New Menil Cafe

The Menil gets into the restaurant business: New cafe part of ambitious, green-friendly revamp

The Menil gets into the restaurant business: New cafe part of revamp

1 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 day
A revamped welcome area leads guests from West Alabama to the Menil. Looking south, a new cafe at left sits across from the current bookstore. Rendering courtesy of The Menil Collection
6 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013
Operated by Houston chef Greg Marin, new cafe will be set in a vintage bungalow to the north of the main Menil building. Rendering courtesy of The Menil Collection
5 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013
Restaurant, facing north . . . Keep your eye on Jim Love's red Jack sculpture as a point of reference. Rendering courtesy of The Menil Collection
2 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 before
Facing south, the Menil's Alabama parking lot as it stands today Photo courtesy of The Menil Collection
4 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 night
Rendering courtesy of The Menil Collection
1 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 day
6 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013
5 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013
2 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 before
4 The Menil Parking Lot and Cafe rendering October 2013 night

The Menil Collection unveiled renderings of a new welcome area and cafe for the museum on Wednesday, offering a first look at a bold re-working of the 30-acre "neighborhood of art" in Montrose.

Lead by powerhouse landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh — who was announced as the project's lead designer in June — the campus overhaul is set to begin at the West Alabama parking lot, currently a less-than-picturesque entryway to Renzo Piano's celebrated museum buildings.

Van Valkenburgh plans to turn the mini asphalt jungle into a shaded sequence of lush indigenous plants that leads to the art collections and a cafe operated by noted chef and restaurateur Greg Martin, best known for his work at Cafe Express and the original Cafe Annie.

The Menil's mi ni asphalt jungle will re-emerge as a shaded sequence of indigenous plants.

As for the name of the cafe, the museum will seek suggestions from the public in a citywide contest. Stay tuned for a formal announcement coming next week.

“We are delighted to be able to show the public a small portion of the changes they can expect, as we begin to make our campus more open and inviting to all," Menil director Josef Helfenstein said in a statement.

"Design is nearing completion on the first of these green spaces designed so beautifully by Michael Van Valkenburgh’s group, and plans are coming together rapidly for the cafe that we have long wanted to provide for our visitors and the public at large."

In line with the landscape architect's eco-friendly reputation, award-winning Houston architects Stern and Bucek decided to adapt one of the Menil's many vintage bungalows that circle Piano's revered 1987 gallery building.

According to CultureMap's June chat with Helfenstein, phase two of the Van Valkenburgh plan will look to areas around the forthcoming Menil Drawing Institute designed by Los Angeles architects Johnston Marklee. As of yet, the exact site of the anticipated new drawings center has not been revealed.