San Rocco Architecture Magazine, Issue 9: Monks and Monkeys
Journal Article, 2014

In response to a call for essays critiquing architectural minimalism, this article about Gunnar Birkerts and Associates’ design for the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas—an aluminum-clad parallelogram that echoes the forms of minimal sculpture at the building scale—argued that like the sculptural works of Tony Smith and other minimalists, this building is completed by the experience of a viewer. In this case, the preferred architectural subject is behind the wheel of an automobile. Indeed, while the museum’s director sought to make his institution more active at the urban scale by thinking of the building as a transformer station in the city’s arts network and commissioning works like a film to be shown on the Goodyear blimp, Birkerts explained the design as an attempt to “deflect” drivers by calibrating the architecture to the forms and flows of its roadside site. The building, therefore, was intended as a disruption to the experience of “endlessness” in highway driving that so intrigued sculptors like Smith and so riled art critics like Michael Fried.

Drawing by Michele Marchetti for the editors of San Rocco showing Gunnar Birkerts and Associates’ design for the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas.