Nasher Sculpture Center – Dallas, Texas

Opened in 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center is a museum in Dallas, Texas, that houses the Patsy and Raymond Nasher collection of modern and contemporary sculpture. It is located on a 2.4-acre (9,700 m2) site adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art in the Dallas Arts District.

Patsy and Raymond Nasher began collecting sculptures in the 1950s. Together they formed a comprehensive collection of masterpieces by Harry Bertoia, Constantin Brâncuși, Alexander Calder, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Paul Gauguin, Willem de Kooning, Mark di Suvero, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Ellsworth Kelly, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Richard Serra, and David Smith, among others.

In 1997, Raymond Nasher acquired a plot of land in downtown Dallas across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art and hired architect Renzo Piano to design the Nasher Sculpture Center. The Nasher Foundation funded the entire $70 million cost of designing and constructing the museum, which includes indoor and outdoor galleries.

The Sculpture Center opened in 2003 and features a regularly changing exhibition of works from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection. By placing the facility on what was formerly part of the old Caruth family farm of c. 1850, Ray Nasher began the realization of the Arts District in Dallas, which has since been enhanced by the construction of the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theater.

The Nasher Sculpture Center houses an impressive collection of modern sculptures for both indoor and outdoor viewing. PWP created an outdoor gallery that is home to a few permanent sculptures as well as 20 to 30 temporary pieces in changing exhibits.

The garden design responds to Renzo Piano’s building, a parallel series of “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. Display spaces are created by live oak and cedar-elm allées, rows of holly hedges, and a series of stone plinths that serve as seating and pedestals for sculpture. The plinths also hold flexible systems of lighting, sound, security, and irrigation. As a counterpoint to the linear display space, a large cedar elm grove creates more intimate outdoor rooms for sculptures of different scales. 

Fountains and pools at the side and end of the garden attract the eye and mask noise while groves of bamboo and a magnificent hedge of magnolias frame the sides of the building.

Creating a sculpture garden with both permanent and changing exhibits comes with some challenges: specifically the requirements to move large, heavy pieces and to have flexibility in siting them within the garden. This necessitated the invention of a special soil system that supports weight, drains perfectly without catch basins, and encourages the growth of resilient turf grass as well as the many specimen trees. The pavement was kept to a minimum, allowing easy access through the full extent of the garden.


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