Nasher Sculpture Garden

Designers: Peter Walker | City: Dallas, TX | Project Type: sculpture garden
Date Visited: 1.11.13

Location: 2001 Flora St Dallas, TX 75201
Size: 1.5-acre
Official Opening Date: October 2003

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I’ve wanted to visit the Nasher Sculpture Garden ever since my sophomore year as a landscape architecture student. In the spring semester of my second year, one of our studio projects was to design a sculpture garden in Washington, D.C. While researching sculpture garden precedents, I came across the PWP-designed Nasher Sculpture Garden from which I drew a tremendous amount of design inspiration.

Designed as part of the Nasher Sculpture Center which covers a whole city block in downtown Dallas, this 1.5 acre sculpture garden is designed as an extension of the Renzo Piano-designed museum, which houses the extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring artists such as Joan Miró and Richard Serra. The program required that the outdoor gallery be able to hold twenty to thirty temporary sculptural pieces as well as a few permanent ones. In response to Renzo Piano’s modern low rise building, there are a series of parallel “‘archaeological’ walls that allow views from Flora Street (the main street of the Arts District) through the delicately glazed building and out to the garden,” effectively connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces in a seamless union.

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Site Plan. Credit: pwpla.com

On the design, architect Renzo Piano states:

“From the outset, the idea was to create an oasis in the middle of urban commotion. The garden will be bounded by travertine stone walls, and will be excavated slightly below street level, like an archeological dig, to stimulate the desire for discovery.”

Using plant material as the backdrop and medium for enclosure and creation of spaces, Walker’s design called for over 170 trees, including cedar elms, live oaks, crepe myrtles, weeping willows, and magnolias. Three water features also punctuate and define space within the garden. The space is enclosed with beautiful travertine walls, which brought me back to my experience at The Getty Center.

Though having only opened in 2003, the Nasher is revered as a major cultural icon and economic catalyst for Dallas. Its success, however, has also attracted the development of 42-story luxury condominium called Museum Tower across the street—the reflection and glare from the glass skin of the condo has caused significant damage to the artwork and landscaping of the Nasher Sculpture Garden, as well as having a blinding effect on visitors during certain parts of the day. The issue has yet to be resolved.

More (dated) background information is covered in a New York Times piece published May 1, 2012: “Dallas Museum Simmers in a Neighbor’s Glare”

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