The Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology is now open in Houston. The art center, designed by New York and Houston-based SCHAUM/SHIEH, uses its sculpted stucco facade to strategically funnel light to the gallery space within.

Transart is actually broken in two buildings; a 3,000-square-foot gallery and library, and the adjacent 1,200-square-foot studio and living quarters. The foundation was envisioned as a space for experimental art, performances, and lectures that cross the divide between art and anthropology.

A large “living room” in the gallery building is broken into two exhibition spaces by a staircase-slash-library in the center that serves as a circulation core. The front-facing space is naturally lit and will be used for more traditional shows, while the dimly-lit back section will be used for digital pieces and performances that require precise lighting.

The circulation core flows upwards into a second-floor salon that looks down on the spaces below, which is also accessible through a rounded acrylic-and-steel elevator. Visitors can also find a small room for mediation or one-on-one meetings on the second floor. The third floor’s core holds an administrative office, roof deck, and accompanying garden.

The salon space on the second floor. Peter Molick)

“We introduced some playful moments into the otherwise taut plan,” said SCHAUM/SHIEH in a statement. “There is a sink lathed out of a tree salvaged from Hurricane Harvey; a sculpted, cave-like nook tucked into the wall off the seminar area; and a galvanized steel beam is used as a bathroom countertop.”

The main building was framed with heavy timber like a “Dutch barn,” according to SCHAUM/SHIEH, with the white stucco facade curving around the building’s bones, akin to a billowing cloth. The thick timber walls were reinforced with closed-cell insulation, and combined with the swooping window cuts that restrict sunlight, the entire building was able to be passively cooled.

The secondary building, a single-story standalone studio and living space for visiting artists and scholars, was created by renovating an existing photography studio. SCHAUM/SHIEH wrapped the building in cement planks and topped it with a new metal roof, creating an auxiliary space a stone’s throw from the main art center.

The adjacent studio can be seen behind the main building. (Peter Molick)

SCHAUM/SHIEH is a small studio formed in 2010 in a joint collaboration between Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum. They operate out of Houston and New York City, and the studio has been recognized for its built and unrealized projects, including by the AIA New York as part of its New Practices New York competition.

The Transart Foundation can be found in Houston’s museum district at 1412 West Alabama Street and was founded by artist, writer, and independent curator Surpik Angelini, a contemporary of John Cage and Gordon Matta Clark.

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