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Chipperfield misses out in Menil contest

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David Chipperfield Architects has lost out to Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee in the contest to design the first new building at Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection in Houston, Texas

The UK practice, which has already drawn up the masterplan for the redevelopment of the campus (AJ 28.01.2009), had been shortlisted alongside Japan’s SANAA and Mexico City-based Tatiana Bilbao in the competition for the prized Menil Drawing Institute (MDI) project.

Opened 25 years ago, the world-famous gallery is currently working up a long-term plan to expand the wooded campus. Proposed as a ‘single-storey, metal-roofed structure’, Johnston Marklee’s new MDI building will be the first major scheme on the site and will house exhibition, study, storage space for Menil’s collections of modern and contemporary drawings.

Collection director Josef Helfenstein said: ‘Johnston Marklee has proposed an approach that sensitively and ingeniously addresses the challenges of accommodating the vital yet inherently delicate medium of drawing,’

‘The firm understands on the deepest level the distinctive role that MDI will play as a focal point for the entire campus, giving us an approach that will serve this important collection and elevate the future experience of the Menil as a whole.’

The practice will now develop its ‘approach into a conceptual design’.

Josef Helfenstein outlines Johnston Marklee’s design

The [practice’s] approach is distinguished by its respect for the landscape and the residential scale of the Menil’s campus, and by its ingenuity in adapting these characteristics to serve the multiple purposes of MDI.
Johnston Marklee has proposed a single-storey, metal-roofed structure that would be built around a trio of courtyards.
Two of the courtyards would serve as entrances, placed at either end of the building; the researchers’ and scholars’ area of MDI would wrap around the third. In the middle would be a ‘living room,’ an intimately scaled common space for staff, scholars, and the public.
MDI’s exhibition gallery, a highly flexible space  filled with controlled, reflected natural light, would be entered from the living room. In this way, a visitor to MDI would pass from the outdoor space of the campus with its sunlight and shade to the semi-enclosed space of the courtyard, then to the enclosed but transparent space of the living room - with its views to other parts of the building and to the outdoors - and finally to the fully enclosed exhibition gallery.
This progression of spaces would also effect a series of gradations in light, gradually and gently bringing the visitor from the bright Texas sunlight to the low level of light needed for drawings.

Previous story (AJ 20.04.2012)

Chippo vies for first building in Menil revamp

British star David Chipperfield Architects has made a four-strong shortlist to design the first building in the redevelopment of the Menil Collection in Houston

The practice, which has already drawn up the masterplan for the campus (AJ 28.01.2009), will compete with firms from the US, Japan and Mexico to design the Menil Drawing Institute.

The Menil campus, which hosts a range of artwork, is currently centred on a building designed by Renzo Piano (1986).

It is to be redeveloped over several years to give it more green space, concentrations of art and amenities for the public.

The MDI will be the first freestanding facility in the US dedicated to modern and contemporary drawing.

The full shortlist for the project is:

  • Tatiana Bilbao (Mexico City)
  • David Chipperfield Architects (London)
  • Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles);
  • SANAA (Tokyo).

Menil Collection director Josef Helfenstein said: ‘By taking on the challenge of designing the MDI – the only facility of its kind – the architect will create a home for our largest, fastest-growing but most delicate collection of artworks, while also providing an important new focal point for the entire campus.”

The competition winner is expected to be announced in early June.

David Chipperfiled's Menil Collection initial masterplan ideas

David Chipperfiled’s Menil Collection initial masterplan ideas

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