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Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts Reveals Expansion Plans with Buildings by Steven Holl and Lake|Flato

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has released plans for an ambitious $450 million expansion that will transform it into one of the largest art campuses in the US. The 14-acre masterplan will include three new buildings - one by Texas-based Lake|Flato Architects and two others by museum aficionado Steven Holl Architects - connected by a pedestrianized landscape of reflecting pools and gardens. 

The first scheduled to break ground (this year) is the Steven Holl-designed, 80,000-square-foot new home for the Glassell School of Art. The L-shaped, pre-cast concrete structure will, as MFAH describes, pride itself as an extension of the campus landscape, featuring a stepped amphitheater that leads up to a walkable, trellised roof garden.

The Glassell School of Art. Image Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects The Glassell School of Art. Image Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation. Image © Lake|Flato Architects The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. Image Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Rice Selects Diller Scofidio & Renfro to Design Opera House

Rice University has commissioned Diller Scofidio & Renfro to transform an existing parking lot between Alice Pratt Brown Hall, the home of Rice's Shepherd School of Music, and Rice Stadium into a 600-seat opera theater. Charles Renfro, a 1989 Rice graduate and the project’s lead architect, stated: "It feels really natural in a lot of ways to be returning to campus, a place I've spent so much time and love so much." Completion is scheduled for 2018. 

Johnston Marklee's Design for Menil Drawing Institute To Harness Gradients of Light

As we reported last weekThe Menil Collection has unveiled details on the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI), designed by Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee, in Houston, Texas. The building will be the first freestanding facility in the United States created especially for the exhibition, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings. 

Situated in an extensive 30-acre masterplan designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the institute will be located amongst Renzo Piano's main museum building, Piano's Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, and the Rothko Chapel. More info on the design, and all the renderings, after the break.

Details Emerge on Johnston Marklee’s Design for the Menil Drawing Institute

The Menil Collection has unveiled details of the long-awaited Menil Drawing Institute, designed by Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee, in Houston, Texas. The modest, $40 million institute is projected to be the first freestanding facility in America dedicated to modern and contemporary drawing, as well as the Menil’s first major expansion under the ambitious 30-acre master plan designed by David Chipperfield Architects. 

Details on the design, after the break...

Design: A Long Term Preventative Medicine

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism has produced a new report examining urban health in eight of the USA’s largest cities, which has been translated into a collection of meaningful findings for architects, designers, and urban planners. With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas - a statistic which is projected to grow to 70% by 2050 - the report hinges around the theory that “massive urbanization can negatively affect human and environmental health in unique ways” and that, in many cases, these affects can be addressed by architects and designers by the way we create within and build upon our cities.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) Chosen as Landscape Architect for Menil Collection Master Plan

In another pleasing step forward in its ultimate execution of David Chipperfield‘s master plan for the museum campus, the Menil Collection has hired Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to design a new landscape for the 30-acre neighborhood that connects more than a half-dozen museum buildings.  

2013 Sally Walsh Lecture: Moving House / Jeanne Gang

On March 26th, architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects will discuss how housing can evolve in multiple ways to address contemporary challenges in "Moving House," delivered as the Rice Design Alliance's 2013 Sally Walsh Lecture at the The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Dedicated to "honoring Walsh’s groundbreaking foray into modern design by bringing cutting edge designers to Houston," the lecture is sponsored in collaboration with the Rice School of Architecture, the AIA Houston Chapter, and the Architecture Center Houston Foundation.

Blaffer Museum / WORKac

  • Architects: WORKac
  • Location: 3401 Cullen Boulevard, Houston, TX 77004, USA
  • Architect In Charge: WORKac
  • Local Architects: Gensler
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan

Spotlight Award: Pezo Von Ellrichshausen Architects

Poli House / Pezo von Ellrichshausen © Cristobal Palma
Poli House / Pezo von Ellrichshausen © Cristobal Palma

The bold, yet seemingly simplistic geometric structures designed by architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen of Pezo von Ellrichshausen are turning heads internationally, as the Chilean firm has been announced as the recipient of the fourth annual Spotlight Award. Presented by the Houston-based non-profit Rice Design Alliance (RDA), the international award spotlights “exceptionally gifted” architects during the early phase of their professional careers.

