Friday Bonus: Every Friday From Now On!

Spotted over in Duncan Hall. I think they’re serious this time.

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Friday Follies: Who’s the hottie in the middle??

Real tough guys in their beanies:

Thanks to Quin McWhirter, ’62.

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The Machine Shop in Space Science

I’m having an incredibly busy week, with things happening so fast I can hardly keep up. I mentioned on Monday that I’d been over in Space Science and today is the first time I’ve had a minute to show you what I saw over there. Preparations for a major renovation are underway and the machine shop down in the basement has been cleared out:

It’s hard to imagine looking at it now but this is one of the most consequential rooms in the history of the institution. Built with NASA funding in the 1960s the new high-tech machine shop was a symbol of Rice’s push into the space age. Among other things they built satellites in here:

It was also consequential in a homelier way. Soon after the shop went into operation disputes began to rage about which departments and projects had priority on the use of these resources. These intractable arguments grew tiresome to the senior administration and became one of the catalysts for the separation of Science and Engineering into two schools in the early ’70s.

Here’s the same spot in 1965:

So where did the machine shop go, I hear you ask. Deliciously, right back to where it used to be in the north end of Abercrombie:

Bonus: Whatever they paid for this thing, they got their money’s worth.

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A Bullet Narrowly Dodged, 1968

Ye gods.

Someone called my attention to this earlier this week and I’m still not over the shock. I’d never heard even a whisper of it before. I’ve been on the edge of tears three or four times over the last couple of days (mostly from happiness) but this was the only thing that made me want to weep from relief. Here’s what it was supposed to look like:

I mean, really? Really? I like nothing about this. Did you catch the fact that there are two basements? If you’ve ever been in the second basement of Sewall Hall you will understand why “dank” is the word that springs to mind.

Here’s the site plan. “Depressed Court” indeed:

So why didn’t they build it? Look at the date on this introductory page:

May 22, 1968 was ten days after George R. Brown’s 70th birthday, the moment when the age limitations he himself had advocated for kicked in and he resigned from the Rice Board of Trustees. When he went, the era of Rice’s rapid growth went with him. It’s hard to find much good that came from the events that followed, but at least we didn’t mess up our beautiful Chemistry Building.


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Scavenger Hunt, 2017

Any day you get to tag along with Richard Stearman, Construction Services Manager for FE&P, is a fun day but today I got to tag along with him for the Arch 316/516 HVAC Photo Scavenger Hunt! This is an exercise in which teams of architecture students are sent out to take pictures of themselves with various pieces of HVAC equipment in campus buildings. It sounds simple but it isn’t, hence Richard is there to take them through:

What are they looking for? Well, air grilles, registers and diffusers, HVAC controls (switches and thermostats), air handlers and fan coils, boilers, various pumps and pipes for chilled water, hot water and steam, access panels, ducts, vibration control devices and etcetera. The trick is knowing where to look. I was nearly beside myself.

I saw the guts of the south power plant for the first time. It’s lovely, all shiny and clean, but the same basic things are going on as in the old plant. You can’t run one of these places without a bridge crane:

There are some beautiful views of the new parking garage from the roof:

But the biggest surprise was what appears to be some sort of time travel portal:

This was not on the scavenger hunt list, by the way.

Bonus: We have lift off! (Thanks to an alert early bird reader.)

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Surveyors in the Engineering Quad: 2017, 1984, and 1913

It was my first day back from spring break today and it was a wild one. I started the day with a meeting about a door handle (this is true and there were a lot of people in attendance) and ended it in the now empty machine shop in the basement of Space Science. In between I had a fruitful visit to Abercrombie and I was also overjoyed to find several boxes and envelopes that came on the mail while I was gone and which are full of marvelous photographs. (Much more about these after I’ve had time to digest them.) It was a very good day and a pretty one too.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I was walking along the back side side of Rayzor Hall minding my own business when I noticed a small hole near the sidewalk. Upon closer inspection it turned out to contain a surveying mark:

I was instantly on the lookout for the crew (like pole vaulters, they’re always photogenic) and I was not disappointed. As soon as I turned the corner into the quad I saw equipment but no people:

Follow the trail and you eventually always find the people:

They were working in the Engineering Quad, focused on the trees:

I have long since reached the point where everything I see at Rice reminds me of something else. This reminded me of a photograph I had scanned several years ago because I was interested in the process of preparing for the installation of 45° 90° 180°. I didn’t notice until fairly recently that there’s a surveying class working the Engineering Quad:

And I can’t walk through this space without thinking of my friend Carl Knapp ’16 in front of the Mech Lab way back at the beginning:

Everything is different and nothing changes.

Bonus: A more profound transformation took place over break on a tree in front of Tudor Fieldhouse. (Thanks to Nancy Rowe and Jon Rodriguez from FE&P!)

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Daytona Beach, 1929

As far as I know the only thing these have to do with Rice is that we found them tucked inside an old Campanile:

The first picture was taken on March 11, 1929, the second on March 13. The wreck that killed Lee Bible and a photographer was a gruesome one, so much so that Major Henry Segrave immediately retired from attempting land speed records. In a turn of events that shines much light on the human condition, Segrave died a year later chasing a new water speed record.

Note: I’m taking next week off for spring break. If anything interesting happens while I’m gone, take some pictures.



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