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Nasher Sculpture Center Opens The Art of Architecture: Foster + Partners

Nasher Sculpture Center Opens The Art of Architecture: Foster + Partners

As all of Dallas gears up for the opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Nasher Sculpture Center has fired off one of the first celebratory salvos with an exquisite exhibition on the designs of architect Norman Foster, designer of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House. With a score of models and a slew of drawings, the exhibition is a fascinating survey of Foster's firm's work in recent years. 

At the preview last Friday morning, Nasher director Jeremy Strick and curator Jed Morse said a few words of welcome and then introduced Spencer de Grey, Foster + Partners' Head of Design, who has been with the firm for 36 years. After a few words on some of his (and the firm's) philosophies, he led us on a tour of the exhibition. 

Here are some highlights:

  • In explaining the exhibition's model of the Reichstag in Berlin, de Grey pointed out the importance of the public domain and the irony that, after the renovation, the politicians worked on the lower level, while the people they served were above them on the public areas of the building's dome.
  • Foster + Partners frequently faces the challenges of taking the "old" and making it "new." Not only in the Reichstag, but also in their work on Trafalgar Square and the British Museum, they took iconic designs and improved them...especially in terms of traffic flow and public access.  It's clear that, for them, it's not just about the building itself, but how it relates to its environment and is used by its occupants and visitors.  That's a refreshing trend that more and more architects are emphasizing.
  • Which leads us to the Winspear Opera House.  De Grey made a point of explaining that the Winspear's design is as much about the spaces between the buildings of the arts center.  The Winspear, with its vast canopy and public performance park, is part of a grander vision for the performing arts in Dallas.  It is hoped that a vibrant pedestrian presence and festival atmosphere will be a feature of the new and improved Arts District.
  • Other models on display demonstrate the eclecticism of the firm's practice.  They include: a spaceport in New Mexico, an airport in China and a complete rethinking of the historic Pushkin Museum in Moscow.  And of course, the "Gherkin" (although no mention is made of this nickname in the accompanying text) and the wonderful Hearst Tower in New York.

Rightfully, the Nasher dedicates an entire gallery downstairs to the evolution of the designs of the Winspear.  Models, sample materials, drawings and photographs tell a very interesting story of how the building came to be.

Make sure you don't miss the wall of Foster drawings behind the stairwell downstairs.  Vibrant and at times whimsical, they distill the architect's thoughts to a few phrases and ideas. The napkin sketch becomes the true blueprint of the project to be.

This is an exhibition not to be missed.  For more information, visit the Nasher's website. (And make sure you visit the DCFA Facebook page in the next couple of days to see photos of the show that we took last week.)

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