NANCY AND RICH KINDER MUSEUM BUILDING, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS HOUSTON (MFAH)
Houston, Texas, United States. 2020
PROGRAM: museum addition with exhibition space, galleries, seven garden courtyards, 215-seat theater, two pedestrian tunnels, parking arrival hall, conference rooms, restaurant overlooking sculpture garden, café, and a triple-story Forum
CLIENT: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
SIZE: 237,213 sf
The new museum architecture of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building is characterized by porosity, opening the ground floor at all elevations. Seven gardens slice the perimeter, marking points of entry and punctuating the elevations. The largest garden court, at the corner of Bissonnet and Main Street, marks a central entry point on the new campus. When standing in the great new entrance lobby of the Kinder Building, one can see gardens in four directions and feel the inviting energy of a new sense of openness to the community.
The new ground level is an activated social space open to the community with longer hours than the two gallery floors above. A fine restaurant opens to the Cullen Sculpture Garden, a café to Bissonnet, and galleries open to Main Street. Special performances might take place in the Brown Foundation Plaza and Glassell rooftop garden.
The Texas sky opens 180°overhead above a luminous canopy covering the new building. Concave curves, imagined from cloud circles, push down on the roof geometry, allowing natural light to slip in with precise measure and quality, perfect for top-lit galleries. The undersides of the curved ceiling become light reflectors, catching and sliding the light across each unique gallery experience. These curved slices of light shape the gallery spaces organically in a unique way related to the organic qualities of the lush vegetation and water characterizing the new campus. Rather than mechanical and repetitive, the light is organic and flowing echoing the movement of the galleries.
Organized horizontally on two levels, all galleries have natural light and are flexible with open flow. The gallery rooms of ideal proportions are centered around an open forum. The open flow through galleries is punctuated by views into the seven gardens with green trellises offering shade from glare. The central gallery forum provides generous spaces for the exhibition of art and vertical circulation to the upper floors. A stepped ramp and elevators link the lobby and gallery levels for direct access to all galleries.
Within the horizontal collection of stone (1924), steel and glass (1958, 1974), and stone (2000), the Kinder Building adds a horizontal architecture in translucent glass. The curved glass elements have a soft texture, alabaster-like. At night the glowing translucent walls will be reflected in the water gardens and provide an open invitation to enter the museum. In complementary/contrast, the Kinder Building provides a strong contribution to the existing unique collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston architecture.
To see more about the Museum of Fine Arts Campus Expansion visit the project page here.
To see more about the Glassell School of Art, completed in 2018, as a part of the Museum of Fine Arts Campus Expansion visit the project page here.
Ecological Innovation +
“cold jacket” of glass tubes reduces solar gain by 70%
natural light to all spaces
shaded loggias at grade
sited to preserve all Live Oak trees
- Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl (principal)
Chris McVoy (design architect)
Olaf Schmidt (senior associate)
Filipe Taboada (project architect)
Rychiee Espinosa, Yiqing Zhao, Lourenzo Amaro de Oliveira, Garrick Ambrose, Xi Chen, Carolina Cohen Freue, JongSeo Lee, Vahe Markosian, Elise Riley, Christopher Rotman, Yun Shi, Alfonso Simelio, Dimitra Tsachrelia, Yasmin Vobis, Yiqing Zhao (project team)
- Kendall / Heaton Associates
- Guy Nordenson & Associates
- Cardno Haynes Whaley
- L'Observetoire International
- Venue Cost Consultants
- Knippers Helbig
Michael J. Lewis, The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2020 “As a place for viewing art, and in terms of sheer sensational impact, the Kinder is a triumph. It is impressive by day or night, adroitly integrated into its site, and—best of all—designed with special consideration for the ease and comfort of its users.”
Gary Tinterow, Director of MFAH, September 2020 "In the dynamic spaces that Steven Holl Architects has designed for the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, our distinctive holdings of modern and contemporary art will soon have the showcase they deserve."
Natilee Harren, "Better Faster, Stronger, Kinder" Art Forum, December 17, 2020 "The gaps between the curved planes let in just the right amount of soft radiance, a theme carried throughout the building’s lighting concept, which for the most part achieves a warm elegance."
Jack Murphy, "A Beautiful Series of Tubes" Rice Design Alliance, November 20, 2020 "The exterior is the most innovative and compelling part of the building. It advances a dialogue of "complementary contrast" with the two existing buildings: Distinct from Mies’s thin transparency (1958/1974) and Moneo’s thick opacity (2000), Holl’s scheme explores thick translucency. . . . The overall effect conceals the true size of the building and provides a repetitive, convex, muted façade that’s refreshingly abstract."
Illya Azaroff, FAIA, 2021 AIA New York State President "Every year the jury selects one project that they agree stands out above all the others. . . The jury felt that the form is inventive and seductive and material expression lucent and cogent. Site relationships to its neighbors are well considered and clear and the circulation through the museum is intuitive. The exterior provides a beacon in the center of the arts district. It showcases innovative thinking about topography and lightness." - Illya Azaroff, FAIA, 2021 AIA New York State President