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 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 the galleries is 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. In addition, all parking was placed underground to allow for maximum green space to the community. 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. The facade continues our research into translucent material phenomena. One of the original concepts for the building was to create a thick translucent exterior in complementary contrast to the adjacent transparent glass and steel building by Mies van der Rohe, and the opaque stone building by Rafael Moneo. The bent glass rain screen is a new cladding concept that required starting from scratch in engineering and detailing. We developed this geometry in full scale into a series of bent, laminated glass tubes with semicircular sections. The section shape provides structural properties that allow them to span to 19.5 feet with a bending radius of 1’-2-5/8”. The facade features 1,103 pieces of glass total with 459 different sizes. The tube facade was conceived by responding to the surrounding lush landscape. The 100-year-old live oak trees were preserved and protected to the maximum extent possible throughout site development and construction. In turn, they add to the local ecosystem as well as enhance the design of the building by casting shadows on the curved white surface of the facade. As a screen for the trees’ shadows, the facade provides a satin reflection of the green landscape and blue sky in indirect light. The Kinder Building completes the master plan for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Steven Holl Architects led the multidisciplinary team for the expansion, shaping an integral experience with new landscapes and public plazas.
Steven Holl Architects is an internationally acclaimed, innovative architecture and urban design office with locations in New York City, Hudson Valley, and Beijing.
Steven Holl Architects is recognized for the ability to shape space and light with great contextual sensitivity and to catalyze the unique qualities of each project to create a concept-driven design at multiple scales: arts institutions, campus and educational facilities, residential work, mix-use and office design, public works and master planning.
Steven Holl Architects emphasizes sustainable building and site development as fundamental to innovative and imaginative design. Our projects combine sustainable technology and forward-looking approaches to urbanism and architecture. We see a sustainable approach to design and construction as an obligation to the future of the built environment and are committed to this vision in each project.