. With the October opening of the Nasher Sculpture Center, the greening of downtown Dallas has finally begun. A collaboration between architect Renzo Piano and landscape architect Peter Walker, FASLA, the $72 million center showcases one of the world's great private collections of modern sculpture—more than 350 pieces by Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Moore, Richard Serra, and others.

Small and environmentally vulnerable works are exhibited in an elegant travertine-and-glass pavilion, while larger works are displayed outdoors in a two-acre garden that Piano calls "a roofless museum." The result is a rarefied synthesis of art, architecture, and landscape, in which bold form gives way to the subtler pleasures of light, materials, and proportion.

The Nasher Center sits on Flora Street, the spine of the downtown Arts District, with Edward Larrabee Barnes's Dallas Museum of Art on one side and I. M. Pei's Meyerson Symphony Center on the other. A 10-lane freeway passes immediately to the north; a phalanx of 50-story office towers rises to the south. A tough urban site, in other words, that Piano found challenging and exhilarating.

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