Menil Collection
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Architect Renzo Piano
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Location Houston, Texas   map
Date 1982 to 1986   timeline
Building Type art museum, art gallery
Climate hot
Context semi-urban
Style High-Tech Modern
Notes High-tech sun shades-louvers entirely shading glass roofed galleries.
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Discussion Menil Collection Commentary

"Art collector Dominique de Menil was thinking not simply of a new home for her growing collection, but also of a centre for music, literature, theatre and cultural educational activities when she planned this new building in a small park surrounded by low residential housing. It was to be free of all stylistic borrowings, flexible and open, and above all was to be illuminated with natural light, a specification to which Piano subordinated all other design stages. The solution was a roof of 'leaves' of thin ferro-cement which would span both the free areas as well as the display rooms of the flat building, and to which additional lights could be easily attached. Above this, a sealed superstructure contains the 'treasury'—an air-conditioned storage space for works of art not on display. The traditional timbering of the outside walls is a reference to the surrounding houses: 'Demonumentalization' was the motto."

— Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser. Architecture in the Twentieth Century. p383.

The Creator's Words

"As you have said, I really interrogate myself and am always ready to receive. But invariably I cannot start a project from its theoretical framework and then work my way to the detail. I always follow a double process, I try to comprehend the ideological reasons for the project, what lies behind it, what constitutes its social and formal innovation, its functional requirements, the context within which one works with respect to fellow practitioners, and at the same time I find it difficult to divorce these issues from my initial design sketches on grubby bits of paper that I take everywhere, with designs of junctions, bolts, and the smallest details. I cannot separate the two. Normally I start at this level, where I have the excuse of artisan experimentation, which I greatly enjoy."

"What I'm interested in is 'doing architecture.' I try to work in a completely normal way, one that is not governed by any straight away. I feel bound by a kind of discipline to restrain myself and allow elements to accumulate for a while, sometimes over quite a long period. It may even take a year."

— Renzo Piano. from Paul Goldberger, introduction. Renzo Piano and Building Workshop: Buildings and Projects 1971-1989. p232-233, 237.

Resources
Sources on Menil Collection

Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser. Architecture in the Twentieth Century. Koln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1991. ISBN 3-8228-0550-5. p383.

Patricia Cummings Loud. The Art Museums of Louis I. Kahn. USA: Duke University Press, 1989. 89-51072. ISBN 0-8223-0998-X. p244-259. documentation and discussion of the scheme for Menil by Louis I. Kahn.

David Morton, ed. The Menil Collection, Houston. Progressive Architecture. May 1987. Vol. LXVIII, No. 5. Cleveland, Ohio: Penton Publishing. color photo of interior gallery space, p95. color photo of exterior, p97.

Renzo Piano and Building Workshop : Buildings and Projects, 1971-1989. Renzo Piano, introduction by Paul Goldberger. ISBN 0-8478-1152-2. LC 89-45430. NA1123.P47A4 1989. p232-233, 237. — A beautiful book documenting beautiful modern buildings. Out of print, but you can place a request at at Amazon.com

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com


 

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