Creating Art on the Move

UH Architecture Students Redefine Houston’s Fine Arts Environment

Eighteen University of Houston architecture students took on a project that was something out of the ordinary: to design and build a transportable pavilion. The project facilitator, the world-renowned Museum of Fine Arts Houston, will deploy the winning design across the city.

Graduate and undergraduate students at the UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design participated in the semester-long project. Considered non-pavilions, the designs needed to be engaging and spark conversations about art and its role in a diverse, deeply cultural community. Students created experimental and unusual designs for a multidimensional landscape.

“This is a new take on a museum which you think of as an iconic, permanent bastion of high art that everyone makes a pilgrimage to, instead this is a contemporary approach that goes to the community and tries to catch you at a time that you might not be thinking about art,” said Professor Gail Peter Borden, director of Graduate Programs, who co-taught the vertical design studio with Professor Peter Zweig.

According to Caroline Goeser, chairman of Learning and Interpretation at the MFAH, the museum’s focus is on community and audience engagement and this partnership with UH is a way to move beyond the museum walls.

“We wanted to collaborate with emerging artists,” Goeser said. “The students have run with this idea and made us aware of the possibilities of this project that we would not have thought of ourselves.”

Examining MFAH programs, culture, material, mobility and experience, the students developed 14 diverse proposals, prototypes and ultimately full-scale experimental fabrications. The selections were whittled down to four large prototypes that were recently on display during a one-day exhibition in the College atrium. Goeser, along with other MFAH representatives, chose a hybrid inflatable prototype as “best in show.”

Dina Abdullah was on the team that built the inflatable. She considers this one of the most challenging, yet exciting projects of her career.

“It’s not just design on paper. You really have to think about the materials, the connections and how everything works,” Abdullah said. “It’s art and architecture at the same time and it’s a real project and very interesting to do.”

The next stop for the exhibition is the new Glassell School of Art Gallery when it opens at the MFAH in Fall 2018. Once the UH-designed mobile pavilion is constructed, it will be deployed across the city in 2019.