Ando, Kahn and Johnson. The Modern, The Kimball and The Amon Carter museums, respectively. All located in Fort Worth, Texas a stones throw from one another. Each one a masterpiece. And now, you get a fourth for the price of three with a new building by Renzo Piano recently opened as an extension to the Kimball.
I thought I’d died and went to heaven. Who cares about the art — although taking in a little Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, Francis Bacon and Donald Judd always makes me smile (a true modernist at heart) — the buildings are what I came for.Even the 90 degree heat couldn’t deter me. I could have sat on the concrete loungers, looking back at the silent power of three glass pavillions seemingly floating on water at the Modern all day. But that would have meant not sitting under the shade of a vaulted portico at the Kimball taking in the echo of cascading water and visitors footsteps as they navigated the grove of holly trees that act as transition from lawn, to courtyard, to vaulted building.
The surprise of the day was the Amon Carter Museum. The first built in the area back in 1961. The original museum, a small but arresting monolithic structure, sits up on a hill before a stunning green space with views of Dallas in the distance. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of Acropolis reference. Quite the stretch for the Western art collection housed inside but true to form for architect Philip Johnson who also designed the 2001 expansion on the back side.
If you are ever in doubt about the power of architecture on the soul, watch the documentary My Architect by Nathanial Kahn, son of Louis Kahn who designed the Kimball Art Museum (along with his mistress Harriet Patterson, mother of Nathanial). If ever a piece of film has moved me more I cannot recall. I wept and wept — not because of the personal story of an illegitimate son piecing together the life of an absent father who had three separate families and died unidentified in the men’s room at Penn Station — but at the sight of magnificent building after magnificent building. True artworks juxtaposing the geometries of built form and nature, in locations all around the world. All by one great master whose calling it was in life to build buildings. Great and powerful buildings. Buildings that will move you to tears.