Houston has a new arts space designed by Schaum/Shieh

Houston has a new arts space designed by Schaum/Shieh

Houston’s latest art space is the Transart Foundation’s multidisciplinary venue for exhibitions, events and performances designed by Schaum/Shieh. Located opposite the The Menil Collection, the white building is a sculptural new addition to the walkable neighbourhood.

Smooth stucco clads the exterior of the timber structure, shielding the interior gallery and office space from solar gain and sweeping down like a curtain pulled at the corners to create gaps for windows. ‘We were pursuing a sense of overall lightness; specifically, we were interested in how the geometry and material finish might make the building feel like it could blow away in the wind, ruffle like fabric, or disperse and scatter like cards’, say the architects of the exterior.

Transart architecture facade detail Houston

A detail of the facade of Transart. Photography: Naho Kubota

A large ‘living room’ space bisected by a stairway occupies the ground floor. The space is largely unprescribed, open-ended and flexible for the display of the often experimental work that Transart Foundation exhibits, addressing the intersection of art and anthropology. However, the stairway also acts as a divider separating the front space which is full of light, from the back space where light can easily be controlled for the installation of new media and performances which require controlled light.

The staircase opens up a library space with storage for books developed into the design. It leads up to a salon on the first floor that overlooks the exhibition space, and on the floor above, an office and roof deck. There is also a cylindrical steel-and-acrylic elevator at the back of the space.

Custom designed sink by Schaum Shieh architects

The custom designed galvanized steel bean­shaped sink with lathed white oak log as pedestal base. Photography: Naho Kubota

Custom furniture and design details across the space conceived by the architects show an artistic interrogation of material and architecture: ‘We introduced some playful moments into the otherwise taut plan. There is a sink lathed out of a tree salvaged from Hurricane Harvey; a sculpted, cave­like nook tucked into the wall off the seminar area; and a galvanised steel beam is used as a bathroom countertop.’

As well as the gallery building, a second already existing building on the site holds a photography studio and living quarters for visiting artists and scholars. The architects wrapped this form in grey cementitious planks and installed a metal roof to update the design.

Architects Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum founded Schaum/Shieh in 2010 with an interest in exploring the connection between art, architecture and the city. Elsewhere in Texas, they are working on a masterplan for the Judd Foundation and a restoration of the Chamberlain Building for the Chinati Foundation, both in Marfa. §

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