As of Wednesday, the state-of-the-art Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is finally complete. Plopped atop the existing parking garage at Binz and Fannin, the 39,000-square-foot facility centralizes the museum's conservation operations with dedicated studios for painting, textile, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as space for storage, framing, imaging, and other support activities.
This marks the second of three new facilities slated for a $450 million campus redevelopment project. In May, museum officials inaugurated the distinctive new Glassell School of Art Building, and current projections show a 2020 completion date for the The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, which will be dedicated solely to 20th and 21st century art, the largest portion of the museum's 70,000 holdings.
“The design was driven by the concept of light as the organizing gesture, resulting in a central corridor that divides the day-lit studios from the spaces requiring darkness," architect David Lake said in a release. "With all of the mechanical support located on a floor below, we were able to free up ceiling space from ductwork and piping to create a soaring ceiling throughout.”
Each cantilevered studio bay will be bathed in coveted northern light, providing the optimal conditions for preservation. The biggest boon, however, might be the on-campus location, where art works may be transported directly from the gallery and up to the conservation lab, as opposed to trucked to an off-site facility (a former MFAH conservation warehouse was recently sold to Stages Repertory Theatre, which is in the process of developing the site into its new theater complex).
“Our team can now easily collaborate across all areas of the MFAH—from the collections on the main campus to those in our decorative-arts house museums, Rienzi and Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens—using the most advanced technology in a space that was designed with the conservation and care of the Museum’s varied collections specifically in mind,” said David Bomford, chairman of the conservation department.
The museum also announced Wednesday a $750,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to support art conservation efforts between the MFAH, the Menil Collection, UH, and Rice.