First Phase of MFAH Campus Transformation Opens in May 2018

Style Magazine Newswire | 11/14/2017, 9:35 a.m.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced that in May 2018, the first phase of the Museum’s campus transformation ...
View of Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza with Eduardo Chillida’s Song of Strength (far left) and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Column (right), through Cullen Sculpture Garden. Courtesy Steven Holl Architects

HOUSTON—November 14, 2017—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced that in May 2018, the first phase of the Museum’s campus transformation will be inaugurated, with the completion of the new Glassell School of Art building, by Steven Holl Architects; the school’s BBVA Compass Roof Garden; and the adjacent Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, by Deborah Nevins & Associates.

The school, roof garden, and plaza are the first major features of the newly redesigned Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus to open. Originally slated for January 2018, the school and plaza were delayed until May as a result of flooding during Hurricane Harvey. The entire 14-acre transformation—which also includes the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art, by Steven Holl Architects; the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, by Lake|Flato Architects; and a landscape plan with multiple public plazas, by Deborah Nevins & Associates—will open in early 2020. The Sarofim Campus project will expand the role the Museum plays in the daily life of Houston, not only as a cultural institution but also as an urban oasis that is open to all, invigorating the surrounding area. In addition to the new pedestrian walkways that will unite the campus, two new pedestrian tunnels will allow for all of the Museum’s gallery buildings to be linked underground.

“It is fitting that the public’s first experience of the Museum’s transformed campus will be a new public plaza and Glassell School of Art, given that the Museum itself was founded as a kind of art school without walls, in 1900,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the MFAH. “With the school’s walkable rooftop terrace and amphitheater, and the plaza’s generous outdoor spaces—including the magnificent new Anish Kapoor Cloud Column and our iconic 1966 Eduardo Chillida sculpture, Song of Strength—the plaza and the school will be the public gateway to the entire Sarofim Campus.”

“With fundraising now past 86 percent of our $450-million goal for construction and endowment, the completion of the Glassell School of Art and Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza gives the public a preview of the transformed campus that will be fully completed in early 2020,” said Richard D. Kinder, chairman of the MFAH. “With the school’s and the plaza’s opening, we will already start to see the project’s extraordinary benefits to the Houston community being realized.”

Seamless Integration of Architecture and Public Space

Steven Holl Architects has designed a bold, L-shaped building for the Glassell School of Art. Constructed from monumental precast concrete panels and alternating panes of glass, each unique in shape and size, the building’s hinged form presents a visual pattern on all facades. Inside, a broad-stepped central staircase provides a gathering place, and several public-exhibition spaces allow for the informal display of art. Three dozen studio spaces, all illuminated with natural light, are designed to serve the school’s student mix of children and adults. In addition, the 80,000-square-foot building will house a satellite of the Museum’s MFA Café and a 75-seat auditorium. Below ground, a soaring arrival hall for schoolchildren, and offices for the Museum’s Learning and Interpretation staff, will be adjacent to the 285-car parking garage. Outside, in back of the building, a sheltered courtyard will provide outdoor space for welding and fabricating sculpture, and for firing ceramics.