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Glassell School of Art

Steven Holl Architects

Shared By

Symone Garvett

Project Name

Glassell School of Art

Year Completed



80,000 sq. feet


  • Steven Holl, Chris McVoy (Design Architects)
  • Chris McVoy (Partner in Charge)
  • Olaf Schmidt (Senior Associate)
  • Rychiee Espinosa (Project Architect)
  • Garrick Ambrose, Xi Chen, Carolina Freue, JongSeo Lee, Suk Lee, Vahe Markosian, Maki Matsubayashi, Elise Riley, Christopher Rotman, Yun Shi, Alfonso Simelio, Dimitra Tsachrelia, Yasmin Vobis, Christina Yessios, Yiqing Zhao (Project Team)


  • Kendall/Heaton Associates
  • The Projects Group
  • Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson and Associates
  • Mechanical Engineer: ICOR Associates
  • Lighting Designer: L'Observatoire International
  • Other: Transsolar
  • Other: Venue Cost Consultants
  • Other: Knippers Helbig

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Project Description


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston redevelopment has the unique chance to expand the museum’s campus as an integral experience open to the community. Horizontal activity, transparency and porosity will unify the new MFAH, and provide inspiring and inviting public spaces. The lush Houston vegetation, refreshing sound, and reflections in water are all part of a new campus experience elevating the poetry of art.

The new ‘L’ shaped Glassell school shapes the Brown Foundation Plaza which extends the space of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden by Isamu Noguchi.

The inclined plane of the roof shapes an amphitheater and a public path to a rooftop sculpture garden overlooking the whole MFAH campus.

There are 3 gallery spaces in the building.

1) At the ground level café space overlooking the plaza
2) At the Education Court connecting to a sculptural tunnel to the future Nancy and Rich Kinder Building
3) At the top of the forum on the second floor

The main entry opens to a cascade of levels at the forum shaping an informal learning space directly opening to a 75 seat auditorium.

There are 23 studios shared between the core program and junior school and 8 core-fellow studios. All of these have been designed with flexibility, great light, and fine proportions.

We are very enthusiastic about the simple planar structural pieces of sandblasted concrete which begin with the angle of the inclined roof plane and give character to the inner spaces of the building in the spirit of simplicity and directness employed by Mies Van der Rohe’s original building. As an educational building it tells us how it is made. Winston Churchill said “First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us.”

We sincerely hope our new Glassell architecture contributes to the optimistic shaping of future education in the arts for Houston and beyond.
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