In the spirit of the museum’s 25th anniversary, Director Josef Helfenstein has announced Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee as the architects for the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI) – the Menil Collection’s first major expansion initiated under the ambitious master plan designed by David Chipperfield Architects. Once completed, MDI will be the first freestanding facility in America dedicated to modern and contemporary drawing, and one of the most advanced in the world. Johnston Marklee was selected over David Chipperfield Architects, SANAA and Tatiana Bilbao.
“Johnston Marklee has proposed an approach that sensitively and ingeniously addresses the challenges of accommodating the vital yet inherently delicate medium of drawing,” Josef Helfenstein stated, as reported by Your Houston News. “The firm understands on the deepest level the distinctive role that MDI will play as a focal point for the entire campus, giving us an approach that will serve this important collection and elevate the future experience of the Menil as a whole.”
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According to the reports by Your Houston News, Johnston Marklee’s single-story, metal-roofed proposal was distinguished by its respect for the landscape and the residential scale of the Menil’s campus. Formed around a trio of courtyards, visitors entering MDI will experience a gentle transition from the bright Texas sunlight to the enclosed, softly illuminated gallery space. They will first enter through one of two courtyard entrances into a semi-enclosed space that will lead them into the building’s transparent “living room” that will serve as an intimate common gathering space for staff, scholars and the public. From the “living room”, the visitors will then enter the fully enclosed, flexible gallery space filled with controlled, reflected natural light.
Established in February 2008 by the Menil Collection, the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center has been dedicated solely to the collection, exhibition, and study of modernist drawing, including the medium’s role in contemporary artistic practice. The institute contains more than 1200 works of some of the most leading figures in twentieth-century art, such as Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Lee Krasner, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, Michael Heizer, and Robert Gober. The collection reaches as far back as Rembrandt and Delacroix, but concentrates mainly on modern and contemporary artists.
MDI’s new 18,000 square-foot addition is devoted to exhibition, study, conservation, archives, and storage.
The facility is expected to be completed sometime in the next three to five years.