Nancy and Rich kinder museum building, Museum of fine arts Houston by Steven Holl Architects
Location: Houston, TX, United States
Status: Completed, 2020
The new Nancy and Rich Kinder Museum 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 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston campus.
When standing in the new entrance lobby of the Kinder Building, one can see gardens and lush Houston vegetation in four directions and feel the inviting energy of a new sense of openness to the community. 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. Organized horizontally on two levels, all galleries have natural light and are flexible with open flow. The undersides of the curved ceiling become light reflectors, catching and sliding the light across each distinct gallery experience.
These curved slices of light shape the gallery spaces in a unique way related to the organic qualities of the lush vegetation and water that characterize the new campus. Rather than mechanical and repetitive, the light is flowing, echoing the movement through the galleries. The open flow-through galleries are punctuated by views into the seven gardens with green trellises offering shade from glare. The galleries are centered around an open forum. The central gallery atrium provides generous spaces for the exhibition of art and vertical circulation to the upper floors.
The Kinder Building adds a horizontal architecture in translucent glass to the museum’s collection of stone (1924), steel and glass (1958, 1974), and stone (2000) buildings. Its innovative glass-tube facade has a soft, alabaster-like texture. The 30-inch tubes of glass open at the top and bottom, providing a “cold jacket” which reduces solar gain by 70% on the facades via the chimney effect of air circulation. At night, the glowing translucent facade is reflected in the water gardens and provides an open invitation to enter the museum.
Steven Holl Architects led a multidisciplinary team for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston campus expansion, shaping an integral experience with new landscapes and public plazas. The campus redevelopment is the largest new North American cultural project. In the center of Houston, the new master plan knits together adjacent historic elements, including a 1924 historic church, a Mies van der Rohe building, and an Isamu Noguchi sculpture garden.