Where is the new Katy Contemporary Arts Museum? “In the heart of Katy’s Museum District,” boasts the brand-new institution’s website. That appears to be shorthand for “right across from the Katy Railroad Park and Tourist Center“; the Katy Heritage Museum and Park and “G.I. Joe” Museum are a half-mile northeast. The white concrete-and-brick building at 805 Ave. B, at the corner of First St., was originally built in 1953 for the Katy Lumber Company. The museum chose the structure for its easy access to I-10, among other features. Like its more sophisticated metal-clad sorta-namesake in Houston, admission is free; but art blogger Robert Boyd notes there are plans to expand the 5,000-sq.-ft. facility to house an actual permanent collection:
The new Menil Drawing Institute building, being designed by LA architects Johnston Marklee (winners of last year’s competition), will sit on land currently occupied by the Menil’s Richmont Square apartment building. The arts institution doesn’t have plans to tear down the entire apartment complex, however: Drawings submitted to the planning commission as part of a variance application show only the northernmost bank — at the back of the site — wiped clean.
Architecture firm Stern and Bucek has come up with this rendering of the Menil Collection’s new cafe, part of the free museum’s long-planned expansion of its Montrose campus. The design for the cafe — which is yet to be named but will be run by Greg Martin (of Cafés Annie and Express and Taco Milagro) — appears to adapt and elaborate upon the gray bungalow at 1512 Sul Ross St., on the other side of that path from the Menil Bookstore; this is the same site, says a press release from the Menil Collection, that architect Renzo Piano originally had in mind for a similar amenity. So there’s that. Whatever it’ll be called, the cafe, it appears, will split the difference between the museum’s main entrance and the parking lot off W. Alabama.
Hold the phone! Rumored to be a goner, the 1957 Telephone Museum on the corner 18th and Ashland, which was sold about a year ago, will soon be cleaned up and converted into 24 luxury lofts, says Donna Sonne Wright of homebuilders Rohe & Wright. And Wright also tells Swamplot that 21 cottages will be built here too, replacing the fenced-in surface parking lot off 17th. Unfortunately, no renderings of the project are yet available. Rohe & Wright is the same firm responsible for the Saint Honoré gated community under construction off San Felipe.
The Menil Collection has picked a landscape architecture firm, and the museum says that the long-awaited master-planned reshaping of its 30-acre Montrose spread will get going this September. The firm belongs to Michael Van Valkenburgh, who’s done some tinkering previously at Harvard Yard and Pennsylvania Avenue. Apparently, the first item of business he’ll tackle here is the parking lot off W. Alabama: “[It] really needs attention,” Menil director Josef Helfenstein tells the Houston Chronicle. “It’s the first thing you see.”
“There’s a lot that’s recently been cleared immediately behind the Asia Society,” reports a reader. You know the one, at the corner of Oakdale and Caroline St.? The one whose owners refused to sell, forcing Asia Society architect Yoshio Taniguchi to design around it? Where there was that 1930s vine-covered home being used as a doctor’s office that was supposed to be sold and renovated into a restaurant, but never was?
Well, in February, 5219 Caroline appeared in the Daily Demolition Report. And this photo taken from the median shows what the site looks like now. The reader continues:
All of the neighbors have questioned who owns the property and what is to happen to it. According to HCAD it appeared to be owned by Balcor, the company behind the rather unpopular Parc Binz. . . . We’re wondering if the Asia Society is trying to buy the land . . . [T]he neighbors who live in the town homes across from Asia Society have complained that the social events held on site tend to be quite loud, quite late. Overall, the neighborhood couldn’t be happier to have this organization in its bounds. And, if they were to own that land, if only they’d open a little gourmet coffee shop. That would please hundreds of people. . . . I’ve heard from Asia Society . . . that they’re trying to purchase the land. I think there is something more going on there — but no one is talking at this point.
How do you move a historic cottage from one location to another? Well, carefully: This video uploaded this week from the Heritage Society chronicles the easy-does-it, steady-as-she-goes relocation of a Fourth Ward cottage from its perch in Sam Houston Park. The Heritage Society says that the house, originally located on Robin St. in Freedman’s Town, dates to at least 1866. It’s been in the collection since 2002, temporarily sited on Dallas St., while the society awaited the funds to move it to its permanent home beside to the Jack Yates House in that architectural promenade on the park grounds along McKinney St.
Seen any images floating around of the new building Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is planning for the northwest corner of the Bissonnet and South Main, next to the Cullen Sculpture Garden? Well then, this watercolor-and-charcoal “concept sketch” for the building by architect Steven Holl from a year and a month ago may interest you. It’s going up for auction tomorrow — as part of a fundraiser for the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity. Holl was selected from a group of 3 finalists this past February, beating out LA design firm Morphosis and Oslo’s Snøhetta for the MFAH commission of a new structure to house 20th- and 21st-century art.
The regional tourism building planned for the northern of the 2 blocks between Minute Maid Park and the GRB will be called the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, Mayor Parker announced today. It’ll be named after beer distributor and $8-million-donor John Nau; fundraisers hope waving the rendering pictured above will help drum up an additional $32 million to get the thing built. ($15 million more is coming from Houston First, the “government corporation” that runs the city’s convention center, the Hilton Americas Hotel, and several city performance venues.)
The design leaves room for 2 houses dating from 1904 and 1905 and moved to the site last year, the only surviving structures from the neighborhood on nearby blocks named Quality Hill that by the 1930s had vanished — along with its storied reputation for integrity and elevation. The rendering also shows (at far right) the saved-from-scrap 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine parked on the curb across from the East End Light Rail Line along Capitol St. Between the houses and the locomotive will sit the Nau Center’s signature dome entrance, held aloft, the rendering from Bailey Architects shows, by a ring of dainty columns resting at sidewalk level and a circular wall of glass.
“Better see the Telephone Museum while you can,” a tipster tells Swamplot. “Word is it’s sold.” But our tipster doesn’t know who the buyer of the Heights’ AT&T building is. The 3-story, 77,456-sq.-ft. structure at 1714 Ashland St.— it’s got a basement too — was put up for sale earlier this year for $3.1 million. It comes with 113 parking spaces on the 1.65 acre-lot, plus 55 spaces on a half-acre spot across the street. The museum is on the building’s second floor; the structure was built in 1957.