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Ronnie Self

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Seeming Inevitability: Reconsidering Renzo Piano’s Addition To Louis Kahn’s Kimbell

South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle
South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle

When Renzo Piano’s addition to the Kimbell opened in late 2013, critical responses ranged from “both architects at the top of their games” (Witold Rybczynski) to “generous to a fault” (Mark Lamster) to “distant defacement” (Thomas de Monchaux). In this excerpt from a special issue of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, Ronnie Self gives a deeply considered assessment of the two buildings after a full turn of the seasons. The special issue also includes a review by Christopher Hawthorne of Johnston Marklee's plans for the Menil Drawing Institute, a review by David Heymann of Steven Holl’s expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an essay by Walter Hood and Carmen Taylor about Project Row Houses. Also featured are interviews of the directors of all four museums and their architects (Piano, Holl, Johnston Marklee, David Chipperfield, and Rice Building Workshop), making for a very comprehensive issue.

Piano’s main task was to respond appropriately to Kahn’s building which he achieved through alignments in plan and elevation and by dividing his project into two major bodies: a concrete walled, glass roofed pavilion facing Kahn and a separate, sod-roofed structure behind that should integrate a significant portion of the project with the landscape and thereby lessen its overall impact. Still, the loss of the open lawn that existed in front of the Kimbell where Piano’s building now stands is regrettable. Kahn’s Kimbell was conceived as a large house or a villa in a park, and unlike much of the abundant open and green space in the Fort Worth Cultural District, that park was actually used. Piano’s new outdoor space is more like a courtyard – more contained and more formal. It is more urban in its design, yet less public in its use.

Aside from lamenting the loss of the open lawn, how might we judge the addition?

View of the double staircase leading to the lower level. Image © Robert Polidori View from the southwest. Image © Robert LaPrelle Lobby view, looking south. Image © Nic Lehoux Detail of roof and beam system. Image © Robert LaPrelle + 33

The Architecture of Pompidou Metz: An Excerpt from "The Architecture of Art Museums – A Decade of Design: 2000 – 2010"

© Didier Boy De La Tour
© Didier Boy De La Tour

In honor of International Museum Day, we're taking a look back at the 21st century's most exciting museums. The following is an excerpt from the recently released book, The Architecture of Art Museums – A Decade of Design: 2000 – 2010 (Routledge) by Ronnie Self, a Houston-based architect. Each chapter of the book provides technical, comprehensive coverage of a particular influential art museum. In total, eighteen of the most important art museums of the early twenty-first century - including works from Tadao Ando, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, Steven Holl, and many other high-profile architects - are explored. The following is a condensed version of the chapter detailing Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines' 2010 classic, Centre Pompidou-Metz.

The Pompidou Center – Metz was a first experiment in French cultural decentralization. In the late 1990’s, with the prospect of closing Piano and Roger’s building in Paris for renovations, the question arose of how to maintain some of the 60,000 works in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art available for public viewing. A concept of “hors les murs” or “beyond the walls” was developed to exhibit works in other French cities. The temporary closing of the Pompidou Center – Paris spurred reflections on ways to present the national collection to a wider audience in general. Eventually a second Pompidou Center in another French city was imagined.

© Didier Boy De La Tour Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects © Didier Boy De La Tour Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects + 11