The Menil to break ground on new drawing institute

Mar. 26, 2015Houston Business Journal

The Menil Collection will break ground on its first new art building in almost 20 years March 27 in a first step toward expanding the museum’s campus.

The Menil Drawing Institute will be 30,150 square feet and will include a gallery and space for the study, preservation, research and storage of drawings, making it the first of its kind in the U.S. solely devoted to the medium.

The drawing institute will be part of an initial phase of construction on a 2009 master plan for the expansion of the campus. Also included in the $40 million for the first phase will be a new energy house to power the main art buildings, new green space and the extension of West Main Street around the institute on a block that currently dead-ends.

This will be the first new art building in the Menil Collection since the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, which originally opened in 1997 and recently reopened as a space for site-specific installations after being closed since 2012, when the frescoes were returned to Cyprus.

“It really is kind of a different generation of building, a big first step in this look forward,” said Tommy Napier, communications coordinator at Menil, of the new drawing institute. “And it only enhances the aspects people love about this neighborhood.”

Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee Architects worked with Brooklyn-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh to create a space that modulates natural light, which damages drawings, while maintaining the look and feel of the green space on Menil’s campus. Houston-based Gilbane Southwest, a division of Providence-based Gilbane Building Company, is the general contractor on the project.

The street is expected to complete this year; the Menil Drawing Institute is expected to open mid-2017.