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Museum of Fine Arts Houston Expansion

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I saw, or heard or whatever, the Finnish theorist Juhani Pallasmaa lecture a few years ago.  I've heard he has big influence on Holl.

 

Pallasmaa made no sense to me at all, but Holl says, "Architecture depends on intuition."  He makes intuitive sketches using watercolors, and because he calls the shots, the firm details them into final form.  "So they go from my watercolor directly into a 3D computer drawing. That drawing goes into our 3D printer and in a matter of, say, twelve hours, in the time that I’m flying, I can have a model waiting for me when I arrive back at the office."  He has six people to do that.  Anyway, he has already auctioned off a concept drawing of the intuitively rendered MFAH.  All I'm saying is, don't be gobsmacked if the new wing looks a little like a piece of cheese.

 

This forum's deep negativity and rush to attack and criticize every building project in this city never ceases to amaze.  We are quite used to attacks on renderings, and attacks on uncompleted buildings...

 

but now we are getting attacks on planned buildings based on having seen or heard "or whatever" a lecture by a theorist who, according to rumor, has a big influence on the work of the project's architect?????? 

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This forum's deep negativity and rush to attack and criticize every building project in this city never ceases to amaze. We are quite used to attacks on renderings, and attacks on uncompleted buildings...

but now we are getting attacks on planned buildings based on having seen or heard "or whatever" a lecture by a theorist who, according to rumor, has a big influence on the work of the project's architect??????

Well...yes...based on this information, the building is clearly going to suck. How could anyone conclude anything different???

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This forum's deep negativity and rush to attack and criticize every building project in this city never ceases to amaze.  We are quite used to attacks on renderings, and attacks on uncompleted buildings...

 

but now we are getting attacks on planned buildings based on having seen or heard "or whatever" a lecture by a theorist who, according to rumor, has a big influence on the work of the project's architect?????? 

 

I am usually indifferent to the internecine stuff on HAIF, but I find, to my astonishment, that I want to put in a word for strickn, maybe because just a few minutes ago, oblivious to this thread, I enjoyed the background he provided here: http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/28750-structural-logic-of-600-travis/.

Although his insistence on the idea of respecting place loses me in an urban Texas context (though, strictly speaking, this is one of "my" places, right there: baptized by Dr. Lancaster at First Presbyterian church, where, mulishness already intact by kindergarten, my mouth full of vanilla sandwich cookie, I remember quizzing my Sunday school teacher, why did God need a Son of God - why was God not sufficient?), his posts are more interesting, and certainly more literate, than the standard, "This is going to be sweet, this is frickin' awesome."

His musings about Steve Holl's design process sent me in search of further information, and I suddenly remembered that, although my interest in architecture is not deep like y'all's, but just a facet of general cultural interest, I had read years ago a New Yorker piece about another museum addition Holl did in Kansas City. Let's just say, General Reader was not carried away by it, though appreciating that everything is still up-to-date in Kansas City.

So, whelmed or underwhelmed by the new building, I look forward to strickn's thoughts on it, if he feels it's worth his bother.

Edited by luciaphile

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19514 says my process of forming conclusions is premature, tossed off.  I at least imply likewise that Holl's process of forming conclusions is premature, tossed off.  So at least we match.  I don't know if that creates a double negative for him or not.  

 

The gist of my original post was in a similar vein with the 600 Travis thread:  to try to get folks to imagining what justice a designer (I suggested MC2 architects) could have done after marinating in Houston's very personal public contradictions.  When Holl built in Dallas he practiced a much more carefully composed approach, whereas now he may believe that the only way to take all details into account is to go with your gut.  Maybe the only way to do justice to Houston's haste is to shoot from the hip, after all;  or maybe it's a double negative instead.

 

I apologize for the half of my remark that rushed to judge.  The point of the whole comment was in the opposite spirit:  that sustained attention pays dividends.

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So if the architect is at the (no doubt well-earned) tossing-off stage of his career, that may "do justice to Houston's haste"? You have hedged your bets, strickn.

Interpret us, for us: that sounds like more than Steve Holl is paid to do. But as a native and layperson I am casually curious to know how this might be done.

However, if all the marinating produced only nods to the heat and the usual stuff about boomtowns and youthful energy, unbeholden to the past, etc. -- I would just as soon admire Holl's building in absolute isolation, with no accompanying text.

 

 

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I think this will be much more than a new building where a parking lot now stands. I'm quite sure that it'll be a whole streetscape which should unify a campus of buildings. I have no idea how that'll be done, but I believe that that was part of the commission. Jim, it sounds like integrating the awesome sculpture garden is a primary concern.

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As important as the urban environment is, the main concern should be that the artwork in the building is properly displayed and conserved; which I would venture to say is one if the reasons Holl was selected. Along with Renzo Piano, he is one of the few architects who really understands and masters the use of natural lighting.

