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de Menil Campus, Houston
Princeton University School of Architecture
Instructors: Sharon Johnston, Mark Lee
The de Menil archipelago in Houston, Texas, houses one of the largest private art collections in the United States. As part of their art campus expansion, this Spring 2016 studio proposes to add another artist-specific pavilion to their list of venues besides the Cy Twombly Gallery or Rothko Chapel.
This new Rauschenberg gallery is desperate to belong to the existing conglomeration of museum islands and is subdivided into three self-similar components: two main galleries and a storage building. These three elements are trying to form a compound object and introduce a new museum typology to the archipelago. Moreover, the tripartite cluster is extending beyond its building site and entangling itself with the larger urban fabric in order to engage the two large open green areas, which are separated by Loretto Drive. Given the similarity of the volumes, they’re expressing their individuality through their three-dimensional orientation. The two main galleries, which are connected underground, appear to be sinking in Houston’s flat landscape. Besides being immersed in the landscape, these cumbersome objects are surrounded by corten steel craters that emphasize the impact the drowning monoliths have on their site. These craters form interstitial spaces between the landscape and gallery, which offer the opportunity to display Rauschenberg sculptures outdoors.
The Rauschenberg gallery of the de Menil archipelago is living a twofold existence. Above grade level, it’s perceived as separate inert volumes scattered between the other museum pavilions, bungalows and upcoming residential developments. While underground, the pavilion is defined by a continuous sequence of spaces varying in scale and height. This double life establishes a mysterious entity within the larger archipelago, while respecting its serenity.