Houston, United States of America 2018



PROGRAM: school of art
CLIENT: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
    SIZE: 93,000 sq ft
STATUS: complete

1) The ‘L’ shape of the building overall is a campus space defining geometry, relating to the whole of the campus and providing the inclined plane access to the campus overlook terrace.

2) Structure: the precast concrete structural elements, made in Waco, Texas, hold up the floors and define the exterior, incorporating the angle of the main incline. They also allude to the adjacent sculpture garden walls angled by Isamu Noguchi.

3) The entry to the ‘L’-shaped building is placed at the main interior corner and is defined by a dissolution of the structure: an opening up which set the exhibition forum in torsion climbing vertically to the roof terrace overlook

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston redevelopment has the unique chance to expand the museum’s campus as an integral experience open to the community. Horizontal activity, transparency and porosity will unify the new MFAH, and provide inspiring and inviting public spaces. The lush Houston vegetation, refreshing sound, and reflections in water are all part of a new campus experience elevating the poetry of art.

The new ‘L’-shaped Glassell school shapes the Brown Foundation Plaza which extends the space of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden by Isamu Noguchi.

The inclined plane of the roof shapes an amphitheater and a public path to a rooftop garden overlooking the whole MFAH campus.

There are 3 gallery spaces in the building:

1) At the ground level café space overlooking the plaza
2) At the Education Court connecting to a sculptural tunnel to the future Nancy and Rich Kinder Building
3) At the top of the forum on the second floor

The main entry opens to a cascade of levels at the forum shaping an informal learning space directly opening to a 75 seat auditorium.

There are 23 studios shared between the Core Program and Junior School and 8 core-fellow studios. All of these have been designed with flexibility, great light, and fine proportions.

The simple planar structural pieces of sandblasted concrete begin with the angle of the inclined roof plane and give character to the inner spaces of the building in the spirit of simplicity and directness employed by Mies Van der Rohe’s original building. The concrete planes alternate with large translucent panels to provide ideal diffuse light to the studios. As an educational building it tells us how it is made. Winston Churchill said: “First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us.”




  • architect
    • – Steven Holl Architects
    • Steven Holl ( design architect, principal )
    • Chris McVoy ( senior partner in charge )
    • Olaf Schmidt ( project architect, senior associate )
    • Yiqing Zhao ( project architect - Glassell School of Art )
    • Rychiee Espinosa ( project architect - Glassell School of Art )
    • Filipe Taboada ( project architect - Kinder Building, associate )
    • Xi Chen, Suk Lee, Maki Matsubayashi, Elise Riley, Christopher Rotman, Alfonso Simeo, Yasmin Vobis (project team)
  • associate architect
    • – Kendall/Heaton Associates
  • project manager
    • – Legends
  • structural engineer
    • – Guy Nordenson and Associates
      – Cardno Haynes Whaley
  • MEP engineer
    • – ICOR Associates
  • lighting consultant
    • – L'Observatoire International
  • climate engineer
    • – Transsolar
  • cost estimator
    • – Venue Cost Consultants
  • facade consultant
    • – Knippers Helbig