One of the largest museums in the United States is undergoing a major revitalization that will produce three new standout buildings. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) provides a home for approximately 64,000 pieces of art while hosting numerous programs and community workshops. The Audrey Jones Beck Building and the Caroline Wiess Law Building are currently the main galleries where the collections and exhibitions are presented to the public. The campus redevelopment, spanning 14 acres of land in the heart of Houston's Museum District, will be named after billionaire Fayez S. Sarofim and his wife Susan, who contributed $70 million towards the $450 million cost of the project.
New York-based Steven Holl Architects was tapped to design the master plan for the site and two striking new buildings, including an L-shaped structure to house the Glassell School of Art. Replacing the existing building where students have worked since 1979, the 80,000-square-foot development is currently under construction and is expected to be partially clad in sandblasted precast concrete panels arranged at irregular angles. The remaining exterior envelope will be wrapped in glazing to allow a steady supply of sunlight to enter each studio space. For the first time, about 7,000 Junior School and Studio School students, plus Core Program residents, will all be served under one roof. In addition to a street-level cafe, a sloping roof garden climbs from an outdoor amphitheatre to offer views of the campus. The abutting Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza is expected to act as a stage for outdoor performances and programs.
San Antonio's Lake | Flato Architects has designed the The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017. Positioned on the eastern perimeter of the MFAH campus, a glass structure will be erected atop an existing parking garage, turning a utilitarian building into a work of art. Accommodating conservation labs and studios, the glass-fronted facade encourages interactivity between passersby and users of the space. Again, a cafe on the ground floor will deliver light meals and drinks.
The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building is the second of the Steven Holl-designed buildings on the refreshed campus and will become a fixture for art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Its translucent aesthetic and luminous canopy have been designed to contrast with the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Caroline Wiess Law Building and the stone exterior of the Audrey Jones Beck Building. Seven openings in the facade permit the inclusion of vertical gardens that meet calming reflecting pools on the ground. The three-level atrium space and an interior of curved staircases mimic the puffy clouds of Texas' big skies. Galleries lay claim to 54,000 square feet, while the 202-seat Lynn and Oscar Wyatt Theater offers a dedicated venue for presentations and performances. Several meeting rooms, a restaurant, and yes, another cafe, are due for a 2019 opening.
The landscaping plan puts emphasis on unifying the horizontal campus expansion with its surroundings, ensuring all parking is underground, and improving pedestrian circulation throughout the site. The new buildings work in harmony with the existing context, recognizing both their architectural contributions and their spatial shortcomings. When the campus is complete in 2019, users will be greeted with rejuvenated facilities that have been designed at a comforting human scale.
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