Asia Society Texas Center / Yoshio Taniguchi

© Paul Hester
© Paul Hester

Architect: Taniguchi and Associates Location: HoustonTexasUnited States Architect of Record: Kendall/Heaton Associates Project Manager: Project Control Contractor: W. S. Bellows Construction Corp. Consultants: GBA Architecture, Ingenium Inc., CHPA Consulting Engineers, Walter P. Moore, Office of James Burnett, Fisher Marantz Stone, Minor Design Group, Theater Projects Consultants, Inc., Waterscape Consultants, Inc., Shen Milsom Wilke, CDC Curtain Wall Design and Consulting, Persohn/Hahn Associates, Ulrich Engineers, Inc. Project Area: 3,716 sqm Project Year: 2011 Photographs: Hester & Hardaway

© Paul Hester © Paul Hester © Paul Hester © Paul Hester

James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace opens today at Rice University

James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace - Courtesy of Rice University
James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace - Courtesy of Rice University

The highly anticipated “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace, designed by American artist James Turrell, will open to the public today with a sunset light show. The abstract pyramidal structure complements the natural light present at sunrise and sunset, creating a mesmerizing light show that connects the beauty of the natural world with the surrounding campus. This experience is enhanced by an LED light performance that projects onto the 72-by-72-foot thin white roof, which offers views to the sky through a 14-by-14-foot opening. Additionally, the Turrell Skyspace is acoustically engineered for musical performances and serves as a laboratory for music school students, as it stands adjacent to the Shepher School of Music on the Rice University campus in Houston, Texas. David Leebron, Rice University President: “The campus has to play its role in inspiring our students.” Continue after the break to watch a sneak preview of the Turrell Skyspace light show.

The Menil Collection selects Johnston Marklee for Expansion

© D Jules Gianakos
© D Jules Gianakos

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.” Continue reading for more.

'Reverse of Volume RG' Installation / Onishi Yasuaki

© Nash Baker
© Nash Baker

Yasuaki Onishi, who is known for his art throughout Japan and internationally, currently has an installation on exhibit in the Rice Gallery in Houston titled, ‘Reverse of Volume RG’. On display until June 24, he uses plastic sheeting and black hot glue to create a monumental, mountainous form that appears to float in space. In using these simple materials, he is able to successfully meditate on the nature of the negative space, or void, left behind. More images and project description after the break.

Finalists announced for the Menil Collection Expansion

© D Jules Gianakos
© D Jules Gianakos

Prior to becoming a Pritzker laureate, Italian architect Renzo Piano was commissioned to design the Menil Collection in a quiet inner-city neighborhood of Houston, Texas. Since celebrating its opening in 1987, the museum has expanded, adding Renzo’s second commission, the Cy Twombly Gallery (1995), along with the permanent, site-specific installation at Richmond Hall by minimalist sculptor Dan Flavin and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (1997-2012) by owner Dominique de Menil. Surrounded by ample amounts of open space, the long-term master plan of the museum’s campus has been under the review of architect David Chipperfield. Now, after an extensive international search to select the architect for the campuses new major addition that will house the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI), the architecture selection committee has announced the four architects under consideration. 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. Continue after the break to find out the finalists.

Downtown Houston Central Station Design Competition Shortlist /

  • Location: Houston, TX, USA
  • Photographs: Unknown photographer

© Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer

Romanesque "Cistern" Re-Discovered Under Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston

Courtesy of SWA Group
Courtesy of SWA Group

Cities are ever-evolving and ever-transforming, constantly being regenerated – demolished and salvaged to start anew.  Houston, Texas’s first reservoir, built in 1927 near Buffalo Bayou Park, is no exception.  This is another one of those exceptional neglected spaces within a developed city that holds the potential to be transformed into “landscape infrastructure”, as referred to by Kevin Shanley, CEO of  SWA Group, the Landscape Architecture firm working on the park’s current 2.3-mile upgrade from Shepherd-to-Sabine, an extension to the Sabine-to-Bagby stretch. The story of the relationship between the re-discovered reservoir and Buffalo Bayou Park’s development is very exciting and promising.  Lisa Gray of Chron writes about the state of the reservoir today and the possibilities for its future. Continue reading for more.

Courtesy of SWA Group Courtesy of SWA Group Courtesy of SWA Group Courtesy of SWA Group

Holl to design MFAH

Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the leading cultural institution of the region, has recently selected Steven Holl Architects to design a new museum building to support its collections, exhibitions, and various educational programs.  After a comprehensive international competition, MFAH asked Steven Holl, Snøhetta, and Morphosis to develop site-specific concepts for the planned expansion.  The jury unanimously chose Holl as his strong portfolio of built museums, such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the recently finished Cité de l’Océan et du Surf, display a sense of elegance and clarity much desired by the MFAH.  More about the museum after the break.