What Will The Menil Museum Do With The Richmont Square Apartments?

What is this -- some kind of Rorschach test? Or maybe a very bad card from the BB-gun shooting range at the rodeo?

No -- it's the area around the Menil Museum, as illustrated by UH's Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.. And that big blank area marked by an asterisk is the Richmont Square apartment complex, owned by the museum and currently the subject of demolition questions.

Not anytime soon, of course -- even though the museum is cranking up a major renovation plan for its "campus," any actual work is years away. But in an interesting interview with Cite magazine, the man behind the project, Menil director Josef Helfenstein, talks about the possibility.

In the inteview (via Swamplot), it doesn't sound all that promising for the decidedly workmanlike complex:

We could theoretically place the new buildings and programs without touching Richmont Square. One thing that is clear, if we do something on this site, it has to be done in keeping with the Menil aesthetic and spirit, whether it is income producing or programmatic. I am not speaking only of world-class architecture. The fabric of the Menil campus is created to a large degree by the bungalows - humble and vernacular as they are - low key and understated. The dialog between the bungalows and the art buildings and chapels is just beautiful.

We're not sure if any dialogue between the Richmont and anything would be "just beautiful," but we're not the director of a major museum.

If we had to read between the lines, though, we'd say the Richmont is gone and something like a pedestrian-friendly mall or lawn connecting to Richmond Avenue is on the way:

We want the Menil to be better connected to that. It will be an organic process. The blocks along Richmond could become more dense than the other parts of the campus and serve as a buffer. The Dan Flavin installation - it was the last big piece done while Dominique was still here and Flavin's last commission before he died - could become a gateway to the North. I actually think, if we do things right, Richmond Hall could help us to eventually integrate commercial development that has high standards with the artistic program we have in mind.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly