The completion of Steven Holl’s Glassell School of Art in Houston, Texas, signals the delivery of the first phase of the American city’s major redevelopment of its Museum of Fine Art campus; it is also a key piece in the puzzle that will form an ‘essential center for Houston’s diverse and active art community’, says the school’s director Joseph Havel.  

The Glassell is the USA’s only museum-affiliated art school, recieving up to post-graduate students. The L-shaped structure features Holl’s signature abstract geometric shapes and light-play, as well as demonstrating the architect’s expertise in the typology; Steven Holl Architects are behind a wealth of education and art buildings across the country, including the Lewis Arts Complex at Princeton University (2017); and the Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa (2016).

The building spans some 93,000 sq ft and features a range of naturally lit studios for adults and children. An accessible roof terrace, art galleries, a 75-seat auditorium, and a public coffee bar, as well as a striking centrepiece of a staircase with broad steps that can be used as a gathering space and a sort of ‘forum’, ensure this is a true public building that can be enjoyed by all.

‘Our building for the Glassell School is a key part of the overall strategy to shape the public spaces for the entire campus’, says Steven Holl. ‘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 neighborhood and the city skyline.’

The new art building opened together with the complex’s The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates in collaboration with Nevins & Benito Landscape Architecture, D.P.C. The entire campus redevelopment project – the country’s largest cultural project currently under construction – is set to reach full completion in 2020.