Founded in 1973, Blaffer Art Museum is a preeminent contemporary art museum set in the midst of University of Houston’s expansive central campus. The Museum acts as a gateway between the University and the city -- hosting both educational programs and high-profile exhibitions that are free and open to the public. The project, a gut renovation, gives the museum striking presence and public connectivity through a series of imaginative and economical interventions that address the building’s façade, entry, and interior circulation.
The existing museum’s visibility was hampered by an entrance hidden within an internal courtyard. Its galleries were excessively impacted by circulation, including a stairway in the middle of a gallery and one gallery only accessible by a hallway through the administrative offices.
The design opens the north side of the building with a new entrance pavilion. The projecting volume, clad with channel glass, reveals a new grand staircase that reroutes the problematic circulation from the center of the building to the façade. As a result, the museum’s gallery spaces are expanded and differentiated.
The entry pavilion is supported by a triangular concrete “wallumn” – a wall that acts as a column while graphically emphasizing the new entry condition. Within, visitors enter the galleries or continue through a new hallway to the café. This new entrance zone becomes a common area that connects the front pavilion with the back courtyard, allowing the public to move between city and campus.