Glassell School of Art

New York-based Steven Holl Architects has completed a striking art school within the main campus of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

The Glassell School of Art is the teaching wing of the huge museum, with a range of classes, workshops and programmes to suit students of all ages. For the first time, the full student body will be brought together under one roof, with the new building incorporating the Junior School, Studio School and Core Program residents. Enrolment is expected to grow to 8,500 in the new building, which doubles the space of the original.

Measuring nearly 9,000m², the L-shaped concrete and glass building contains 31 studios alongside exhibition spaces, an auditorium and various social areas. There is also an outdoor sculpture park designed by Isamu Noguch and a grass-covered rooftop garden that can be accessed via an extended walkable ramp.

The walls of the art school are made from sandblasted pre-cast concrete panels adorned with irregular windows of varying shapes, complementing the modern steel and glass buildings of the museum’s campus. Inside, exposed concrete is partnered with wooden structuring and stone detail, while natural light from the quadrilateral translucent panels pour into every learning space.

The three-storey art school replaces a 35-year-old building as part of a major redevelopment to the campus. The 14-acre campus redevelopment is currently the largest cultural project under construction in North America, with two new buildings, a conservation centre and a landscape plan. When complete, the campus will have additional public plazas, pools and gardens. Largely funded by philanthropists Nancy and Rich Kinder, the project aims to expand the role the museum plays in the daily life of Houston.

Steven Holl said: ‘The alternating concrete and glass panels create a porosity between indoors and out, and the gathering spaces—including the building’s walkable, sloping roof—provide a civic experience for students and the public alike, with spectacular views of the neighbourhood and the city skyline.’

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