Renowned Architect Speaks

Renzo Piano: "I don't want the Nasher to be a martyr"

Renzo Piano: "I don't want the Nasher to be a martyr"

Renzo Piano
Architect Renzo Piano spoke at the November 20 NasherSALON. Photo courtesy of Nasher Sculpture Center
Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas
Piano recalled fondly his work with Ray Nasher on the Nasher Sculpture Center. Photo ©Timothy Hursley
Museum Tower
Piano remains outspoken about the Museum Tower dispute, saying he would change the museum's roof "over my dead body." Photo courtesy of Museum Tower
Renzo Piano
Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas
Museum Tower

As a treat during its 10th anniversary festivities, the Nasher Sculpture Center welcomed architect Renzo Piano to its November 20 installment of the NasherSALON speaker series. Not surprisingly, the affable and outspoken (albeit rather soft-spoken) Italian still has a lot to say about the Nasher’s naughty neighbor, Museum Tower.

“This building is fragile, and it must be saved because it belongs to the city,” he declared to a room full of what museum director Jeremy Strick called “family” — longtime supporters and board members. “I don’t want this building to be a martyr. We want it to remain what it was made for.”

But before Piano elicited applause from his audience with tower talk, he reflected a lot on his relationship with the late Ray Nasher, whose vision Piano was hired to bring to life.

“I love Ray,” Piano said. “He’s still here with us. He was one of us. He was a craftsman.”

During their first meeting, Nasher told Piano of his ambitious plan. “We will do an oasis in the middle of Dallas,” he told Piano. “Ray was brave because he wanted to this in the middle of the mess. And by mess I mean life.”

The architect also remembered — fondly — Nasher’s rather hands-on approach. “Ray was putting his nose everywhere. There was no escape,” Piano said. “But it’s a sign of a good client. He wanted to know everything.”

Below are a few more of our favorite moments from Piano’s conversation:

Art makes people better people. A building for art makes it a better place.” On the role of museums in society

It’s a dangerous job. When architects are wrong, they are wrong forever.” On the importance of imagining, drawing, building prototypes and going back to the drawing board

North is not north in Dallas. We wanted to capture the north light. The north is the position where someone had the bright idea to build a tower later on.” On the roof design — and Museum Tower’s subsequent interference

People will come to Dallas looking for ruins, and they will find this.” On why buildings like the Nasher are built for posterity

It’s fine. It’s a good tower. This is not about architecture, not about ego. The only solution is to work on the surface.” On the dispute with Museum Tower

Light is the signature of this building. We should not accept any compromise.” In reaction to the suggestion that the Nasher ought to change its roof

Don’t ask me why buildings in Texas come out good. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the water.” On the greatness of the Kimbell, Menil (in Houston) and the Nasher

I don’t like museums because they are important. They are places that change the world one person at a time.” On his repertoire

When you love a baby, you project the life of the baby. This was our baby, so we wanted to think about what can happen. The only thing we could not have predicted was moving south to north.” On imagining what the Arts District would become and making room for it — and the glare from Museum Tower disrupting the roof system

There is only one solution: work on the surface [of Museum Tower]. There is nothing else you can do. Not because we are nasty; we have been very calm.” On the status of the dispute

That will happen over my dead body.” On the idea of changing the roof, which he also called “a masterpiece”