| Schutze |

In the Nasher vs. the Museum Tower, Who's the Aggressor? Who Cares?

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I just get a little tummy ache every time I see the Nasher Sculpture Center back in the news again treated like it's holy Bethlehem. Please. The stuff in there is art, not the preserved teeth and hair of the saints.

Renzo Piano, the architect, is on the front page of the official government newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, today. He gets a free ride from reporter Michael Granbury who quotes him all weepy-eyed saying stuff like, "We are not aggressive people." Apparently he is speaking of himself and the Nasher people.

"We tried to address the problem quietly," he tells Granbury. He was on television last night too, playing the same violin.

The problem, Piano says, is now "very serious" because the other side is dragging its feet.

Damn! He's not aggressive? It takes some real balls for those words to come out of the mouth of Renzo Piano, the guy who co-designed the Pompidou Center in Paris, likened to a grotesque version of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" when it opened in 1977.

The even better case is his recently completed skyscraper in London called "The Shard," a 1,000-foot-plus glass needle, the tallest building in the European Union, housing retail establishments, offices, a hotel, apartments and anything else they can get rent for. Prince Charles has described it as "an enormous salt cellar."

You know about this Nasher stuff. The Nasher is the new museum downtown built to show off the sculpture collection of the late Ray Nasher, a shopping mall developer. After it was up and running, somebody else built a tall glass building nearby, called "Museum Tower" (Oh, we're all just so into art here). Now the Nasher people are pissed off because they say the glass tower is reflecting too much light on them.

The two sides are supposed to be in arbitration. The arbitrator, lawyer Tom Luce, has imposed a blackout on them for speaking to the media.

Apparently somebody on the Nasher side must not like the way the negotiations are going, because all of a sudden Piano pops up in Dallas -- for some reason he's not covered by the ban -- and pops off to the Morning News about what a sad, wee, modest, groveling little altar-boy he is, brutally abused by the black robes who built Museum Tower.

Give me a break! Just take the Shard, his latest work, if you want to see how non-aggressive Piano is as an architect. It's a monument to a style some have called priapismo.

A considerable contingent of critics and commentators seem to like it, but only grudgingly. At least the same number despise it, and no one denies that it's an enormously aggressive assault on the shape of the London skyline.

An article in the Guardian June 13 says of Piano's design: "To its opponents, it has stabbed London in the heart: it is too tall, it destroys the scale of the city, it disrupts historic views, it is in the wrong place, it is a waste of energy -- a monument to greed, money, inequality, foreign influence and broken Britain."

The Times of London said on May 19, "The Shard, say those who loathe it (and there seem to be many), is 'a monument to fat cats', a 'profoundly random"' piece of architecture and humiliating proof that 'Qataris have bought the dignity of London' (once the bottom fell out of the finance market, the Qatari royal family stepped in to fund it).

In 2000 when the design was first unveiled, a Times of London critic pleaded, "Save us from a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."

The Telegraph said April 13, "... few recent buildings have proved more divisive. ... The Shard may stand alone now, but what will it look like when hemmed in by such soon-to-arrive neighbours as the Boomerang and the Quill?"

Look, I know I'm the Philistine here. I accept that. I should have business cards printed up to say, "Jim Schutze, Philistine Services, Always On Time." I still want to offer my two-bits. This isn't a question of sacrilege, for God's sake. It's about real estate. Two fancy new buildings downtown are in a fight about reflected light. That's not unimportant. It's an absolutely legitimate issue.

But give us a break. Parading this architect here in front of a credulous local press, having him pose as some sort of architectural peacenik molested by reflective savages: It's all just a bit rich, don't you think? Especially given the guy's flamboyant history of assault on the skylines of the world's great cities?

I wish both parties would just duke it out to the best of their ability, come up with settlement, slap some paint on one building and put a tarp over the other one. Give it a rest. Enough with the Italian guy.

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