• Nasher Sculpture Center
    Nasher Sculpture Center
  • Loblolly House
    Loblolly House
  • Rich Mix
    Rich Mix
The wide variety of surface finishes and colours available, such as anodizing or coating, ensures that the high aesthetic demands made by architects can be fulfilled and the application potential of aluminium can be extended even further. Such processes also serve to enhance the material’s durability and corrosion resistance, as well as providing an easy-to-clean surface. Maximizing the transparent areas of windows through the use of slender frames can also contribute to optimizing such solar gains. This increase in natural lighting is definitely beneficial for the occupants’ comfort and well being, while it also reduces the need for artificial lighting, contributing significantly to the building’s sustainability.
Cross section through one bay of the Nasher Gallery design by Renzo Piano Building Workshop © Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Detail of the cast aluminium solar shades – that create even daylight within the gallery whilst protecting the artwork from the intense sun of Texas
© Michel Denancé
Night view of the Nasher Sculpture Centre
© Michel Denancé

Nasher Sculpture Center

Dallas, Texas, USA

“The Nasher Sculpture Center, conceptualized with the use of cast aluminium shells, is a synthesis of nature and building.”
Renzo Piano, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The cast aluminium shells form the unique shading of the Nasher Sculpture Centre’s bespoke glass roof, which plays an important part in creating an environment with optimum conditions for displaying sculpture. Successfully filtering direct light that could degrade the works on display, the result is a spectacular naturally lit environment. Ray Nasher, a Texas entrepreneur, owned one of the world’s largest private sculpture collections. Although several prestigious museums of modern art asked him to borrow his works of arts, Mr. Nasher decided to open his works to the public but in a different way: in the hope of providing a peaceful retreat from the area’s oppressive skyscrapers, Mr Nasher wanted to create an outdoor “roofless museum” in the form of a sculpture garden. Opening in Spring 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center is one of the few institutions in the world devoted to the exhibition, study, and preservation of modern sculpture. It consists of a 54,000 square-foot building and a two-acre garden. The concept and the pavilion are designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the garden is landscaped by the Californian architect Peter Walker. The museum has two levels: the ground level houses three galleries, institute offices, a boardroom and a gift shop. The lower level houses a single gallery for light sensitive works, institute spaces, ‘back of house’ functions and auditorium. The garden terraces downward to the auditorium, creating an open air theatre. A moveable Façade allows for simultaneous indoor/outdoor performances.

From the outset, the project was conceptualized as a synthesis of nature and building. The building is made of parallel stonewalls which create the gallery pavilions. Each pavilion is enclosed by low-iron glass façades and roofs that permit 500-foot long unobstructed view corridors from the street, through the building, and across the length of the garden. These attenuated perspectives create an effect of transparency and lightness. Cast aluminium shells form the unique shading of the bespoke glass roof. The design team at Arup worked closely with architect Renzo Piano to deliver this matrix of daylight blockers. The result is an eye-catching roof composed of over half a million aluminium ‘shells’. Each shell weighs a mere 40 grams and is precisely cast in aluminium at the correct angle to exclude the direct rays of the sun whilst maximizing and precisely controlling daylight as the sun tracks across the Dallas sky. Shade is critical for a glazed roof gallery in an area like Dallas, where the sun is so intense. The form for the roof shading was found by using equations to chart the sun’s path through the course of the day. From analyzing the interaction of the shade’s form with peak solar positions, a critical shading curve was determined and this defined areas of shade that block harmful direct sunlight to the gallery. A single, curved shade on the south side completely blocks out direct light when the sun is between the east and the west. However, early in the morning or late in the evening, direct sunlight will penetrate the shade.

To give the client a clear idea of what the design would look like, 3-D computer modelling was used to develop full-scale wax models using in-house rapid prototyping. Alistair Guthrie, Arup Director noted, “After projecting the sun’s path specific to the gallery site, we then designed the shells and roof in a way that enabled Piano’s ambition to create the thinnest possible roof. The design insures that the gallery enjoys excellent daylight but excludes direct sunlight. What’s unusual about this project is that the roof was cast in aluminium straight from the drawing board to production using original computer programming data.”