Museum Tower Rejects Nasher’s Louver Fix as the Fight Gets Nasty

As Krista mentioned in Leading Off this morning, the Museum Tower’s owners (aka the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System) have told us what they think of the Nasher’s proposed fix of the problems created by the heat and light reflecting off the tower. In short: the pension fund says the retractable louvers won’t work. I’ve put in some calls this morning to talk to people who can provide perspective. I doubt, given the Thanksgiving break, that I’ll hear back from those people today. Too, we are on deadline for our January issue. Hopefully by Monday I’ll have some more information for you. Till then, here are a couple points to consider:

WIND: Museum Tower’s owners say the louvers won’t work because they can’t operate in high winds. They say the manufacturer tells them that the louvers can’t tolerate winds higher than 53 mph, and the National Weather Service last year recorded in North Texas 29 days with wind speeds that reached between 50 and 80 mph. Rick del Monte, the Beck architect who is consulting for the Nasher, took wind speed measurements for a week at three spots on Museum Tower. The average speed was 20 mph; gusts never exceeded 30 mph. Okay, fine, that was just one week. Let’s roll with the extreme numbers from Museum Tower. Listen, a category 1 hurricane has winds of 74 mph. If we’re experiencing 80-mph winds, we’re getting hammered by a serious storm — a storm that might happen during nighttime hours. If it’s storming, the sun won’t be out. The louvers would already be rolled up, into a safe position. Same thing at night. The louvers would be rolled up. So of those 29 days with high winds, let’s say half of them aren’t storm related. Let’s say we’ve got 15 sunny days when the wind blows like mad in Dallas. Fine. Roll up the louvers on those days. They will do it automatically. The Nasher can handle 15 days of reflected light and heat. What it can’t take is the current year-round assault. The wind thing is a bogus objection, and the owners of Museum Tower know it.

WATER: Museum Tower’s owners say that retrofitting their building with the louver system would “create more than 20,000 holes in the current water-tight exterior glass wall system.” Rick del Monte told me last week that the building almost looks like it was originally designed to have the louver system installed. The statement from Museum Tower makes it sound like retrofitting the building would require drilling holes in the glass. That’s not the case. Look at these two illustrations.

On the left, you see the facade as it exists now. Notice the flange that overhangs the glass? On the right, you can see how the rolled-up louver system fits under that flange. The strongest part of the building would support the louvers, and no holes need to be drilled in the glass. I’m not an engineer, but I don’t see how retrofitting the building would compromise its water tightness.

IMPAIRED VIEW: Museum Tower’s owners say that the louvers, when rolled down, would ruin the views that luxury condo owners would be paying for. Honestly, I don’t know whether they would or not. I suspect they wouldn’t. But unless you’ve traveled to Germany and visited the Hegau Tower, where the louvers have been installed, you can’t offer an opinion. Have a look at these images:

The top image is provided by Museum Tower’s owners. It was taken inside Hegau Tower. Looks horrible, right? But every smart person knows how a camera works. By adjusting the focus and exposure, you can make that image look like a disaster, or you can make it look tolerable. The bottom image is provided by the Nasher. The picture was taken in the Museum Tower’s show unit, and the deployed louvers were added in digitally by the Nasher’s consultant, architect Rick del Monte. Looks great, right? But every smart person knows how computers work. Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t matter. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two images. But however the louvers look when deployed, they’ll only be deployed on any given window for an hour or two during the day. As the sun moves through the sky, the louvers are programmed to track its movement. Up and down they go. Actually, here’s the question Museum Tower’s owners should be asking: what do those louver motors sound like when they’re rolling the things up and down? But the visibility issue? That’s not a problem. And, again, Museum Tower’s owners know that.

Okay, one more thing. Then I’ve got to go. Seriously. If your January issue arrives late to your mailbox, you’ll know why.

Here is the statement made by Museum Tower’s owners in connection with their analysis of the louvers. I’ve highlighted the parts I want you to pay attention to.

A formal briefing on the feasibility of a retractable louver solution by Museum Tower’s team of expert consultants with the Nasher Sculpture Center’s leaders and consultants was scheduled a month ago for today, but was cancelled last night by David Haemisegger, President of the Board of Trustees, Nasher Sculpture Center.

Retractable louvers were recommended by Nasher consultant Rick del Monte as a potential solution to prevent light reflected from Museum Tower’s glass façade from entering the Nasher’s galleries. Mr. del Monte made the recommendation without providing studies, engineering reports or wind tunnel tests specific to Museum Tower.

