Big Menil Move
A better park and art neighborhood for Houston: The Menil's oasis of green is getting a makeover
The Menil Collection's 30-acre "neighborhood of art" will be getting an outdoor makeover with the help of award-winning landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.
A major component of the museum's master site plan by David Chipperfield, the landscape redesign will begin a new entrance sequence just off the north parking, where a new cafe building is also planned.
Work is expected to start this September.
"The Menil has always been a sort of mini-oasis in this area," Menil director Josef Helfenstein tells CultureMap. "In an increasingly dense city, a green enclave like this is very important."
The director points specifically to its public park area between the main Renzo Piano building and the Rothko Chapel, where area residents enjoy clusters of shade trees amidst large-scale sculptures from the museum's collection.
"In an increasingly dense city, a green enclave like this is very important," explains Menil director Josef Helfenstein.
"What's beautiful about our landscape is how casual it feels, and we don't want to over-curate or over-design it," Helfenstein says. "The outdoors are an extremely important part of the Menil experience."
After lighting, outdoor seating and walkways are reworked, Helfenstein says a second phase of the landscape plans will tackle the areas surrounding the forthcoming Menil Drawing Institute, set to be designed by Los Angeles architecture firm Johnston Marklee.
Known for their high-profile landscape work at Brooklyn Bridge Park and along Washington D.C.'s Pennsylvania Avenue, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) have been making waves in Texas in recent years thanks to a 15-acre park of native plants for the George W. Bush Presidential Center as well as innovative plans to redesign the landscape around Waller Creek in Austin.
"Right from the start, we've felt that MVVA has had an intuitive understanding of the delicate nature and uniqueness of the Menil campus," Helfenstein says. "I'm thrilled about the collaboration and feel it will be a great win for Houston and for the museum."