Edited by fernz

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I saw, or heard or whatever, the Finnish theorist Juhani Pallasmaa lecture a few years ago.  I've heard he has big influence on Holl.

 

Pallasmaa made no sense to me at all, but Holl says, "Architecture depends on intuition."  He makes intuitive sketches using watercolors, and because he calls the shots, the firm details them into final form.  "So they go from my watercolor directly into a 3D computer drawing. That drawing goes into our 3D printer and in a matter of, say, twelve hours, in the time that I’m flying, I can have a model waiting for me when I arrive back at the office."  He has six people to do that.  Anyway, he has already auctioned off a concept drawing of the intuitively rendered MFAH.  All I'm saying is, don't be gobsmacked if the new wing looks a little like a piece of cheese.

 

Hmmm ... if it were Swiss cheese, it might be interesting :-)

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Planning Commission just granted 0' lot line variance on Montrose for new Glassell. Showed some renderings. New building as described earlier in the thread; second floor then cantilevers out toward Montrose.

 

Rep said construction in 2015; total campus finished 2019.

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2019?!? why so long? link to the renderings/planning commission documents?

 

Don't think they're online yet.

 

As for why so long?

This is a large project, and this will be built to a significantly higher standard than most of the other new construction going up around town. Quality takes time.

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This will be a really great one to watch.  It's exciting that it's expecting to take until 2019...but the suspense will kill me. 

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Easy answer: Calatrava is an engineer 1st, who uses expense high performance coatings on all his work along with the obvious structural gymnastics. Holl builds conventional bldgs with an emphasis on spatial design (especially moody lighting effects) versus Calatrava's raw "bird in flight" designs.

I'm sure after the Beck bldg experience, the MFAH board of directors were probably not concerned about getting another "collection" piece; rather than it is seeking a pragmatic yet elegant solution to unite and feature the ad-hoc, period-esque additions over the years.

Edit: Expect a 100 year bldg.

Edited by infinite_jim
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Easy answer: Calatrava is an engineer 1st, who uses expense high performance coatings on all his work along with the obvious structural gymnastics. Holl builds conventional bldgs with an emphasis on spatial design (especially moody lighting effects) versus Calatrava's raw "bird in flight" designs.

I'm sure after the Beck bldg experience, the MFAH board of directors were probably not concerned about getting another "collection" piece; rather than it is seeking a pragmatic yet elegant solution to unite and feature the ad-hoc, period-esque additions over the years.

Edit: Expect a 100 year bldg.

 

From the "cheese" illustration, it seemed like Holl's ideas were less conventional and more of the Calatrava variety.

 

What do you mean by "collection piece" regarding the Beck bldg.?  I admit I don't know much about the internal MFAH discussions about all this stuff.

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Am I looking at this right?  The big inverted triangle is the new Glassel school, not the museum, right?  In the site plan the eventual new museum wing would be the grayed out box?

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From the "cheese" illustration, it seemed like Holl's ideas were less conventional and more of the Calatrava variety.

 

What do you mean by "collection piece" regarding the Beck bldg.?  I admit I don't know much about the internal MFAH discussions about all this stuff.

That's just a parti sketch, like a rendering it's not a social contract. Rather it's a way for an architect to crystallize their thoughts on paper which does not reflect structural realities; that's what I meant by saying that Calatrava is "an engineer 1st." 

 

Shorter: Holl is more humanist based, Calatrava is more aesthetic oriented (like comparing Stephen King books to Stanley Kubrick films respectively).

 

"Collection" pieces is a way of describing cities as living museums with signature bldgs by starchitects. Collect them all!

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Am I looking at this right?  The big inverted triangle is the new Glassel school, not the museum, right?  In the site plan the eventual new museum wing would be the grayed out box?

 

Not sure.  Yes.   No.  (The grayed out box is the church.)

Edited by Houston19514

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Not sure.  Yes.   No.  (The grayed out box is the church.)

 

Thank you sir.  So the museum will be in the light gray area on the bottom right.  

 

I'm sorry to see the old Glassel go.  I've always liked it.  It is probably safe to say the new museum wing will be designed to harmonize with the upside-down triangle in the rendering.  Hmmm..

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I've been giving some thought to the Glassell design.  The greenish inverted triangle - it must be an homage to the Penguin Arms.

 

652_433_306_e_1012.jpg

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Thank you sir.  So the museum will be in the light gray area on the bottom right.  

 

Actually, the new museum building will be in the white area at the far bottom right.  (Just a very tiny corner of it is shown on this site plan.)

 

 

As an aside, I happened by there in the past week.  The utility relocation work is underway.

