C+S March 2021 Vol. 7 Issue 3 (web)

The old saying is true when it comes to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH): everything is bigger in Texas. One of the largest museums in the United States, MFAH services the fourth largest city in the country, with its wide array of programs being utilized by a stag- gering 1.25 million people every year. The oldest museum in the State of Texas, it was first constructed in 1917 and in 1924 it allowed its first visitors through the doors. Since then, the site has seen its fair share of construction. MFAH has recently undergone renovations in the way of new building construction. In December 2020, construction was completed on the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building on the MFAH campus. The project was split into two phases with the first focusing on construction of the 102,500 square foot Glassell School of Art; this phase nearly doubled the space available for the school, which currently serves 7,000 stu- dents per year. The teaching arm of MFAH, this space allows the Glassell School of Art’s students to access fully digital workspaces and classrooms as well as expanded exhibition space. This space replaces the previous building that housed the school since 1979. Phase two of the project consisted of the construction of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, a 183,500 square foot exhibition space to house modern and contemporary art made after 1900. The building features a translucent glass cool jacket exterior, three-floors of galleries circling a three floor atrium, a 225-seat theatre, a street-level cafe, a restaurant overlooking the sculpture garden, an underground parking garage with 115 spaces, and tunnels connecting the building to both the Glassell School of Art as well as the Caroline Weiss Law Build- ing. When completed, this building increased exhibition space at the MFAH by 75 percent. One of the more interesting aspects of the project was the construction and utilization of an underground tunnel that connects the new building to the older parts of the campus. The plan was to create a 150-foot tunnel to connect the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building to the Caroline Wiess Law Building. This tunnel, while primarily designed to facili- tate pedestrian traffic between the buildings, also serves a gallery space for the MFAH. The building site itself included a number of unique obstacles that required the team at McCarthy to come up with creative solutions and utilize innovative techniques to complete the project. Plans for these tunnels had to account for several challenges that are posed by the site’s unique human environment. Being located in one of the oldest parts of the city of Houston, this meant that there was a possibility the team would encounter an unmarked, buried utility line. Underground Arts Scene: Updating the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston By Luke Carothers

Winston Hesch, project director for McCarthy, says ground utilities in this part of town can “sink over time”. Additionally, because the tunnel is located 2-3 feet underground, engineers had to waterproof the site not only for rainwater, but also for ground water. Typically, tunnelling in the Houston-area is done a particular way: a trench is dug then a cover is added, thus forming a tunnel. However, because the City of Houston would not allow the team to close Bis-

Project Contributors McCarthy Building Companies– General Contractor and Concrete Subcontractor AR Daniels– Tunneling Specialist Contractor Chamberlin Roofing and Waterproofing– Waterproofing Hayward Baker– Shotcrete



march 2021

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