Architecture|November 25, 2013 9:00 am

The light in Menil Collection by Renzo Piano

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The Menil Collection is the result of research on the use of natural resources to enhance the experience of the visitors, made posible by the visionary work of the Menil family, Renzo Piano and ARUP.

The Menil Collection started with different actors that the ones that realized the project, it was the early 70’s and the Menil family contacted Lois Kahn, the architect who was recently working on the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; It all ended abruptly when John de Menil died in 1973 and very soon after Lois Kahn in 1974.

The Menil family continue with the idea of building a museum, but this not started well until they met Renzo Piano a decade later. Renzo and Dominique de Menill soon became collaborators; Dominique being very impressed by Renzo Piano’s work with Richard Rogers in the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Piano’s idea was very different to the idea of Kahn, he envision a building that instead of removing the existing residential structures, was going to blend into this residential landscape.


+ The Solar Aspect.

Piano and Dominique met each other through a mutual acquaintance, Pontus Hulten, then director of the museum of modern art at the Pompidou Center in Paris France, who took them to meet each other to a museum designed by the kibbutz’s architect, Samuel Bicket.
Bicket made a museum in Israel that uses the natural light by filtering it and keeping the harmful UV rays outside without damaging the artwork, and that became what would define the Menil Collection project, the insertion of natural lighting inside the building making the visitors aware of the daylight, different seasons of the year, the local climate and to be in complete contact with nature.
The collection is located in Houston, Tx, where the solar radiation has an average of 4.8 kw/m²/day [1] which is considered a high solar radiation that could damage the collections, for this Piano and the people from ARUP made several trips to Houston to measure the solar conditions of the area.
After studying the conditions of the museum in Israel and the Houston climate, he started experimenting with Ferrocement that he used to build a boat with, and used it to construct a series of “leaves” that would filter the solar light and make it bounce at least twice before entering the museum without UV rays.

Prototypes - RPBW

Prototypes – RPBW

“ The building is a portrait of a wonderful client a portrait of Dominique de Menil” – Renzo Piano

[1]Solar Radiation Data Manual for Flat-Plate and Concentrating Collectors 

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