The Perot Museum - Eyesore or Remarkable?

Speaking of Duncan Crary, my introduction to him was through his previous podcast: The KunstlerCast with the sharp-witted and delightfully critical James Howard Kunstler. On Kunstler’s blog, he regularly features the “Eyesore of the Month”. This months is the recently completed Perot Museum of Science and History in Dallas, Texas. Coincidentally, this same project was featured in the January issue of Architectural Record. The juxtaposition of the two different takes on this project is intriguing.

First up, Suzanne Stephens for Architectural Record:

“Forceful,” “acrobatic,” “muscular,” “raw,” even “gritty” are usually the operative adjectives to describe the architecture of Thom Mayne (2013 AIA Gold Medalist) and his firm, Morphosis. But not “refined.” Yet the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which opened in Dallas last month, seems surprisingly restrained for a building by the Los Angeles firm. With its pale, crinkly precast-concrete panels enclosing a cubic volume, it appears rather sedate from afar. At the same time, there is a raw energy in the way the calm cube erupts from a craggy free-form plinth covered with shards of rock and local plants.


With its Cartesian cube and its free-flowing, lavalike plinth, the Perot museum is one of Morphosis’s most remarkable works to date. Like James Stirling’s architecturally synoptic Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1984)—“my model,” Mayne notes—the Perot combines traditional roomlike galleries with unconventional halls. It also mixes Euclidean geometry with hyperbolic curves, and juxtaposes fluid and restrained spaces. The striking design evokes the naturally sheared cube of black pyrite from Spain on view in the museum’s Lyda Hill Gems and Mineral Hall. The connection between natural and man-made artifact speaks of a flinty integrity that makes architecture meaningful.

Next, the Kunstler take down:

Behold the new Perot Museum of Science and History in Dallas, Texas in all its magnificent cubosity! Wow, what an original idea! A Modernist cube! Designed by Thom Mayne’s Morphosis company. Apparently this building “morphed” from a packing crate into a museum.

For full effect, check out the context of the building (below): a wilderness of surface parking, freeway ramps, and pointless ambiguous “green spaces.” Dallas has gotten exactly what it deserves, another monument to grandiosity and economic over-reach.

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