Nancy and Rich Kinder Building
© Richard Barnes

Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at The Museum of Fine Arts

Steven Holl Architects as Architects

The new museum architecture of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building is characterized by porosity, opening the ground floor at all elevations. Seven gardens slice the perimeter, marking points of entry and punctuating the elevations. The largest garden court, at the corner of Bissonnet and Main Street, marks a central entry point on the new campus. When standing in the great new entrance lobby of the Kinder Building, one can see gardens in four directions and feel the inviting energy of a new sense of openness to the community.

photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes
photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes
photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes

The new ground level is an activate social space open to the community with longer hours than the two gallery floors above. A fine restaurant opens to the Cullen Sculpture Garden, a café to Bissonnet, and galleries open to Main Street. Special performances might take place in the Brown Foundation Plaza and Glassell rooftop garden.

photo_credit Peter Molick
Peter Molick
photo_credit Peter Molick
Peter Molick
photo_credit Peter Molick
Peter Molick

The Texas sky opens 180°overhead above a luminous canopy covering the new building. Concave curves, imagined from cloud circles, push down on the roof geometry, allowing natural light to slip in with precise measure and quality, perfect for top-lit galleries. The undersides of the curved ceiling become light reflectors, catching and sliding the light across each unique gallery experience. These curved slices of light shape the gallery spaces organically in a unique way related to the organic qualities of the lush vegetation and water characterizing the new campus. Rather than mechanical and repetitive, the light is organic and flowing echoing the movement of the galleries.

photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes
photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes
photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes

Organized horizontally on two levels, all galleries have natural light and are flexible with open flow. The gallery rooms of ideal proportions are centered around an open forum. The open flow through galleries is punctuated by views into the seven gardens with green trellises offering shade from glare. The central gallery forum provides generous spaces for the exhibition of art and vertical circulation to the upper floors. A stepped ramp and elevators link the lobby and gallery levels for direct access to all galleries.

photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes
photo_credit Thomas Dubrock
Thomas Dubrock
photo_credit © Richard Barnes
© Richard Barnes

Within the horizontal collection of stone (1924), steel and glass (1958, 1974), and stone (2000), the Kinder Building adds a horizontal architecture in translucent glass. The curved glass elements have a soft texture, alabaster-like. At night the glowing translucent walls will be reflected in the water gardens and provide an open invitation to enter the museum. In complementary/contrast, the Kinder Building provides a strong contribution to the existing unique collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston architecture

photo_credit © Steven Holl Architects
© Steven Holl Architects
photo_credit © Steven Holl Architects
© Steven Holl Architects
photo_credit © Steven Holl Architects
© Steven Holl Architects

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1,150 translucent glass tubes

Vanceva Colors PVB interlayers as Glass manufacturers

The new addition of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) boasts an unusual treasure – natural light. Daylight is dynamic and can change the brightness and color of art, making artificial lighting a frequent choice of museums. This is why cultural arts buildings tend to be devoid of glass walls and windows. But Stephen Holl Architects, who designed the new addition, had a distinctly different idea.

Using an ingenious system of laminated, translucent glass tubes on the outside walls of the buildings, they found a way to control the light coming in, while protecting the priceless classical art inside. Punched openings in the weather wall are opaque and offer a different experience of light behind the glass tubes. Daylight also flows in from clerestory glazing, making the experience of visiting a naturally lit museum completely unique. At night, the glass tubes glow with a soft artificial light, creating a luminous streetscape.

The museum was extended by new two building complexes, now called the Kinder Building. With the placement of the museum in the heart of Houston's Museum District — surrounded by iconic buildings, including Mies van der Rohe's existing Museum building — the design had to be a showpiece.

Working collaboratively with Holl Architects and façade specialists Josef Gartner, German glass façade experts Knippers Helbig began work on creating the glass tubes. The design called for a "cool jacket facade" — a ventilated facade structure consisting of approximately 1,150 translucent glass tubes with a length of up to 6.50m. Almost the entire building is wrapped with translucent glass tubes, which are located in front of opaque walls and large punched windows. A steel substructure with an invisible structural glazing connection supports the tubes.

The glass tubes have an acid-etched surface on the outside with four translucent Vanceva® Arctic Snow PVB interlayers, which precisely control the amount of daylight passing through them. The success of this project relied heavily on the meticulous selection of materials and forms, as well as through countless daylight simulations and mock-ups. During the Construction Documents Phase, a full-scale mockup was built to measure daylight transmission. Over several months, temperatures were measured on the tubes with the results used in detailed thermal and structural analysis.

The tight bending radius of the glass tubes meant that they could only be produced with gravitational bending. A series of tests were performed to ensure the load-bearing capacity of the glass. In addition to the architectural and daylight-control functions, the Vanceva PVB interlayers in the glass tubes also significantly contribute to the reduction of the energy transmission and the associated cooling loads. The PVB interlayers provide a high degree of safety. If a portion of the wall would be impacted, the glass would stay intact. “With translucent interlayers, the desired light transmission can be precisely fine-tuned to what was essential on this museum project,” according to Roman Schieber, Associate Director at Knippers Helbig, who led the glass façade portion project. “Unlike clear glass, translucent glass is visible and results in a totally different and fascinating perception of the space.”

Such a rare combination of natural light and fine art is already highly anticipated in the arts world. The Rich and Nancy Kinder Building is expected to open in the fall of 2020.

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