Although Texas gets more attention for its big, bright stars, the state’s vast blue skies and dynamic clouds are what inspired Steven Holl’s latest project, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). Home to the only Mies van der Rohe museum in the U.S., as well as a gallery building by Pritzker Prize–winner Rafael Moneo, the institution’s Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus is at long last complete, with the opening of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building on November 21. Clad in a vertical array of translucent glass tubes and topped by a complex clerestory roof that brings in diffuse daylight throughout the interior, the nearly 240,000-square-foot structure consolidates the MFAH’s impressive—and growing—permanent collection of modern and contemporary art.
While Holl’s vision for the gallery came from the shifting shape of clouds, its form was derived from its trapezoidal site in Houston’s increasingly pedestrian-friendly Museum District. (New York–based landscape-design firm Deborah Nevins & Associates has transformed Bissonnet Street, which splits the campus, adding an esplanade and improving street crossings.) The Kinder’s southern exposure arcs along Bissonnet, mirroring the uniquely curved facade of Mies’s Law building, while the east side engages the one-acre sculpture garden designed by Isamu Noguchi in the mid-1980s. Weaving together the campus’s various components, the architects have created a dramatic but respectful expansion for the institution, capitalizing on two principles that, as Holl and his partner Chris McVoy note, underpin much of the firm’s work: porosity and light.