MFAH to Inaugurate the Glassell School of Art and Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza on Sunday, May 20, 2018

Steven Holl Architects’ Glassell School and Deborah Nevins & Associates’ Brown Plaza create a dramatic new public greenspace for Houston

The features are the first to be completed in the redevelopment of 14-acre MFAH campus—the largest cultural project currently under construction in the U.S.

Media Preview: Monday, May 14, 2018, from 10 a.m. to noon

Houston—February 8, 2018—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced that a community day on Sunday, May 20, 2018, will mark the public inauguration of the new Glassell School of Art by Steven Holl Architects and its adjacent Brown Foundation, Inc., Plaza, by Deborah Nevins & Associates, in collaboration with Nevins & Benito Landscape Architecture, D.P.C.

The completion of the plaza and the school—the nation’s only museum-affiliated art school serving students from the pre-K through the postgraduate level—opens a public gateway to the entire Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus. Slated for completion in 2020, the 14-acre redevelopment of the MFAH campus is currently the largest cultural project under construction in the U.S. The project’s capital and endowment campaign has reached 90 percent of its $450-million goal.

Steven Holl Architects’ dramatic, L-shaped design for the Glassell School features a sloping, walkable roofline that runs the length of the building and connects two prominent gathering places: wide-stepped amphitheater seating at its base and a rooftop garden above. The plaza’s generous expanse has been designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates, in collaboration with Nevins & Benito Landscape Architecture, to provide the setting for a reflecting pool, a shaded seating area, and two monumental public sculptures: Cloud Column (2006), a 30-foot-high stainless-steel form by Anish Kapoor; and Eduardo Chillida’s stacked-granite Song of Strength (1966). The roofline of the school will be landscaped and fully accessible, extending the plaza up and along the full length of the building.

The interior of the 85,000-square-foot school features three dozen studios, all illuminated with natural light and designed to serve more than 8,500 children and adults annually; public gallery spaces that will present exhibitions by students and alumni; a broad-stepped central staircase that will serve as the school’s forum; a 75-seat auditorium; and a public coffee bar. Classes in the new building begin June 4, with the start of the school’s popular youth summer sessions.  

Seamless Integration of Architecture and Public Space
“The inventiveness of the forms and the quality of the spaces of the Glassell School of Art distinguish Steven Holl Architects’ building as a truly remarkable architectural statement,” commented MFAH Director Gary Tinterow. “The magnificent new structure creates a seamless integration of architecture and public space, honoring the collaborative spirit of the Glassell School by embracing not only the thousands of students and faculty who will create in its spaces, but the greater public, as well.”  

“Our building for the Glassell School is a key part of the overall strategy to shape the public spaces for the entire campus,” commented Steven Holl. “The alternating concrete and glass panels create a porosity between indoors and out, and the gathering spaces, including the building’s walkable, sloping roof, provide a civic experience for students and the public alike, with a spectacular view of the neighborhood and city skyline.”

“With the new plaza and the school’s walkable roofline, the public can experience the architects’ vision for unifying the Museum’s many components and creating a universally accessible MFAH campus,” commented Deborah Nevins. “Visitors will be able to move freely among the distinct spaces we have created on the plaza: from the seating under shade trees and the reflecting pool; to the garden-level amphitheater; up the walkway of the sloped roof to the planted and sheltered terrace that overlooks the Museum campus and the city to the south.” 

Glassell School of Art Director Joe Havel noted, “For nearly four decades, the Glassell School has been an essential center for Houston’s diverse and active art community, reflecting the Museum’s commitment to developing future generations engaged in the arts. The new building brings our mission as the teaching wing of the MFAH to an entirely new level. The drama and beauty of the design, matched to an exceptionally functional and durable building made specifically for artmaking practices, will challenge the imaginations of our faculty and our students.” 

Redevelopment Overview: The Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus
The school, roof garden, and plaza are the first major features of the newly redesigned Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus to open. Slated for completion in early 2020, the 14-acre transformation— which also includes the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art, by SHA; the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, by Lake|Flato Architects; and a landscape plan with multiple public plazas, by DNA with NBLA—will expand the role the Museum plays in the daily life of Houston, not only as a cultural institution but as an urban oasis that is open to all, invigorating the surrounding area. New pedestrian walkways will unite the campus; below ground, two pedestrian tunnels will link all of the Museum buildings. The campus transformation is the largest cultural project currently under way in the U.S., with some 500,000 square feet in  new construction. 

Sited in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the Sarofim Campus will be a major contribution to the city’s efforts to improve the pedestrian experience of Houston. With its generous array of public plazas, reflecting pools, and gardens, as well as improved sidewalks, lighting, and way finding, the campus will provide an active setting for a century’s worth of architecturally significant buildings and three new structures: The Glassell School of Art and Nancy and Rich Kinder Building (Steven Holl Architects, 2018 and 2020), and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation (Lake|Flato Architects, 2018).

The campus transformation is projected to have a significant impact on the city: in the near term through job creation, and in the long term by generating nearly $334 million in economic activity over 20 years, with more than $2.5 million in direct, indirect, and induced city tax revenues.

Additional details and images of the Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus project are available. Live-cam footage of the Glassell School of Art construction site is streamed here.

About the Glassell School of Art 
The Glassell School of Art was opened in 1979, following a founding gift from trustee Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., who was committed to advancing the Museum’s art-education mission. The origins of an MFAH school date to 1927, when the Museum’s first school was established, three years after the Museum opened. During those early years, the school offered six classes for students from age 9 to 14. By 1939, 14 courses were offered for adults and children, with an enrollment of 196 students. By the early 1970s, growing enrollment led to plans for a new building to house the art school. The Glassell School of Art, an efficient, utilitarian design by Eugene Aubry for the architecture firm of S. I. Morris and Associates, was green-lighted in 1978 and took less than a year to build. In 1982, the Core Residency Program was established for artists, and in 1998 a critics’ residency was added.

Today, the Glassell School of Art is the only museum school in the country with programs that serve students of all ages, from three-year-olds, to adults, to the postgraduate artists and critics of the Core program. Notable Core alumni include Trenton Doyle Hancock, Julie Mehretu, and Shahzia Sikander. Each year, the school offers more than $100,000 in scholarships enrolls about 7,000 students. Enrollment is expected to grow to 8,500 in the new Steven Holl Architects-designed building, which doubles the space of the original. 

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 
Tracing its origins to 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is one of the largest cultural institutions in the country. The main campus is located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District and comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Glassell School of Art, and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. The Beck and Law buildings are connected underground by the Wilson Tunnel, which features James Turrell’s iconic installation The Light Inside. Additional resources include a repertory cinema, two significant libraries, and public archives. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi— present collections of American and European decorative arts. The encyclopedic collections of the MFAH are especially strong in Pre-Columbian and African gold; Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture; 19th- and 20th-century art; photography; and Latin American art. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.  

About Steven Holl Architects  
Steven Holl Architects has realized architectural works nationally and overseas, with extensive experience in the arts—including museum, gallery, and exhibition design—campus and educational facilities, master planning, and residential work. A 40-person architecture and urban design office founded in 1977, SHA works globally as one office from two locations, New York City and Beijing. Steven Holl leads the office with partners Chris McVoy and Noah Yaffe. Most recently completed are the Maggie’s Centre Barts in London (2017); the Lewis Arts Complex at Princeton University (2017); and the Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa (2016). Steven Holl Architects currently has six projects under construction: the Glassell School of Art and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the John F. Kennedy Center Expansion in Washington, D.C.; the ChinPaoSan Necropolis in Taiwan; the Hunters Point Community Library in Queens, New York; and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

About Deborah Nevins & Associates  
Deborah Nevins & Associates, Inc., is a New York-based landscape-design firm founded in 1990. 
Their work includes projects for major cultural institutions, in partnership with some of the world’s most eminent architects. Deborah Nevins & Associates designs projects all over the world, ranging in scale from residential and urban gardens to the recently completed, 40-acre Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center and Park in Athens. Noted for elegant designs and horticultural expertise reflecting the varied geographic distribution of their projects, the firm has expertise in working with fragile natural environments using indigenous plant communities that are in harmony with the local ecology. Their design work for the MFAH—done in collaboration with Mario Benito and Nevins &  Benito Landscape Architecture, D.P.C.—encompasses the Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, the roofline of the Glassell School of Art, and a landscape-design plan for the entire, 14-acre campus.  

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