Edited by Houston19514

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That's just a parti sketch, like a rendering it's not a social contract. Rather it's a way for an architect to crystallize their thoughts on paper which does not reflect structural realities; that's what I meant by saying that Calatrava is "an engineer 1st." 

 

Shorter: Holl is more humanist based, Calatrava is more aesthetic oriented (like comparing Stephen King books to Stanley Kubrick films respectively).

 

"Collection" pieces is a way of describing cities as living museums with signature bldgs by starchitects. Collect them all!

 

No, it's not a "social contract," but it gives some idea of the direction the architect is headed, which seems to me like something boldly sculptural and non-conventional. A "collection piece," you might say.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by humanist based vs. aesthetic oriented.

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No, it's not a "social contract," but it gives some idea of the direction the architect is headed, which seems to me like something boldly sculptural and non-conventional. A "collection piece," you might say.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by humanist based vs. aesthetic oriented.

You're mixing up the industry term "conventional" to mean an unexpected design, I'm talking about conventional bldg structures of steel frame and metal panel cladding; nothing really special about building this way these days. Calatrava does unconventional structures, your first clue is his project cost overruns, and the tortured geometry of his structures; lots of high tension cables along with massive customized, bent tubular steel. All of this needs sophisitcated fabrication work, whereas most of Holl's stuff is off-the-shelf or out of a Sweet's catalog.

The only wild stuff of Holl's I can think of off the top of my head is when he brought in Lebbeus Woods on a project in China (Woods' only build project btw).

@Subdude You can see the northwest corner of the new museum's footprint in the lower right corner of the Glassel site plan so we can see that the existing church's parking lot will shrink to their PL with a ~5' grassy perimeter surrounding the new museum.

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You're mixing up the industry term "conventional" to mean an unexpected design, I'm talking about conventional bldg structures of steel frame and metal panel cladding; nothing really special about building this way these days. Calatrava does unconventional structures, your first clue is his project cost overruns, and the tortured geometry of his structures; lots of high tension cables along with massive customized, bent tubular steel. All of this needs sophisitcated fabrication work, whereas most of Holl's stuff is off-the-shelf or out of a Sweet's catalog.

The only wild stuff of Holl's I can think of off the top of my head is when he brought in Lebbeus Woods on a project in China (Woods' only build project btw).

 

 

What am I mixing the term "conventional" up with? I believe I've been using conventional the same way you are when you say "Calatrava does unconventional structures."

 

As far as I can tell from the rendering (and I know it's not final), this will be an unconventional structure.  I don't know what other conclusion one could draw from the abstract forms depicted.

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You guys are using different definitions of the word structure.

 

H-Town Man: You're talking about the building's form, which can be completely unconventional while still using off-the-shelf (and therefor less expensive) structural components. Architects like Calatrava create innovative structural systems that themselves dictate the form. Everything has to be custom made.

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Okay, that's helpful. But don't rather abstract forms drive up maintenance costs and cost overruns regardless of what materials are used? It seems like the further away you get from the rectangular prism into non-Euclidean geometry (which is what the concept sketches seem like), the more likely you are to have these kinds of problems, regardless of what materials you use.

 

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Higher costs than the average building? Possibly, but relying on proven technologies and processes, even while being innovative with their use, is just not likely to result in the same kinds of problems you get in Calatrava's (or, going furth back, Wright's) buildings.

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Easy answer: Calatrava is an engineer 1st, who uses expense high performance coatings on all his work along with the obvious structural gymnastics. Holl builds conventional bldgs with an emphasis on spatial design (especially moody lighting effects) versus Calatrava's raw "bird in flight" designs.

I'm sure after the Beck bldg experience, the MFAH board of directors were probably not concerned about getting another "collection" piece; rather than it is seeking a pragmatic yet elegant solution to unite and feature the ad-hoc, period-esque additions over the years.

Edit: Expect a 100 year bldg.

 

How do you mean a 100 year building?

 

You make an interesting point about what MFAH is looking for.  Largely because of the Bilbao effect, it seems that museums in general face a high expectation level for their architecture, which in turn has contributed to the “starchitect” phenomenon.  MFAH fell hard for that with Moneo for the Beck addition, and I think they were burned by the negative reaction to the resulting design. 

 

To your point, perhaps they would do well to go for something very subdued and unassuming for the new wing and try to lower expectations for a whiz-bang design.  Architecturally, there probably isn’t a lot that can be done to unify the different additions, so a sensible strategy might be to focus on simply not clashing.

 

 

It is interesting that museums so often need to feel the need to be architectural statements, compared to most other categories of structures.  I suppose it is because they house Art, and thus the building must be Art as well.  

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How do you mean a 100 year building?

 

You make an interesting point about what MFAH is looking for.  Largely because of the Bilbao effect, it seems that museums in general face a high expectation level for their architecture, which in turn has contributed to the “starchitect” phenomenon.  MFAH fell hard for that with Moneo for the Beck addition, and I think they were burned by the negative reaction to the resulting design. 

