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The end of July was bitter-sweet for the Blaffer staff. Bitter, because it was the final week of work for associate curator Rachel Hooper, a fabulous coworker who left Blaffer to pursue a Ph.D. in art history from Rice University. Sweet, because after months of planning, we were finally embarking on a new chapter in the museum’s history: it was time for us to move offices.


After the final exhibition at Blaffer — the AAM-sponsored Museum of Broken Relationships— ended in early June, the registration team spearheaded by Youngmin Chung emptied out the museum’s storage facilities. Everything that was to be stored offsite for the duration of the renovation was placed onto large pallets and temporarily stored in Blaffer’s first floor low ceiling gallery. The rest of the galleries and all the storage areas were now empty. The faint sound of footsteps that is normally diffused by the art in the museum now ominously echoed against the bare walls and ceilings. This is how the museum remained until the end of July.

empty storage room

Living in an empty museum was oddly unsettling . No banging of hammers by the construction crew. No drilling into walls by the installation team. No curators running around making last-minute aesthetic changes to the placement of artworks. Pure silence.


Most of the staff had packed up their offices by July 28. On the afternoon of Friday, July 29, the IT team from UH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) came by to help us pack up our computers. The move was scheduled for the following Monday, but a delay in the movers’ schedules meant we wouldn’t see most of our belongings until Tuesday. Needless to say, the staff found out first hand how much we depend on our computers.

Wrapped Office

The actual move occurred without incident. Luckily, no tales of damaged office supplies, or worse, broken bones. We are situated in surprisingly large cubicles in one of the many buildings of UH’s Energy Research Park, a section of land alongside the Gulf Freeway about one mile south of UH’s main campus that once housed the offices of Schlumberger’s Houston branch. The one room building we’re in is quite expansive — the cubicles encompass only about a third of the space — and the glossy wood floors and clerestory windows give the interior the look of a dance studio. Last week, we posted a picture on Facebook and half-jokingly asked for the donation of a ping-pong table to help occupy the space. Other ideas have since been generated. A Saturday night discotheque. A roller skating rink. And let’s not forget about Blaffer group yoga.

Setting up the new office

While it’s inherently not convenient to be located away from Blaffer for the duration of the renovation, the space will suit us just fine as we work hard to plan wonderful exhibitions and programs as we move forward with this exciting new phase in the museum’s history. Plus, it’s probably safer for us to be away from the destruction, dust, and debris as the wrecking ball begins knocking down walls at Blaffer. But for those thrill-seekers looking for danger, we’ll host membership tours of the renovation progress; hard hats have already been ordered. Hope you’ll join us for one!

We’re still looking for a ping-pong table, by the way.

Setting up the office


In the winter of 2011, Blaffer Art Museum announced a major $2 million renovation that would be designed by WORK Architecture Company (WORKac). WORKac, based in New York, is celebrated for their sensitivity to the arts, collaborative work ethic, and original and innovative approach to design. Blaffer Art Museum is WORKac’s first commission in Texas and is being developed in partnership with Gensler. In April, guests of the museum’s annual gala — fittingly named “Rock the Casbah: The Wrecking Ball” — were the first to see renderings of what the new space will look like. And now that it’s summer, we’re rapidly moving towards construction. Be on the look-out for the wrecking ball!

[Rendering of the front entrance]

As the inaugural post for this blog, we (the staff) felt the best way to kick off our renovation ramblings would to be show the renderings by WORKac and talk about the some of the new elements coming to our building. The cool new features are:

  • A courtyard cafe and a lounge.
  • A street-side entrance, which will serve as the main staircase to the second floor. When viewed from outside, you’ll be able to partially see through the translucent bands of clear and textured channel glass
  • The addition of an ADA compliant elevator and a restroom (currently visitors have to share facilities with students in the courtyard).

The renovation will also allow for the integration of a studio/classroom for our award-winning Young Artist Apprenticeship Program (currently housed in an off-site trailer), a dedicated gallery for the recently launched project series “First Take,” and the redesign of the courtyard in view of the presentation of art and entertainment which will turn it into a destination for people on and off campus.

[rendering of cafe-side entrance]

According to WORKac cofounder Dan Wood, while designing the staircase above the new entrance, his structural engineer said the cantilevered platform needed an extra bit of support. Rather than a plain column, they added that wedged wall to support the staircase. Wood calls it “the wallumn” (“column + wall”). Not only does it provide support, but it also visually blocks the loading dock to the left. Wood also stated that angles first seen in the wallumn are repeated throughout the design, even in the planned lighting system. In the rendering above, you can see the neon lights zig-zag upon the ceiling, rather than being placed in uniform linear fashion.

Look for these renderings to become a reality next spring!

[rendering of the new courtyard]

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[rendering of cafe-side entrance]