Museum Tower has had numerous conversations with the Nasher’s consultants and had requested today’s meeting to report on its findings. Museum Tower representatives reviewed German louver manufacturer Clauss Markisen’s technical data, engineering reports and wind tunnel test data. In addition, Museum Tower representatives inspected a building in Singen, Germany with a similar louver system. The manufacturer’s representative, Richard Wilson, said “Clauss Markisen has confirmed that they have not installed the system on a building as tall as the Museum Tower.” A complete study, modeling, engineering, testing, manufacturing and installation will take about two years.

Today’s cancelled meeting was to be an important discussion of the difficult, complex issues related to attaching a louver system to a 42-story building that has already been built. We would hope that the sophisticated, knowledgeable citizens of Dallas, who are commenting without benefit of any technical information specific to Museum Tower, would realize that it takes many months to study and test a project of this scale. Museum Tower’s technical team has worked in good faith to study the louver system and find a viable solution since Mr. del Monte’s proposal.

Museum Tower is owned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System and its 9,200 Dallas Police Officers, Firefighters, Retirees and their families. We are disappointed that the Nasher has repeatedly engaged in communications designed to harm Museum Tower and the Police, Firefighters, Retirees and their families’ investment.

That last phrasing — “repeatedly engaged in communications designed to harm” — is the telegraph that a lawsuit is coming. Make no mistake. Museum Tower can’t sell units right now. Last number I saw was 15 units sold. The pension fund is going to place blame for that failure squarely on the Nasher. It will be one of the most amazing things in the history of amazing things when it happens. A building goes up, and it destroys a museum. Then the owners of the building sue the museum because that destruction makes it impossible to sell condos. It will be amazing when the lawsuit is filed, but it shouldn’t surprise you.

Now then. Let’s look at why David Haemisegger cancelled that meeting, shall we? In response to that statement from the owners of Museum Tower, the Nasher released its own statement:

In the media statement released by the leadership of Museum Tower today they falsely accused the Nasher of cancelling an important meeting scheduled one month ago. Yesterday afternoon Richard Tettamant contacted David Haemisegger to request a stop-by visit with one of the Tower’s architects who was in town from Los Angeles. Mr. Haemisegger learned last evening from a member of the media that the Tower leadership intended to make a media statement and release a report following this meeting today. Mr. Haemisegger then cancelled the impromptu meeting when it was clear that Museum Tower was working publicity stunts rather than working on solutions to the problems they have created for the Arts District. In their telephone conversation last evening, Mr. Tettamant claimed to have no knowledge that a report was to be issued by Museum Tower.

For 14 months we have maintained open and honest communication and will continue to do so. But we call upon the leadership of Museum Tower to work in good faith and recognize their responsibility to the community.

Richard Tettamant and Museum Tower’s owners have engaged in such publicity stunts all along. Let me take you back to October, when the two sides were supposedly engaged in talks mediated by lawyer Tom Luce, who had imposed a media blackout. In the midst of this media blackout, Tettamant moved a pension fund board meeting to the Nasher, showing up unannounced and with DMN reporters tagging along. It was a public meeting. Get it? So of course reporters could be there. And Tettamant trotted out a UTD professor who had a great quote for the reporters during this media blackout. From the DMN:

“If the oculi are reoriented, you are still able to see blue sky and you exclude reflected light from Museum Tower and any future high-rise building built in that area,” Cy Cantrell, a professor and photonics expert at the University of Texas at Dallas, told trustees. Cantrell called claims that reflected light and heat from the tower were ruining grass and other plantings in the Nasher garden “pure bunk and pseudoscience” as well as “sheer nonsense.”

Cy Cantrell is a smart guy. Dude did undergrad at Harvard and got a master’s and Ph.D. at Princeton. He has worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. But he’s a photonics expert. What the hell is photonics? Lasers, fiber optics, signal processing, data transmission. Check out his UTD page, where he says his current research projects are “mostly computational.” Cy Cantrell is not an architect. He’s not a guy who works with sunlight bouncing off buildings. And he’s certainly not a botanist. How is he qualified to disagree with the Nasher’s horticulturist, Robert Moon, who says that the heat reflected off Museum Tower is harming the Nasher’s plantings? Interesting trivia about Moon: UTD is working on a huge expansion plan that will take it through the year 2050. Moon is the horticulturist on the project.

Really. My head is about to explode.

21 comments on “Museum Tower Rejects Nasher’s Louver Fix as the Fight Gets Nasty

  1. Anyone who has worked downtown knows how terrible the Museum Tower reflections are – put those who are opposing these very reasonable fixes in an office that faces the Death Ray for a day and they’ll quickly change their tune.

  2. “however the louvers look when deployed, they’ll only be deployed on any given window for an hour or two during the day. As the sun moves through the sky, the louvers are programmed to track its movement.”

    If this statement is true, that implies Nasher is only affected by the sun each day for the same amount of time. What if Museum Tower paid for some sort of shade or cover to protect the Nasher during this “hour or two during the day”? That seems to me the more economical solution. I can’t imagine it would be as or more expensive than installing louvers on a high-rise building. And I’m sure we have some brilliant people in Dallas who can create something for the Nasher that is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

  3. Honestly, if you’re in a west facing condo with floor to ceiling glass, I think you’d be hoping they would install louvers. Life otherwise will be miserable in your unit from 4-8pm. Not to mention all your wall art and upholstery fabrics & rugs would bleach out.

  4. Dear Jeff, The “hour or two per day” is PER WINDOW. Not the entire building. And again – this begs the question of why should the Nasher alter their building (which was there first) since it is being damaged by the Museum Tower?

  5. To be in that blazing reflected ray for a few hours a day in Dallas for anything or anybody Is unconscionable. It’s not just the Nasher thats being harmed, the Nasher is just suffering the most. If the tower has dug in and is not going to fix their problem, and to add huge insult to injury going to sue the Nasher for their own problems? I 100% support the Nasher reaching out to cities nationwide to explore the possibilities of moving. As sad and heartbreaking as that is, for Ray Nashers beautiful gift to the City of Dallas to be abused in this way, with the city Ray loved to do nothing to protect it from this assault…it should go elsewhere, somewhere it will be supported and appreciated. It’s supposed to be a beautiful safe haven for one of a kind works of art to be shared and enjoyed by everyone in the city. That art is not safe there any longer, the environment has been ruined for it and the people who visit it. The City of Dallas officials have said that the new shiny homes of a few multi millionaires are more important than the care and safekeeping of the Nasher. Maybe the art lovers in St. Louis or Seattle or Atlanta or wherever will take this gift off our hands and treat it with the care and respect it deserves. The tower will have to change its name, let’s have a contest for the renaming. The Tower That Killed The Museum is long and bulky. The Anti-Arts Tower? FU Ray Nasher Tower? Death Ray Place? The Tower formerly known as Museum. The We Sued The Museum Tower.
    The fact that the fire and pension fund made this disastrous investment is just not a factor in the equation about the responsibilty the tower has here to fix the problems they’ve caused. Whomever was responsible for that terrible and costly decision to invest in such a risky thing with that money should be held accountable, but it has nothing to do with whether or not the tower has a responsibility to fix the obvious problem. Every stupid thing Tettamant says, every devious BS publicity stunt he tries is another nail in that buildings coffin. He thinks bullying and threatening the museum is going to save money and sell condos to rich arts patrons? It’s so absurd it’s hard believe it’s real, it’s like we’re all being punked.

  6. You are right. Much of the time that the louvers would be deployed, I assume residents would have curtains drawn.

  7. Cy Cantrell’s suggestion that the oculi be reoriented proves that his knowledge of the situation at hand is insufficient and that he is an unacceptable reference. The oculi are meant to benefit the artwork, not the patrons. Who cares if you can see blue sky while you’re looking at artwork that you paid to see? Old paintings cannot endure direct sunlight, but they are best viewed in daylight. The Nasher roof’s oculi are oriented to the path of the sun, allowing reflected sunlight into the galleries throughout the day. This strategy is meant to deem artificial light unnecessary for most of the day. It also significantly increases the Nasher’s capabilities of being a high-end museum. Perhaps Mr. Cantrell should have done more research before offering a solution to the problem.

  8. Which building was there first is not a question (or an answer) that belongs in this discussion. Why? Because it doesn’t solve the problem. I’m going on the assumption that the majority of Dallasites think Museum Tower should bear the costs of fixing the problem. I’m also assuming that altering Museum Tower in a way that solves the problem is going to be a billion times more expensive than altering Nasher in a way that solved the problem. So, if altering the Nasher would solve the problem AND Museum Tower agrees to foot the bill, then they should just put the architects to work and shut up.

  9. Jeff, you are making bad assumptions. The Nasher is two things: indoor galleries covered by a Renzo Piano-designed roof so brilliantly designed that Ray Nasher considered part of his sculpture collection, and an outdoor garden. Currently, the indoor galleries are compromised by reflected light of Museum Tower. And the plantings in the garden are being killed by the reflected heat. TWO problems. So, actually, it stands to reason that fixing the problem on the Nasher side would necessarily be more expensive than fixing it on the Museum Tower side, where the problem originates.

