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