The latest addition to the Menil Foundation’s sprawling 30-acre campus in Houston is now complete. The Menil Collection will welcome the opening of the Menil Drawing Institute on November 3, on a Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates-designed landscape that ties the new building to the existing collection’s grounds.
Johnston Marklee’s $40 million Drawing Institute is opening a year later than originally expected due to construction delays. The low-slung, 30,000-square-foot building might appear simple—a single-story collection of rectangular volumes and three open-air square courtyards—but the highly-specific technical details contributed in part to the postponement. On a recent tour of the building by the Houston Chronicle, the extremely-thin metal roof, precisely-angled ceilings, all-custom furniture, and vertically-veined marble in the bathrooms were singled out as examples of Johnston Marklee’s attention to detail (and the lengthened schedule) paying off.
The Drawing Institute is the first freestanding space specifically built to study, conserve, and display contemporary and modern drawings, and is the Collection’s first new building in 20 years. The Institute’s 3,000 square feet of gallery spaces will be inaugurated with a 50-year retrospective of Jasper Johns’s work titled The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns. The Condition of Being Here will be on display until January 29, 2019, and like the other four buildings in the Menil Collection, admission to the Drawing Institute will be free.
In the construction photos released today, completed pieces of the painted-steel roof, only 4.5 inches thick at the courtyard canopies, can be seen being swung into place. The roofs of the three courtyards open in the middle, exposing each landscaped area to the sky and providing a controlled moment of respite for visitors. The inward slant of the canopies redirects water into the courtyard, where it can be sequestered in the same way as in a bioswale.
Resiliency and structural flood prevention were also given a high priority in the new building, especially relevant given the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the city last year. A below-ground art vault was installed to protect the Institution’s archives from water damage, and it includes a waterproof drainage layer sandwiched by two 12-inch-thick concrete walls, as well as floodgates at the vault’s entrance. A concrete curb was also installed at the ground-level slab to protect against flooding in the first-floor galleries.
Interested in exploring Houston’s art scene even further? After a tour of what the Menil Collection has to offer, visitors can check out the recently completed Transart building across the street.