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The chosen one: Steven Holl Architects picked to design Museum of Fine Arts, Houston expansion

The chosen one: Steven Holl Architects picked to design Museum of Fine Arts, Houston expansion

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Architect Steven Holl of Steven Holl Architects Courtesy of Mark Heitoff
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Bloch Building expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Charvex
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Steven Holl's design for Simmons Hall at MIT won the Harleston Parker Medal from the Boston Society of Architects in 2004. Photo by Daderot
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The 2007 Bloch Building expansion for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Charvex
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The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston announced Thursday that the award-winning American firm Steven Holl Architects has been selected to partner with the museum to develop an architectural project on a two-acre site adjacent to the Cullen Sculpture Garden.

At the center of the expansion effort will be a new museum building set to house the MFAH's galleries for art after 1900 as well as traveling exhibition space, educational facilities, a library and resource center, lecture halls, a theater and a restaurant.

The museum's long-range planning committee, comprised of members from the MFAH board of trustees, narrowed an international search to three renowned candidates in July 2012 — New York's Steven Holl Architects, Norwegian firm Snøhetta and the Los Angeles-based Morphosis. Each design group was asked to devise a site-specific architectural concept for the new multi-use expansion.

 "Everyone gave truly compelling presentations," said MFAH director Gary Tinterow. "It was exciting to see three quite different notions of how the project could be developed."

 The firms presented their final ideas last week.

"Everyone gave truly compelling presentations," MFAH director Gary Tinterow told CultureMap. "It was exciting to see three quite different notions of how the project could be developed."

Though the newly-appointed director has only been involved in the selection process recently, he said he was able to meet with each of the final candidates personally.

"After hearing the final presentations last week, it was almost universally held among members of the planning committee that Steven Holl Architects would be the best fit for the museum's vision."

Tinterow, who strongly considered a career in architecture during his studies at Harvard, stressed that the choice of Steven Holl is only the start of a long-term working relationship with the firm as internal museum departments review and refine the expansion project.

"The committee wasn't choosing a specific building design," he noted, saying that the candidates were given only general parameters of what the museum hoped to achieve. "Essentially, we were making decisions on the way the firms think and how they work."

"I really have to commend the selection committee for their consistantly methodical approach," said Tinterow. "They visited almost every project by the finalists they could. They've been working together so well for so long, they knew exactly what kind of relationship they wanted to have with the chosen architectural team."

Winner of the American Institute of Architect's Gold Medal for 2012, Steven Holl is best recognized in the US for 2003's Simmons Hall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as for his innovative 2007 addition for Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., which New Yorker magazine heralded as “one of the best buildings of the last generation.”