Menil Drawing Institute

2012–2018 | Houston TX

Client The Menil Collection
Architect Johnston Marklee
Structural Engineer Guy Nordenson and Associates
Awards 2017 Progressive Architecture Award

This 30,150sf structure on the Menil Collection campus is the first freestanding facility in the United States created especially for the exhibition, study, conservation and storage of modern and contemporary drawings. The prominent live oak trees on the site helped dictate the design of the three square, open-roofed courtyards with enclosed volumes set between the courtyards providing the main areas for the MDI's programs.

A thin, flat roof made of painted steel is the unifying structural element between indoor and outdoor spaces. The outdoor courtyard structure is composed of welded folded steel plates with a series of internal steel stiffeners. Steel plate wall sections are 8in thick and taper to 6in thick at the sloped courtyard roof sections. The interior Scholar Courtyard is framed with a system of shallow steel tube trusses. These steel plate and truss structures allow for unsupported free edges along the courtyards and exterior canopies of up to 60ft in length with minimal structural depth by taking advantage of the depth of the sloped roof surface as the full spanning structure.

The cast-in-place concrete below grade structure includes an Art Storage vault designed to protect the vault contents in the event of a flood. This structure has a double concrete slab, double concrete roof, and double concrete walls with passive flood doors.