Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Olympic Dasher at the Nasher

On an autumn 2014 trek to Dallas for a family wedding, I made time to swing by the Nasher Sculpture Center, a favorite art destination in The Lone Star State.

Discovering a major London 2012 Olympic "visitor" there was a nice surprise.

For those in DFW who want to see something cool, of five-ringed relevance, and beyond the Nasher's outstanding permanent collection, a few days remain to catch the intimate but impactful exhibition "Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio" on view through Jan. 4 (sorry this post is so late for Big D friends; folks in or visiting L.A. and NYC also may experience this exhibition soon at the Hammer Museum and Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, respectively).

The installation of several dozen Heatherwick items -- from a modernized double-decker bus to whirling dervish chairs and models for ultramodern architectural feats -- is well worth a special trip to the Nasher (and later to the Hammer and Cooper-Hewitt).

Olympic fans may not recall Heatherwick by name, but they likely remember the innovative cauldron the firm created for the most recent summer Games. With more than 200 hammered pieces resembling bronzed peace lilies (one created for each National Olympic Committee marching in the Opening Ceremony), the ignited "floral" arrangement blossomed into a temporary cauldron for the duration of the Games before each "lily" joined its NOC on the team's return home.

In a word: Brilliant!

I was lucky to experience the cauldron up close, and also to visit the first stop of this traveling exhibition when it debuted in London during the XXXth Olympiad two-and-a-half years ago, and the Nasher scores big with their showcase of the Heatherwick items.

When viewing this collection in the U.K., the objects seemed cramped and uncomfortably deep within the museum (sadly I cannot recall which). By contrast, the Nasher presentation is airy and light, giving visitors room to breathe in the designs lauded as creations by the "Leonardo da Vinci of our times," Thomas Heatherwick.

Pleasant surprises include:
  • Background and sample components from the British "Seed Cathedral" created for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Simply breathtaking.
  • Models and photographs of the Rolling Bridge, which takes on an escargot-inspired shape when deployed and retracted near Paddington Station.
  • Examples of a "cracked earth" desert design making it possible to place retail and green park space slightly underground -- in valuable man made shade -- in some of the world's hottest arid destinations.
  • Dreamy renderings of futuristic creations including a "learning hub" in Singapore and a Thames-spanning "garden bridge"
  • Samples of amazing artwork and displays created for retail clients, and an amazing boat design I predict may appear in future James Bond films with an aquatic-based villain.
Visitors may also get into Heatherwick designs at the museum entry and in the sculpture garden. At the front desk, guests hand-crank their own exhibition "program" from a contraption reminiscent of a miniaturized newspaper or magazine press. Outdoors, be sure to take a whirl on one of the many "spun chairs" that delighted children and the young at heart from ages seven to 75 on the day of my visit (the spinning is smooth and akin to riding a playground swing).

I respect Heatherwick for their approach to client and asthetic needs and personally can hardly wait for a future Olympic host city to engage the firm for venue designs.

If anyone from the LA2024 Olympic bid team is reading this, take note and check out this show when it moves next to the City of Angels.

Here's hoping visitors to the Nasher and other exhibition destinations may find inspiration from what's presented.

Most photos by Nicholas Wolaver; images of Seed Cathedral via this blog and this site.


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