Steven Holl’s Kinder building at the Museum of fine arts in Houston before completion

Steven Holl completes another structure as part of the Museum of fine arts in Houston (MFAH), the “nancy and rich kinder building”. Also called “the largest cultural project currently in progress in North America”, the redevelopment of MFAH’s ‘sarofim campus’ is being undertaken through a $450 million capital and endowment campaign. The project includes the creation of a public plaza, a new home for the glassell school of art, also designed by Steven Holl Architects, and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer foundation center for conservation, designed by Lake Flato Architects.
The kinder building is designed so that it stands in complementary contrast to the site’s existing structures, including projects by Mies van der Rohe and Rafael Moneo.
Steven Holl’s concrete building has trapezoidal form and is clad in vertical glass tubes that emit a soft glow at night.
Five rectangular courtyard pools are inset along the perimeter, reinforcing the building’s openness to its surroundings.
The building is 183 528 square feet, 53 685 square feet of below ground parking on two levels.
With more than 100 000 square feet of space, or 56%, dedicated to the presentation of works of art, the building increases overall MFAH exhibition space by nearly 75%. There is also a 215-seat theater for film screenings and a restaurant and café at ground level.
“There’s a porosity to the buildings — whether in the alternating concrete and glass panels of the glassell school, or the ground-floor transparency and perimeter garden insets of the kinder building — that creates a sense of interchange between indoors and out,” Steven Holl explains. “light enters the kinder building through the ‘luminous canopy’ of its roof, modelled on the billowing clouds of the Texas sky, and light emerges from the cladding of soft-etched translucent glass tubes, whose glowing presence at night will add to the impact of the campus as a civic experience for all of Houston.”
A series of seven commissioned artworks will be inaugurated with the kinder building, with El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Glafur Eliasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, and Ai Weiwei all creating site-specific pieces.
Green spaces by Deborah Nevins & Associates, in collaboration with Mario Benito, and upgraded sidewalks, street lighting, and wayfinding create an amazing urban oasis.


Image by Richard Barnes