Islands in Islands

by Eduardo Martínez-Mediero Rubio (MArch ’19)

The studio investigated variations on the theme of island and archipelago organizations (mono-use spaces and their subsequent agglomeration) in architecture and their generative potential in urban design through the design of a new building for an Art Depot built with CLT construction on the campus of the Menil Foundation in Houston.

The building presents itself to the exterior as a quiet, ordinary warehouse, completely covered in tar paper, an industrial material that talks about the frugality of the program while conveying body memories through its craft and implementation. The blank exterior facades are topped with a series of tilted planes acting as roof cornices that dialogue with the neighboring prewar bungalows of the Menil campus.
The Art Depot is internally structured by a 15´x15´ chainlink grid that organizes the warehouse in nonhierarchical rooms where the art is exposed, allowing for unexpected cross-relations and dialogues between the various pieces of artwork that belong to the Menil Foundation.
The grid, understood as a geometrical tool of control, is challenged by abruptly interrupting it with a series of rooms that act as islands inside the building’s boundary and structurally support the roof. Built with CLT construction, these rooms accommodate those programs that require specific temperature, sound and humidity conditions while bringing indirect light inside.
The limits of art storage in contemporary architecture and the possibilities they trigger through uncurated exhibition spaces are explored in this project. It raises questions on the dissolution of boundaries and island configurations that, rather than understanding these as fissures, promotes connection through the demarcation of borders in a place where disorientation has become the norm.