Josef Helfenstein, director of the Menil Collection
, today announced that the Board of Trustees has narrowed the international search for an architect to design the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI), the first major building project under the museums ambitious long-range plan. Four firms will compete for the design of the MDI, with a final selection expected by early June 2012.
The multi-year plan envisions improving and reconfiguring the Menils serene urban campus with more green space, concentrations of art and amenities for the public, allowing the museum to advance its activities on every front. This future will begin with the construction of the MDI, the first freestanding facility in America dedicated to modern and contemporary drawing. The new building and its programs will enable the Menil to enhance its hallmark experience of a direct encounter between each visitor and the work of the artists hand.
The short list, comprising firms that are both well-established and emerging, are Tatiana Bilbao (Mexico City); David Chipperfield Architects (London); Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles); and SANAA (Tokyo).
Josef Helfenstein stated, In this year, when we observe the 25th anniversary of our great museum building by Renzo Piano, we are pleased to begin realizing our vision for the future by selecting the next architect to design a major building for the Menil campus. By taking on the challenge of designing MDIthe only facility of its kindthe 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.
Leslie Elkins Sasser, Chair of the Menils architecture selection committee, stated, The Menils campus is one of the worlds most cherished cultural landscapes. We intend to move forward with respect to what exists, preserving and nurturing its spirit as we move forward in the Menils tradition of commissioning exceptional architecture. Each of the four firms we have selected for the short list, after months of research, travel and discussion, have the potential to achieve a remarkable addition- for our campus, for our city of Houston and for the many visitors from around the world.
Established in 2008 as a program of the Menil Collection, the Menil Drawing Institute currently conducts research into modern and contemporary drawing; organizes exhibitions (such as surveys of the drawings of Claes Oldenburg and Tony Smith, and the current Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective); and is undertaking the research and publication of the multi-volume catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Jasper Johns. The Board of Trustees has resolved that a freestanding facility for MDI will be the first major building project undertaken through the longrange plan, as a key expression of the Menils values and vision for the future. A modest project under the plan−a 1,500-square-foot café, being designed by Rice Universitys Rice Building Workshop−was announced in 2011.
The Menils building program began with a strategic planning process undertaken in 2006, calling for a series of expansions to realize the full founding vision of Dominique and John de Menil. Among its features, the strategic plan proposes completing the campus with construction of the MDI, a café, additional space for the Menil Archives and buildings devoted to the work of individual artists (such as the Menils Cy Twombly Gallery and Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall). It was on the basis of this strategic plan that the Menil in 2009 commissioned David Chipperfield Architects to create a master site plan for the campus, a 30-acre neighborhood of art (as it was described by the late architecture critic Reyner Banham) in Houstons Museum District. The Board of Trustees has enthusiastically embraced the Chipperfield master site plan for its sensitivity and intelligence in showing how to increase the Menils visibility and accessibility without sacrificing the campuss tranquil, oasis-like quality. The plan suggests no alterations to existing Menil art buildings and will preserve the scale, green ambience, and tranquility of the Menils neighborhood.