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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Museums & Exhibit
  4. United States
  5. Johnston Marklee
  6. 2015
  7. Johnston Marklee's Design for Menil Drawing Institute To Harness Gradients of Light

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

Johnston Marklee's Design for Menil Drawing Institute To Harness Gradients of Light
Johnston Marklee's Design for Menil Drawing Institute To Harness Gradients of Light, Menil Drawing Institute at dusk, looking past the west entrance courtyard. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection
Menil Drawing Institute at dusk, looking past the west entrance courtyard. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

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.

West Façade as seen from the Energy House. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection
West Façade as seen from the Energy House. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

A Roof Over the Landscape

The site for the Menil Drawing Institute lies just south of the Menil’s Renzo Piano-designed Main Collection. The location positions the MDI as a hub among the Menil’s other art buildings, surrounded by new green spaces and placed at the center of new pedestrian paths and an extension of West Main Street that will unify the campus.

Site plan for the Menil Drawing Institute and new Energy House in relation to the main museum building and Cy Twombly Gallery
Site plan for the Menil Drawing Institute and new Energy House in relation to the main museum building and Cy Twombly Gallery

Johnston Marklee’s design begins "from these circulation routes and from a prominent natural feature of the site: magnificent live oak trees. The design calls for trees to be surrounded by three square, open-roofed courtyards: two of them serving as entrances on the west and east sides of the building, and the third providing a scholars’ cloister on the north."

"Enclosed volumes set between these courtyards provide the main areas for the MDI’s programs. A living room - both a circulation spine and a gathering place - runs between the west and east entrance courtyards. On the living room’s south side, the space opens into the exhibition galleries. On the north, the living room gives access to administrative offices on one side of the scholars’ cloister and to study rooms and the conservation lab on the other."

West Courtyard. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection
West Courtyard. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

Modulation of Light

"The principal structural element that unifies these indoor and outdoor spaces and their circulation routes is a thin, flat roof made of painted steel plate. When the one-story MDI is viewed from the side, the roof appears to float in the landscape, pierced here and there by treetops. Functionally, the roof works with the landscape to create MDI’s unprecedented modulation of natural light."

According to the architects and lighting designers, the design achieves an unprecedented "interplay between indoor and outdoor space in a facility for highly light-sensitive works on paper." As visitors approach and enter the MDI, the design organically and incrementally reduces the intensity of the sharp Texas sunlight by means of the canopy of the surrounding trees and the roof canopy of the building.

Partial view of the Living Room and Scholars’ Cloister. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection
Partial view of the Living Room and Scholars’ Cloister. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

"A modest level of baffled light, spilling into the building through two entrance courtyards and the scholars’ cloister, orients visitors and scholars in the areas of public gathering. More controlled gradients of artificial light define the areas for exhibition and storage. In the study room, a skylight fitted with fritted glass and a sailcloth scrim admits natural light so that researchers may notice subtle changes in the sky throughout the day."

Spatial Organisation: the "Mingling of Public and Professional Space"

South Façade. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection
South Façade. Image Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

For all users of the MDI "the direct visual connections between the living room and the scholars’ cloister, and the gentle flow of space into and through the building, will create a more active, open, and engaging atmosphere than has existed before for the act of viewing and studying drawings." Claiming that "this building will make the MDI an unprecedented merger of private and public spaces and functions for the enjoyment and study of drawings," Allegra Pesenti said that it will act as "a platform for the work of artists, and a welcoming place where scholars and museum-goers will easily mingle."

Johnston Marklee is also designing a new energy control center for the campus, while Houston’s Stern and Bucek is developing the Bistro Menil. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will also aid the Menil’s transformation by revising the campus’ Alabama Street entry and implementing a more sustainable landscape scheme.

Work is "tentatively scheduled" to begin in early 2015.

  • Architects

  • Location

    1533 Sul Ross Street, Houston, TX 77006, United States
  • Architects in Charge

    Sharon Johnston, Mark Lee
  • Design Team

    Nicholas Hofstede, Andri Luescher, Anton Schneider, Rodolfo Reis Dias, Letitia Garzoli, Douglas Harsevoort, Maximilian Kocademirci, Mehr Khanpour, David Gray
  • Landscape Architects

    Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA)
  • Landscape Project Team

    Michael Van Valkenburgh, Jack Ohly, Matthew Bird
  • Masterplanning

  • Structural Engineer

    Guy Nordenson and Associates
  • Associate Structural Engineer

    Cardno Haynes Whaley
  • MEP Engineer

    Stantec
  • Civil Engineer

    Lockwood Andrews Newnam
  • Building Envelope Engineer

    Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
  • Lighting Design

    George Sexton Associates
  • Landscape Lighting

    Tillett Lighting Design
  • Cost Consulting

    AECOM
  • Acoustical, AV/IT

    Arup
  • Security

    Architect’s Security Group
  • Soils

    Olsson
  • Irrigation

    WC3
  • Area

    30150.0 sqm
  • Project Year

    2015
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "Johnston Marklee's Design for Menil Drawing Institute To Harness Gradients of Light" 24 Feb 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/479956/johnston-marklee-unveil-detailed-designs-for-the-menil-drawing-institute/> ISSN 0719-8884
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