I hadn’t thought much recently about the 1969 addition to Fondren until I came upon a photograph this afternoon while traveling home. As I’m sure you recall, this large addition to the west end of the library was part of Rice’s ambitious effort during the 1960s to become a nationally important university. It was certainly true that to succeed in that enterprise we would need a substantially larger library than the one we built in 1948, which was probably too small the day it was finished. Here’s what the addition was originally supposed to look like–not stunning, but ok:
However, somewhere it was decided that the sunlight through all those western windows would be bad for the books and so although the basic design would remain the same, the windows had to go. This is what we got:
Ugly? Indeed. It’s brutal. But to really understand how bad this was you need to get back from it a little bit. Here’s the picture I found today, a 1969 aerial that let’s us see how the addition worked in the context of the rest of the campus:
It became simply a barrier, like a dam across the center of the campus, leaving the space directly behind Fondren a kind of isolated cul-de-sac. This is why I would argue that the most important physical change to the campus in the twenty years I’ve been here is the addition of a back door to the library. The ensuing addition of the Brochstein Pavilion and the careful attention to the landscaping of the area have been transformative–in a good way this time.