There will soon be a lot more to love about the Menil Collection -- 30,150 square-feet to be exact. Designs for the Menil Drawing Institute were unveiled Thursday for the $40 million building. The MDI will be the first freestanding facility in the United States with the sole purpose of exhibition, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings.

Continued expansion of the arts campus was the dream of founder Dominique de Menil and is being realized at a rapid rate. Just last month, plans for a new restaurant, Bistro Menil, were announced, as well as a comprehensive landscape design by the firm of Michael Van

West Courtyard

Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn and Cambridge, Mass.

Los Angeles architecture firm of Johnston Marklee designed the MDI as a single-story building surrounding a trio of open courtyards, two of which will serve as entry points to the building and the other, dubbed a "scholars' cloister," will wrap around the third courtyard.

Situated in the center is a "living room" space to provide a casual and intimate zone of interaction for staff, scholars and the public. On one side, the space opens into the exhibition galleries. On the other side, the administrative offices, study rooms and the conservation laboratory will reside. The drawing institute's exhibition gallery will be lit from above by a system of reflected natural daylight.

The structure was carefully designed to unify the indoor and outdoor spaces. When the one-story building is viewed from the side, the roof will appear to float in the landscape. The new, one-story building will rise only 16 feet tall, as not to overshadow adjoining 1920s bungalows and the main art buildings.

MDI-living room
Living Room and Scholars Cloister

The building will rest between the Cy Twombly Gallery and Richmond Hall, the 1930s building with a large Dan Flavin light installation. The front of the MDI will face West Main Street, on part of the Richmont Square apartment complex that is being demolished to make room for the new building.

The MDI is a part of a $110 million capital and endowment campaign for the Menil Collection. Construction is slated to being in early 2015.