  10. Maybe I missed this in earlier articles about this problem but how did they get permits and pass inspections for the Museum Tower without having a reflective light study done and signed off on? If something is not in place in Dallas that would have caught this before it became a problem it should be to prevent future problems. On the other hand, if a procedure is in place that did not prevent the problem from happening who made the call?

  11. KK, so predictable. We don’t get our way, so we take our marbles and go home. Who is being unreasonable here? The bully in this equation has been the Nasher’s carefully crafted PR campaign through surrogates like Mayor Rawlings, Tom Luce (who took the side of the Nasher instead of being an independent go between) and rich arrogant friends like you, who have tried to do character assassination on Richard Tettamant. What you, and those like you, purposely refuse to acknowledge is that Tettamant hired a team of engineering and science experts to find a viable solution to solve the unintended reflection problem upon the Nasher. The facts are the louvers being pushed by Jeremy Strick and the Nasher’s new architect Rick Del Monte don’t work. They not only reflect sun light just like the glass, they are an engineering disaster for Museum Tower’s structural integrity. That is not fiction, like Del Monte’s artist concept of the louvers he pushed on D and the Dallas Morning News and sold to the Mayor, the scientific and engineering data collected by experts and from the louver manufacturer itself says the louvers won’t work on Museum Tower and are potentially dangerous. But, you want to ignore that, just throw something up on the building quickly, the hell with the engineering and maintenance consequences or the danger of one of those louvers flying off in one of our multiple yearly high wind events in Dallas killing someone. The hell with the fact that, at the direction of Tettamant, the engineers and experts hired by the Police and Firefighter’s Pension fund designed a real and proved roof solution for the Nasher, and offered to pay for it. But, instead of getting the Nasher to come to the table and talk about this real solution, you encourage them to pick up their marbles and leave town. Yea, who is unreasonable now?

  12. Pure fiction. No such louver system, or computer system to control it, exists anywhere except in the imagination of architect Rick Del Monte. The animation you show is pure fiction. The manufacturer in Germany says its louvers have never been installed on a building taller than 18 stories. Museum Tower is 42 stories, and the German manufacturer says the louver and its control rails can sustain a maximum wind gust of only 53 miles per hour. According the National Weather Service Dallas experiences an average of 29 days a year with sustained winds between 50 and 90 miles per hour. Just one of those wind events could rip a louver off the building killing someone down below, or damaging a sculpture in the Nasher garden. Plus, the louvers are designed for one thing, to improve the energy efficiency of the building in Germany, they reflect sunlight. You only show one photo from the Museum Tower report on the louvers, saying it is the photography angle that shows them not so easy to see through. There are 6 photos in the Museum Tower report, from all different angles, showing how they really look inside and out. Yet, you use an artist concept animation provided by Del Monte as proof how the lovers would look. Totally dishonest on your part, and his.

  13. 50% of the blame is on the museum leadership for not protesting this in the development stages at city hall. Therefore 50% of the cost should be the museums.

  14. @Chris – Your statement doesn’t make sense. Why would someone have to be responsible for and pay to have a reflective light study done on someone else’s building going up in their vicinity? That is the only way they would have know there was something to protest.

  15. @ Barry. Judging by your tone, you are either knee deep in the situation by being employed by Museum Tower or one of the few people who have ponied up good money for an overpriced condo in a deserted building.

  16. @ Du-Oh, neither of the above assumptions by you are true. BTW, is that your best answer to the facts? Sad. You can’t deal with the truth so you attack someone personally. The only thing I am knee deep in is research, I get interested in things and do my own looking. Amazing the facts you can find by just doing your own research instead of listening to PR hacks and reporters who just take the word of those promoting the Nasher. As for your claim of overpriced, check the real estate reports from other cities on comparable buildings, also check the Robb Report and duPont Registry and you will discover a condo in Museum Tower is a bargain compared to similar high rise living in other major cities and even in other semi-high rises in Dallas.

  17. I guess it doesn’t really matter. The louver system is designed for the comfort of the owners from the heat and light. It is not that disturbing if you ask me but different people have different opinions and preferences so it really depends.

  18. I guess it doesn’t really matter. The louver system is designed for the comfort of the owners from the heat and light. It is not that disturbing if you ask me but different people have different opinions and preferences so it really depends.

  19. The last line of Kk’s post above seems particularly apt now in light of . . . well, you know.

    So does this sentence from “Barry Schwarz” below: “Amazing the facts you can find by just doing your own research instead of listening to PR hacks and reporters . . . .”