Dallas Museum Tower Disputes Being Source of Nasher Glare Problems

Photo courtesy of Tim Griffith.

The dispute about the possible glare from the Dallas Museum Tower and its effect on surrounding buildings has garnered both national and international headlines. Photo courtesy of Museum Tower. Photo by Tim Griffith.

There’s no way the glare from the Museum Tower in Dallas is strong enough to have caused damage to the nearby Nasher Sculpture Center. That’s the expert assessment of Dr. C.D. Cantrell in a recently released paper that used geometric angles to gauge the possible heating effects of the optical reflections from the Museum Tower upon its surroundings. The findings contradict claims by the Nasher Sculpture Center that the glare from the glass in the 42-story, $200 million condominium is damaging the center’s gardens and interior exhibits.

The dispute has garnered both national and international headlines.

“Because of the geometry of the [Museum Tower] and its environs, the law that the angle of reflections equals the angle of incidence, and the measure value of the reflectance of the [Museum Tower] windows, the average power absorbed at a location that receives solar energy reflected from the [Museum Tower] is not more than 13 percent greater than the power absorbed from direct sunlight alone,” writes Cantrell, a Fellow at the Optical Society of America, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Physical Society. “Therefore, the average heating effects due to optical reflections from the [Museum Tower] are at most a few percent greater than the heating effects due to direct sunlight alone.”

But Nasher officials have balked at the conclusion and continue to insist that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, which owns the Johnson Fain-designed Museum Tower, fix its building so as to not cause further damage to the Nasher and other buildings within the Dallas Arts District.

Talks between the two sides have stalled, meaning litigation might be necessary to find a solution.

“The only acceptable solution is one that protects the entirety of the Nasher’s indoor and outdoor galleries as well as the neighborhood surrounding Museum Tower,” says Nasher’s director, Jeremy Strick.

Nasher officials have consistently rejected any proposed changes to their roof, which is laid out with thousands of small, cone-shaped shades called occuli that pointed north and designed to diffuse direct sunlight from entering the museum’s gallery.

The Museum Tower has offered to pay $5 million worth of changes to the Nasher roof, only to see each offer rejected. Strick insists the changes must come from the source of the problem at Museum Tower. The Nasher, which was financed by shopping center developer Raymond Nasher and designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, wants the pension system to replace the tower glass with a less-reflective type or to mount movable external shades. All of those suggestions were rejected by Museum Tower as impractical.

“The glare from Museum Tower has substantially affected our core business – fundamentally compromising our mission, the intention of the museum space and visitor experiences of the indoor and outdoor art galleries,” Strick says. “The glare severely impacts people’s ability to view the art in the garden, it has damaged our outdoor galleries, and it could cause damage to the art in our indoor galleries. To avoid damaging the art, we have had to de-install work; we’ve also had to install temporary light-blocking panels to block the glare and protect the art on some occasions. We’ve also had to re-sod the grass in our outdoor galleries and reseed an abnormal amount of times.”

Bill Criswell, a prominent developer whose work includes Dallas’ iconic Fountain Place building, was speaking on behalf of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System when he said the problems began arising before Museum Tower’s official opening in 2013.

Criswell notes that the Museum Tower’s zoning had always been slated for highrise buildings that would obviously dwarf the four-story Nasher Sculpture Center.

“Why would they design a roof system knowing that anything higher than four stories would reflect into their gallery?” Criswell questions. “Unfortunately for the Nasher, it was zoned for a building our height and we built it. There were no surprises. They knew what it was going to look like and they knew what kind of glass it used. Everything.”

Criswell pointed out that all glass comes with varying levels of glass and echoed Cantrell’s assessment that Museum Tower was not to be blamed for any problems at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

“The fact is we’re not doing any damage to their garden,” he says.

Museum Tower received a Gold LEED certification upon its opening.

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