The new Emmett and Miriam McCoy Building at the Museum of the Big Bend on Sul Ross State University’s Alpine campus was drawn and planned by senior principal architect Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA.
Speck earned his Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as a multitude of honors and awards in design and education. He led significant architectural projects including the Austin Convention Center, Discovery Green Park (Houston), the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and many more. He has also been profiled and mentioned in The Atlantic, The New York Times and Texas Monthly, among architectural publications in the U.S. and internationally.
Speck attributes much of his ideas to the surrounding area. “The most significant inspiration for this project is the landscape of the Big Bend region,” he said. “With its long, low, sloping roof, its solid, compact volume, and its rugged, weathering material, the building recalls both the topography and the texture of the surrounding geography. In my mind, this building could not be anywhere except in this locale.”
Speck explained that the building is shaped to take in fully the views of the mountains and other landscape features. Circular indentations in the indoor event and work spaces, with properly placed windows, allows for the vistas to be carefully displayed.
In addition to the unique, panoramic environment, Speck cited the museum building itself as a source of inspiration. The arched windows would become a prominent feature of the new visitor entry and be the focal point of the views in the event spaces, he said. The university itself also figured in planning, largely due to existing plans for improved pedestrian facilities.
“Of course, creating an environment that would greatly enhance the visitor’s experience of the museum’s exhibits and collections was also a paramount factor in the building’s design. The two discrete galleries will provide a much-needed non-distractive space for art that has a scale and simplicity that will allow the art to really sing,” he said. “Complete control of lighting, humidity and other environmental factors will provide a great deal of flexibility in exhibiting borrowed and changing exhibits. The more casual display spaces in the concourse have natural light and a dynamic, grand feeling. That central concourse space is probably my favorite part of the building.”
The McCoy building opens to the public on Saturday, March 11, at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.museumofthebigbend.com.