 

To your point, perhaps they would do well to go for something very subdued and unassuming for the new wing and try to lower expectations for a whiz-bang design.  Architecturally, there probably isn’t a lot that can be done to unify the different additions, so a sensible strategy might be to focus on simply not clashing.

 

 

It is interesting that museums so often need to feel the need to be architectural statements, compared to most other categories of structures.  I suppose it is because they house Art, and thus the building must be Art as well.  

 

Good thoughts.  Although, at least from the outside, I thought the Moneo design was subdued and unassuming.  The inside I think is great though.

 

One thing I would like, even if it stamps me as having vulgar tastes: I want something postcard-worthy out of this design.  Right now there's really not a view of the MFAH that you can put on a postcard for someone who isn't into modernism or doesn't know a lot about architecture and have it be interesting.  This is definitely not the case for any of the museums that we want to compete with.  It says something that the view of itself that MFAH usually advertises is an aerial, showing rooftops.  I want our last museum building to be memorable, distinctive, splashy, so you can stand at the corner of Main and Binz and not feel you're surrounded by boxes.

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 I want our last museum building to be memorable, distinctive, splashy, so you can stand at the corner of Main and Binz and not feel you're surrounded by boxes.

 

I find it interesting that public architecture in Houston is rarely splashy, in contrast to our our neighbor to the north.  When they needed more space for their municipal offices, they went to I.M. Pei for a flashy building to replace their small, but cute classical city hall.  More or less at the same time, we decided to preserve our mediocre (in my opinion) Art Deco city hall and just build an annex in the Brutalist style, which was fashionable at the time.   Ironically (correct me if I'm wrong), but our annex seems like a cheap imitation of Pei's Boston City Hall.  Not that I'm such a big fan of Brutalist architecture, I just think it's interesting to consider the attitudes of our two cities, in terms of how strongly we are willing to pony up to pay for prime examples of whatever architecture fads are considered "cool" at the moment.

 

I like it that the recent museum designs in Houston (Piano's and Moneo's) get good reviews from some educated sources, despite not being flashy.  I like them, too.  But ... the relict teenager in me still yearns for a Kodak-moment (read postcard) edifice sometimes.  Is this feeling necessarily a bad thing?  I recall someone north of us referring to their Calatrava bridge as their city's Eiffel Tower.  Comparisons like that can sound kinda silly (especially when taken out of context, like here), but having comparisons like that does seem to fulfill a common human need.

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I find it interesting that public architecture in Houston is rarely splashy, in contrast to our our neighbor to the north.  When they needed more space for their municipal offices, they went to I.M. Pei for a flashy building to replace their small, but cute classical city hall.  More or less at the same time, we decided to preserve our mediocre (in my opinion) Art Deco city hall and just build an annex in the Brutalist style, which was fashionable at the time.   Ironically (correct me if I'm wrong), but our annex seems like a cheap imitation of Pei's Boston City Hall.  Not that I'm such a big fan of Brutalist architecture, I just think it's interesting to consider the attitudes of our two cities, in terms of how strongly we are willing to pony up to pay for prime examples of whatever architecture fads are considered "cool" at the moment.

 

I like it that the recent museum designs in Houston (Piano's and Moneo's) get good reviews from some educated sources, despite not being flashy.  I like them, too.  But ... the relict teenager in me still yearns for a Kodak-moment (read postcard) edifice sometimes.  Is this feeling necessarily a bad thing?  I recall someone north of us referring to their Calatrava bridge as their city's Eiffel Tower.  Comparisons like that can sound kinda silly (especially when taken out of context, like here), but having comparisons like that does seem to fulfill a common human need.

 

No, this 'relic teenager' yearning/feeling for post card edifices is not a bad thing in any way. Houston definitely needs some more splash but dear God I hope THIS? isn't what they have in mind with the inverted triangle design for the new Glassell School of Art building.

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I like it that the recent museum designs in Houston (Piano's and Moneo's) get good reviews from some educated sources, despite not being flashy.

 

Piano's design has been universally praised.  The Moneo wing however was much panned.  The issues weren't splashiness per se, they were more with it's relationship to the original wings (or lack of it), tacky detailing, relationship to the street (or lack of it), and overall big-box demeanor.  That is why going the starchitect route backfired on MFAH, and why I would be comfortable with a non-postcard-worthy new wing. 

 

I don't have a problem at all with occasional postcard-worthy architecture, I just don't think that MFAH is necessarily the right venue for it.

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Maybe splashy wasn't the best word. Stately would be fine. But something to look at, please. City Hall is a good example - you can send someone a postcard of our City Hall. But you can't with MFAH.

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