The Menil Selects Landscape Architect, Closes In on Campus Expansion

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.”


So Van Valkenburgh is telling the Chronicle that he’ll redraw the parking spaces, improve lighting, add more room for bikes, and try to collect storm water for reuse. He’ll be planting new things, of course. And he says he’ll reshape that little entrance pathway, running between the bookstore and Jim Love’s fire-engine-red asterisk sculpture, connecting the lot to Sul Ross St. Van Valkenburg thinks it’s a bit disorienting: “It’s slightly unclear at present that’s where you’re supposed to enter the grounds.”

And this new entrance will funnel visitors toward a café. Apparently, all those pretty Rice Building Workshop drawings coming in over the years from teams of students will be scrapped: The Menil says that one of its existing gray bungalows will be renovated instead. And California architects Johnston Marklee are plugging away in the meantime on the new Drawing Institute.

Photo of Jim Love’s “Jack” at the Menil parking lot: st3fanie

6 Comment

  • Unless I don’t know “Jack”, which is always possible, that work now sits near the entrance of the Rice University Rec Center.

  • The first experience every new Menil visitor faces is circling the block three times trying to figure out if that really is the parking lot to the museum on West Alabama. Hopefully the improved design will fix that.

  • The students got snubbed, just as it should’ve been in the first place. Thank goodness. I like this new architect already.

  • The Menil has needed to impliment this plan for sometime, the building itself is an iconic piece of architecture, considered by most to be Piano’s masterpiece, but the grounds have never matched the greatness of the building, hopefully this will be addressed, and yeah, nobody knows where the hell to park at The Menil, I always just park on the street on the backside of the museum

  • I hope they don’t screw up the nice, big, yard.

  • I walked past the jack this morning, it’s still in the photographed location.