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HOUSTON A museum that sits tucked away in Montrose, surrounded by trees and bungalows, is considered one of the top architectural designs in the world.

The Menil doesn't scream museum -- the simple two-story-rectangular building looks like a giant box. Yet it is rated by top architects as one of the worlds most significant designs of the past 30 years.

It's precisely because it's simple, it's simple, it's well-detailed, it responds to place, said Architect Ronnie Self, who teaches architecture at the University of Houston. For 12 years Self worked with the man who designed the Menil: famed Italian Architect Renzo Piano.

Self said the building gets high praise for Piano's attention to detail, like the concrete forms, called louvers, along the roof line.

You can think of them like leaves on a tree, they diffuse and block the light as well, he said.

The light pours through a roof made of glass. The building is made mostly of cypress, shipped from Florida and Lousiana, to stand up to the Houston heat.

As you walk around the museum, there are sections of glass walls that create transparency.

There's a few places where he was able to bring the inside out, Self said. It's a very subtle gem, it's not a flamboyant gem, it's not trying to stand out, that's why it's appreciated. It is a subtle building, a very refined building.

Subtle and refined, much like the woman who hired Piano to design the Menil in the early 1980s: Houston-native Domenique de Menil who died in 1997.

The museum houses the extensive art works she and her husband collected over the years.

It s a simple building in a quiet neighborhood, now getting worldwide recognition.

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