Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) Selects Three Architecture Firms to Submit Design Proposals for Expanded Museum

New building for post-1900 art will provide essential collection, exhibition, programming and public spaces – Project links existing gallery buildings by Mies van der Rohe and Rafael Moneo, and sculpture garden by Isamu Noguchi, creating a nearly 10-acre public campus in the heart of Houston’s Museum District

Cornelia Long, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, announced at yesterday’s annual meeting of the board that the MFAH has selected three architecture firms—Morphosis, Snøhetta and Steven Holl Architects—to submit conceptual design proposals for an expanded MFAH. The project entails the construction of a building intended primarily for post-1900 art, a parking garage and the integration of surrounding MFAH buildings and public spaces. The decision follows several years of focused internal discussion to assess the museum’s future needs, and a year-long series of interviews with 10 international architecture firms.

“This decision marks an important step forward for the future MFAH,” said Richard D. Kinder, chair of the museum’s long-range planning committee. “Even before Rafael Moneo’s Audrey Jones Beck Building opened, in 2000, MFAH director Peter Marzio and the board recognized that it would not be the final step in expanding the MFAH. With the collections now numbering some 63,000 objects—more than half of them works of art created after 1900—the need for a building dedicated to these expanding collections is unquestioned.”

Each of the three firms will be asked to develop site-specific concepts for the new building, garage and integration of the surrounding buildings and public spaces. The new museum building will occupy a two-acre, museum-owned site now being used as a parking lot. The property is adjacent to the Isamu Noguchi-designed Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden and to the Glassell School of Art, and is across the street from the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo, and the Caroline Wiess Law Building, designed by Mies van der Rohe. In addition to being a home for post-1900 art from the MFAH permanent collection, the new building is planned to include galleries for traveling exhibitions, educational facilities, a library and study/resource center, lecture halls, a theater and a restaurant.

The concept proposals will be submitted in early 2012 and reviewed by the long-range planning committee. Said Cornelia Long, “We are excited to see how the selected firms respond to our unique campus of distinguished buildings and gardens.”

About the Architects

Morphosis (Los Angeles and New York City)
Founded in 1972, Morphosis is an interdisciplinary practice involved in rigorous design and research that yields innovative, iconic buildings and urban environments. With founder Thom Mayne serving as design director, the firm today consists of a group of more than 50 professionals who remain committed to the practice of architecture as a collaborative enterprise. With projects worldwide, the firm’s work ranges in scale from residential, institutional and civic buildings to large urban planning projects. Named after the Greek term morphosis, meaning to form or be in formation, Morphosis is a dynamic and evolving practice that responds to the shifting and advancing social, cultural, political and technological conditions of modern life. Over the past 30 years, Morphosis has received 25 Progressive Architecture Awards, more than 100 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Awards and numerous other honors. Notable projects include 41 Cooper Square in New York City (2005); Giant Interactive Group Headquarters in Shanghai (2010); and the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, Phare Tower in Paris and Emerson College Los Angeles Center in Hollywood, each currently under construction.

Snøhetta (Oslo and New York City)
Snøhetta is a “transdisciplinary” architecture, landscape and interior design company with focus upon the development of socially engaging and sustainable environments. The company works internationally, with offices in New York City and Oslo. Its most notable cultural projects include the contemporary rebuilding of the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt and the new National Opera and Ballet building in Norway. Recently Snøhetta has won the commission to reconstruct the urban landscape at Times Square in New York City. The firm’s museum work includes the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York City at the former World Trade Center site, the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the new Guadalajara Museum of Environmental Science in Mexico. The company has received numerous international awards including the Aga Khan Prize in 2004 and the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2009, and it is the only company to have twice won the World Architecture Award for Best Cultural Building in the World, in 2003 and 2008. In 2010 Snøhetta was given the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture. This year, Fast Company magazine ranked Snøhetta in the top 50 of the world’s most innovative companies, the only architectural practice in this list, for the company’s emphasis on an “architecture of engagement” both within its studio and in the projects Snøhetta helps to create.

Steven Holl Architects (New York City and Beijing)
Steven Holl Architects is an innovative, 40-person architecture and urban design firm working globally as one office from two locations: New York City and Beijing. Steven Holl leads the office with partner Chris McVoy. Steven Holl Architects has realized architectural works nationally and overseas, with extensive experience in the arts (including museum, gallery and exhibition design), campus and educational facilities, residential work and master planning. The firm has been internationally recognized with architecture’s most prestigious awards for quality and excellence in design, including the 1998 Alvar Aalto Award, the 2001 Grande Medailles D’Or, and the 2009 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. Named by Time Magazine as America’s Best Architect, Steven Holl has a unique design sensibility for “buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye.” Completed museums include Kiasma: The Finnish Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; The Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark; and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, named by Time Magazine “#1 Architectural Marvel of 2007” and called “one of the best buildings of the last generation” by The New Yorker. The Museum of the Ocean and Surf opens in Biarritz, France on June 25 and the Nanjing Museum of Art opens in China October, 2011.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Established in 1900, the MFAH is the largest cultural institution in the region. The majority of the museum’s presentations take place on its main campus, which is located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District and comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Glassell School of Art and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. The Beck and Law buildings are connected underground by the Wilson Tunnel, which features James Turrell’s iconic installation The Light Inside (1999). Additional resources include a repertory cinema, two significant libraries, public archives and a state-of-the-art conservation and storage facility. Nearby, two remarkable house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The encyclopedic collections of the MFAH are especially strong in pre-Columbian and African gold; Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture; 19th- and 20th-century art; photography; and Latin American art. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.

Image: Museum of Fine Arts Houston

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