Screw the Art Gods, Museum Tower Sure Is Pretty

Categories: Schutze

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Funny how you can drive by a thing a dozen times and never really see it. An early morning errand today took me through the north end of downtown on the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. I looked up from traffic and was stunned by the sheer beauty of the new Museum Tower building.

Just ahead of me the 42-story glass-wrapped oval column soared up into the morning sun like an immense geyser of glittering blue water. Designed by Scott Johnson, the tower is another movement in a very long symphony of glass in Dallas going back at least into the late 1970s. Is it the light or is it us? Dallas just does love to sparkle.

Oh, I know, I know, I'm not supposed to be saying nice things about Museum Tower. It has offended the art gods. It must be pariah. You know all about that.

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Brandon Thibodeaux
Ooo, sparkly!
Museum Tower, a ritzy condo building, is the one that reflects too much light onto the Nasher Sculpture Center, according to the Nasher Sculpture Center, which is a temple of the art gods. Because it has offended the art gods, Museum Tower is always to be spoken of with disdain and opprobrium by us in the media, who are the janitorial staff of the art gods.

Fortunately this does not apply to me, because I work for a branch of the media well known to be art ungodly anyway, but for many of my brethren in the ink-stained ranks, a carelessly positive word about Museum Tower could easily earn a place on the next list for a major reduction in force. And so it's all finger-wagging and frowns from most reporters.

I'm just saying it's a beautiful building. That's all. Look, maybe it does reflect too much light. What do I know? I'm not a lightologist. All I'm saying is that I looked up from the freeway and ... wow! It's gorgeous.

How much of that beauty is marred forever by the reflection contretemps and the wrath of the art gods? Well, you know, 100 years ago when I was young, I was a reporter in Detroit, and I used to go out to this wonderful old island park in the Detroit River called Belle Isle. I am ashamed to say that I sometimes drank beer during working hours out there, often sitting on the lip of a marvelous 1920s fountain that had all kinds of fish and cherubs and Neptune himself spouting water at each other. It was laughter in stone and water.

Not far off was a life-size statue of some old dude sitting in a chair staring at the fountain. I went over and looked at it one day. It was a likeness of the benefactor who donated the money for the fountain, a guy named Jim Scott.

So finally after hanging out around the fountain for years, I decided to look up Jim Scott and see who he was. It turned out he was a rich and infamous playboy, a notorious gambler and frequenter of whorehouses who donated the fountain as a way of flipping the bird to the respectable folks of Detroit.

There was huge controversy over whether his gift should even be accepted and the fountain built. A Roman Catholic bishop spluttered, "Only a good man who has wrought things for humanity should be honored in this way."

But it got built. Time marched on. The controversy was forgotten. Eventually Jim Scott was forgotten -- history's forgiveness. But the fountain is still there, tinkling like a merry xylophone in a city that could use a good joke once in a while.

This morning I thought of that fountain for some reason as I sped by Museum Tower. In fact I could swear that just as I passed into the tunnel beneath deck park, Museum Tower winked at me.

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24 comments
kduble
kduble

I agree that's it's a beautiful building. I've posted this previously on numerous occasions. It just isn't the right fit for the Arts District.

 

I lay this problem at the city's feet. Back in 2007, when our economy was on the ropes, the city was over-eager to get downtown moving again. The residential component was dead in the water. The Museum Tower developers in Dallas were ready to build when nobody else would. They deserve credit for this.

 

What the city needs to learn, whether it be gargantuan new buildings or the razing of historic ones -- is if you're not clear in articulating what you want, the developers will decide for you.

 

I know Museum Tower is good for the city's tax base. But, its occupants are folks that access their units by elevator, and they enter and leave via underground parking. They may be in the Arts District, but they're not of it.

 

What the Art District truly needed in that space, and still needs in this vicinity, are low-rise, walk-up residential units like we have in the West End. We need people going up and down stairs and accessing the sidewalk with money in their pockets to spend in the Arts District's bars and restaurants and to become part of the street life. It won't bring in a giganormous amount of property tax revenue immediately, like Museum Tower. But, if one takes the long view, fostering this kind of vitality is what the Arts District needs.

 

A significant part of quality architecture is context. So, viewed in isolation, yes Museum Tower is a beautiful building. But it only takes from the Arts District. It doesn't give. A key element of great architecture is how a building interacts with its surroundings. In this larger context, the building is an epic fail. Our city leaders are to blame.

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

If all beautiful things were worth the associated trouble, more of us would be happily married.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I do not see how your analogy works. The City of Detroit took his gift and gave him that little, purported to be life size and sitting down statue, instead of the Sam Houston like statue he wanted. It is really a lesson that do not expect your money to get you respect after death that you could not get while living. You are dead and the people that dissed you have your money. Good trade! For his 1 million when a million was really worth a million, he made a provision of the statue and he got the bare minimum. The statue was not there to honor him, but to deliver to him wherever he is an up yours from the city fathers. An interesting lesson, but nothing to do with Museum Tower.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Still trying to care....

 

Nope, not feeling it.

Vndallas
Vndallas

How long before the announcement that this building is flipping to for-lease-apartments.

glenn03a
glenn03a

While relaxing at the Klyde Warren park opening weekend, it seemed the tower was less shiney. So give it a year and the polution of downtown will deliver. Just don't hire window washers !

