Museum Modern.

by Amy Collier

Museum of Fine Arts Houston – Entrance

Alexander Calder‘s 1962 sculpture “The Crab” greets visitors at the portal of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s 1974 Brown Pavilion of the Caroline Wiess Law Building. This is first and only museum ever designed by Mies in the U.S. His second and final museum being Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie.

MFAH – Entrance

Looking out the ground floor of the Miesian Brown Pavilion. Inside this building you find plaster walls, suspended ceiling panels and exposed steel columns.

The Crab – Alexander Calder, 1962

Painted steel

George Nelson’s bubble/saucer pendant lamps

Seen under the stairs at the entrance to the museum’s education center. This line of pendant lamps was created for Howard Miller in 1947.

MFAH signage – Mies van der Rohe Brown Pavilion

Underground level of the Brown Pavilion

Near the entrance to the education center. Down this corridor is the Brown Auditorium Theater, one of few Mies-designed theaters still in use today.

Carlos Cruz-Diez street installations

Eye-popping crosswalk graphics by 86 year old Cruz-Diez, a pioneer of optically kinetic art.

Iconic concrete block signage – Audrey Jones Beck Building, MFAH

Designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, this 192,447 square foot structure with 85,000 square feet of gallery space was completed in 2000 to house much of the museum’s permanent collections including antiquities.

Cullen Sculpture Garden – MFAH

Designed by landscape architect and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. In the background is the Glassell School of Art, architect S.I. Morris.

Decanter – Frank Stella, 1987

Steel and bronze / Cullen Sculpture Garden

Triangular Solid with Circular Inserts, Variation F – Dan Graham, 1989–2006

Two-way mirror glass, mirror, stainless steel and aluminum / Cullen Sculpture Garden

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston – Signage

This parallelogram shaped building clad in ribbed, stainless steel was designed by Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts, completed in 1970.

The Andy Monument – Rob Pruitt, 2011

Chromed, fiberglass reinforced polyester resin, concrete base / CAMH

Broken Obelisk – Minimalist sculpture by Barnett Newman, 1963

One of four cast of this well known steel sculpture by Newman, it is permanently installed in front of the Rothko Chapel, dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Menil – Exterior

Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.

The Menil – Interior ceiling

[ All images © Amy Collier ]
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Today I am bringing you an abbreviated art and architectural field trip to the Museum District of Houston, Texas (before I carve out time again with the scanner to bring you additional 2D work). A recent business trip down south allowed me an opportunity to take photos of some of my top favorite locales in this art and design rich city.

The photo tour begins with the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH), the mothership of the Houston Museum District. It is one of the largest museums in the United States. The original neoclassical museum structure was completed in 1924 by architect William Ward Watkin. Notable additions to the MFAH are Cullinan Hall and Brown Pavillion of the Caroline Wiess Law Building, both designed in the international style by legendary Bauhaus Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1958 and 1974 respectively. Another major exhibit space—the Audrey Jones Beck Building—was designed by respected Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, known for his breadth of work—completed in the year 2000.

Of special note is the Cullen Sculpture Garden, directly across the street from Mies’ Brown Pavillion. It was designed by famous Japanese-American landscape architect and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, completed in 1986. Noguchi described the sculpture garden of broken concrete curves and abrupt angles “a geometry of playfulness”.

The Glassell School of Art (the beautifully reflective building seen in the backdrop of the Cullen Sculpture Garden images above) was completed in 1979 by well known Houston architect S. I. Morris. Morris’ partners Eugene Aubry (designer of the Rothko Chapel and the Rice Gallery at Rice University) and R. Nolen Willis were the lead designers for the Glassell School.

Next, the Contemporary Arts Museum (CAMH) is situated diagonally across the street from the MFAH. Designed by renowned Modernist Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts this rather shiny steel-clad building that opened its doors in 1970 offers a striking contrast to the other structures surrounding it.

The final three photos were taken on the campus of the Menil (the The Menil Collection), an amazing minimalist, serene environ boasting a world class art collection plus temporary exhibitions. The museum houses John and Dominique de Menil’s privately-assembled, massive collection of twentieth century art. The main building seen in the last two images was designed by Italian contemporary modern architect Renzo Piano, the roof design and resultant interior illumination with natural light created to mimic sails. The structure reached final completion in 1987.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sources + more information:
The MFAH: An Architectural History /
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston /
The Lost Sculpture Process /
Mies van der Rohe Society /
Alexander Calder /
Isamu Noguchi Museum /
Rafael Moneo /
Gunnar Birkerts /
Frank Stella /
Dan Graham /
Carlos Cruz-Diez /
Rob Pruitt /

Previous post:

Next post: