Yesterday evening I toured the soon to be completed Asia Society Texas Center along with a group of Houstonians and American Association of Museum guests. I have been watching the construction of this magnificent building literally since the day they broke ground—my husband, dog, and I live across the street. This is a remarkable building, and as I walked along the limestone and glass corridors one thought continually entered my mind, What a gift to Houston.Yoshio Taniguchi designed the modern building that reflects classic modernism yet feels very current. The building was designed to create an experience, and in that ambition the human and intimate nature of the design triumphs over the grand scale.
Several members of the Asia society staff, the design and construction teams, and some very dedicated board members and funders were present to help our group of visitors further understand this architectural jewel. They pointed out details such as the fact that every single line where stone meets on the wall aligns with the point where stone meets on the floor, and that line continues on the ceiling. The Jura limestone was mined from the fourteenth and fifteenth levels of a quarry in the Black Forest in Germany and then polished in Italy to a silky smooth finish—Taniguchi himself decided the location of each piece of stone and served as quality control during the stone selection process. The building is heated and cooled by geothermal wells across the street, underneath the parking lot, so that visitors can enter and leave in silence without the sound of whirling air conditioning units. This is the only freestanding building that Taniguchi has designed in the United States, as his other project in the US was the expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Taniguchi has very much taken advantage of the surrounding open space and made the landscape an integral part of the design. Gardens, treetops, downtown views, and water pools make the outside come in as the viewer peers through crystal clear glass.
The Asia Society Texas Center is located at 1370 Southmore in Houston’s Museum District and is scheduled to open in March 2012. It will feature a fine art gallery, 280-seat auditorium, meeting spaces, water garden, lounge, gift shop, and café. The purpose of the Asia Society is to strengthen relationships and promote understanding amongst the people, leaders, and institutions of the United States and Asia. What a gift.
–Bevin Bering Dubrowski, Houston Center for Photography,
member AAM 2011 Local Host Committee