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

NEW YORK--Someone droll in Sen. Pat Moynihan's office has provided a one-page "unfinished history" of Governors Island, which sits, like an unloved orphan, in New York harbor, hard by the Statue of Liberty. The history says: "1708: Lord Cornbury, New York's first transvestite governor, builds a mansion on Governors Island, possibly misusing defense funds, including proceeds of New York's unusual wig tax."  The usual rule of thumb among developers concerning projects with high risks but potential high yields is that "the second guy in will make money"--after the first guy goes broke. Concerning Governors Island, Trump says, "The third guy in will make money." - George Will (Published May 14, 1998).

 

The Museum Tower is a doomed ship.

WylieH
WylieH

My issue isn't so much with the reflection, per se, it's just that these are the kinds of problems you get when public pension fund bureaucrats start playing developer and politically-motivated (I'm looking at you, Tom Leppert) city builders.

 

The business of a pension fund is maximizing risk-adjusted returns for its beneficiaries... period.  Gambling with retirement savings on ill-conceived vanity projects places both pensioners and taxpayers at risk.

 

Sure, I have no doubt it's more fun building a high-rise than investing in mutual funds, etc. (and Leppert could proudly claim that the City was on the move), but the losses from this thing look to be monumental (even if the reflection crisis hadn't happened).

jbsiegelmd
jbsiegelmd

I like the shape of the tower but I agree that they made it way too reflective. I was surprised the other day to be momentarily blinded by a blast of light off of the Museum Tower while driving north on I-35E from the mixmaster. I'm not talking next to the building at the Nasher or the new deck park... I'm talking driving down Stemmons Freeway and getting blasted by the reflection. 

 

My opinion: the builder needs to suck it up and spend the $20 million or so to reglaze the entire building with different glass. They probably need to fire the people who ever thought that building a mirror was a good idea.

 

In this case, the Art Gods do matter. Those are the people who need to be attracted to buy these condos in that building. You may see a lack of interest if the building harms the adjacent art...

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

Well, it's infinitely better than that atrocious Hunt building that we spent tax money on.  But I will say that I think Klyde Warren will recruit people to the Nasher's cause.  The ONLY bad thing I've noticed about that park is that Museum Tower blinds you while you're trying to catch a frisbee.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I'm lucky to see it off my front porch everyday. It's more pleasing to eye than Tower at City Place off my back deck.

WylieH
WylieH

@kduble The developers "sold the dream", lock, stock and barrel to the City's pension fund... The only "credit" they deserve is being one of many well-connected parties who fleece the City and its affiliates on a regular basis via poorly disclosed and understood off-market, negotiated transactions.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Vndallas In may in fact do that, but only the rich people that could afford to buy will be able to afford to rent there.  Check out the rates at 1 arts, and go up from there

WylieH
WylieH

 @Vndallas I'm guessing two to four years.... it's basically a slow-motion train wreck.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 @WylieH Leppert was a construction guy.  He only gave passing lipservice to project feasibility.  It's just not in their genes to pay much attention to the demand side of the equation.  Only the cost to deliver it.  It's why he sobbed with joy over the Omni.  It was a big construction contract.  Build it and they will come?

kduble
kduble

 @jbsiegelmd "They probably need to fire the people who ever thought that building a mirror was a good idea."

 

In fact, this wasn't a novel approach. As Schutze himself writes, "...the tower is another movement in a very long symphony of glass in Dallas going back at least into the late 1970s."

 

You say they need to "spend the $20 million or so to reglaze the entire building with different glass," yet the reflecting glass is integral to the design. It's what keeps utility costs in check; it's a selling point for the units.

 

My problem isn't with the building itself -- I agree with Schutze it's a beautiful building and have posted as much -- but rather, the city's over-eagerness to have housing in the Arts District that it allowed a project that isn't the right fit for the district.

EdD.
EdD.

 @jbsiegelmd I was driving west one afternoon and there was this giant ball of fire in the sky. Staring directly at it for a few minutes actually hurt! I don't know who is responsible for this "Sun" but they should take a tip from the contractor who built the Moon: bright, convenient light and you can stare right at it. 

CraigT42
CraigT42

 @jbsiegelmd The developer needs to suck it up and spend $20 million.  I am not defending the tower, but spending $20 millions does not count as sucking it up.  It is more along the lines of  how many people are going to lose their lively hoods and be unable to feed their family.

lolotehe
lolotehe

 @jbsiegelmd It's worse if you're going north on Woodall. That thing is a hazard.

WylieH
WylieH

@holmantx One has to love the irony that was Leppert. As mayor, he was as big government as they get, milking the Obama administration for every handout he could get and, when that wasn't enough, building the city by using his power to get the City-owned convention center hotel and they City pension fund-owned Museum Tower built as the primary signs of the City's vitality (supplemented to a limited extent by other City-subsidized private development projects).

jbsiegelmd
jbsiegelmd

 @CraigT42 Why would anyone lose their livelihood? The Pension funds that chose to finance the place have something like half a billion dollars in assets. If they don't sell the condos it will end up costing them a whole lot more. Are you aware that the unsold penthouse there is PRICED at $20 Million? That's one condo. 

WylieH
WylieH

@CraigT42 @jbsiegelmd No, the original developer was no idiot--- all the downside risk belongs to the City's pension fund.

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