The Menil Collection has tapped Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) to reimagine the landscape design for the institution's 30-acre Houston campus. The expansion of the landscape design is part of a 2009 master plan by David Chipperfield Architects to create what the institution calls an urban “neighborhood of art” in downtown Houston. The plan calls for expanded green spaces, new walkways, a café, and new museum buildings, the first of which will be the Menil Drawing Institute, to be designed by Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee.
The Menil Collection already has an impressive collection of buildings, including two designed by Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA: the 30,000-square-foot main museum building, which he completed in 1987 and was later selected as the 2013 recipient of the AIA’s 25 Year Award, and the Cy Twombly Gallery, which opened in 1995. The campus also includes Richmond Hall, with its installations by artist Dan Flavin, and the Rothko chapel, designed by Mark Rothko and Philip Johnson. MVVA will be tasked with creating a new landscaped entrance on the north side of the campus, leading visitors to a planned café and then on to the museum itself.
The New York–based landscape architecture practice has worked on myriad parks, campus, and urban planning projects. Notable projects include the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, and campus designs for Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. This spring, the firm completed the landscape at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
In a press release announcing the selection of MVVA issued this morning, director Josef Helfenstein said: “The enjoyment of the garden-like outdoor spaces is essential to the Menil Collection. The feeling here of appreciating art is closely tied to the experience of crossing a green space under our magnificent trees as you go from one gallery building to another.” Site preparation work for the first phase of the landscape design is expected to begin this fall.