CAMH Design

Editor’s Note,

This story was written by Stacy Hernandez is a Klein Forest graduate who was a member of the Yearbook/Newspaper staff. She is studying architecture at the University of Houston.

The underlying design idea of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was to adapt to its surroundings. It is a strange shape and surprisingly very small museum that showcases the eclectic side of art in all of its various forms. Appropriately the building itself is definitely a work of art. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a parallelogram coated in ribbed stainless steel; as a matter of fact it occupies the famous stainless building in the heart of the Houston Museum District. Mainly all visitors walk right past its front door that it’s hidden between two panels of steel reflecting with that day’s sky. The sharpened steel edges allow this building to exist on its own without making apologies to the environment around it. It chooses not to evoke the columns and ivy of its lateral surroundings, but rather merge with the sky above in a show that is mesmerizing at dusk and dawn, and painful in the full noon sun. The functionality of this building inside worked well in terms of the fact that the sun does not play a big part inside the building as much as it does on the outside. The stainless cover worked as a shield to reflect the sun away and the cement inside the building to keep it cool from those hot summer days. The idea of this building was to adapt to its environment and it was done nicely with the way brutalism and modern architecture was used.



The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was founded in 1948, the Museum prides itself on presenting new art and documenting its role in modern life through lectures, exhibitions, original publications and a variety of educational events and programs. But lectures and exhibitions were not the only ways the Contemporary Arts Museum demonstrated the modern life of the building. The Museum was envisioned as a modern warehouse through the architectural firm Gunnar Birkerts & Associates of Brimingham, Michigan. Modern Architecture is a design kept with the social and political developments of a new age, sleek looks, straight edges, and sharp lines. Usually these new modern design ideas include these materials such as glass, steel, iron, and concrete. And to tell you the truth the design concept of the architects worked exactly in that way. I believe these materials are used for this type of architecture to show the cleanness, sharpness, to separate what is old from what is new. This particular building was built in the 1960’s but they designed it with such modernism that till this day it still manages to look new, clean, and modern. The CAMH was built using the modern materials and looks, as mentioned previously with a cover of stainless steel. The modernism was executed correctly in this building I would say and the functionality of it for the art showcased is great. But unfortunately from the research I’ve made this building isn’t so appealing to many guest with in, many feel enclosed, bored, and as it is too small, but then again who is to take that different experience from it, right? Modernism was done at its finest and adapting to its environment was very well thought of but to humans functionally within the building was not so/so great.




            I feel as if brutalism was used with in this building to help with the functionality of it. They say brutalism was a term used for the use of concrete to create “brutality” but in this case it was very different. I say it was used with in this building to make it bold and clean statement with in its space. Around the same time the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was being built, new brutalism was upcoming and it seems as if they combined it to create this building to contain the correct temperature behind hot containing steel. Walking into the building you feel the coolness this building contains against the concrete walls and you can definitely see it exposed as part of the design used to keep the building up standing. New modernism was “almost unique among modern buildings in being made of what it appears to be made of.”  With that being said I feel as if this is what the design concept was, new brutalism within modernism, I might be in the wrong path but this is what I believe the architect built this building upon on.

Overall, the design principles of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston work. Modernism screams at you by just looking at the exterior of this building, and the new brutalism is felt once you have walked in to the space. They look good together, they work together; new and cool, spacing and lighting is just enough to create a great contrast on the art with man made lighting. People may feel enclosed but the experience and feel given to you with in the building is different and disorienting at times. If I were given the space I would not change a thing about this project due to the fact that it adapted to its surroundings and environment at its finest. I believe the design concept worked and I couldn’t argue with the architect due to the fact that it was a small space given to create something different and difficult, something out of the ordinary to change the way Houston experiences its modern art.



Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (Houston Museum District Association Museums, Houston Texas Attractions Museums Houston Museum District Association)


What is Modern Architecture? (wiseGEEK)


The Dezeen guide to Brutalist architecture (Dezeen The Dezeen guide to Brutalist architecture Comments)

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