HOUSTON – Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced that the Menil Museum, located in Houston and owned by The Menil Foundation, Inc., has been awarded the 25-year award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Commissioned by art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil and designed by Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA, the 100,000 SF museum was completed in 1987 and has been hailed by architecture and art critics as one of the most pleasing museums in which to view art. Arup provided the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (SMEP) engineering for the project, as well as lighting design.
The AIA 25-year award recognizes architectural design of enduring significance that stands the test of time for 25-35 years. Winning projects are considered to be a standard of architectural excellence against which all architects can measure performance.
One of Ms. de Menil’s primary directives was that the galleries should be lit naturally, predominantly from above, and that gallery light should reflect weather and time-of-day fluctuations. Working with Piano to achieve her vision, Arup developed separate roof elements known as ‘beam light trusses’, which were later dubbed ‘light leaves’. Computer models and physical mock-ups were developed to show the daylighting performance of the proposed system, and physical models of the light leaves were created, their shape considered from a structural and architectural viewpoint. Arup’s design enabled the roof to control light and protect exhibits from the heat of the sun.
According to Zach Mortice, managing editor at AIArchitect, Piano and his design team “brought the world a transcendent space for viewing art that places the collection, and its presentation, in perfectly realized natural light, above all else.”