I mentioned the other day that former Dean of Natural Sciences Kathy Matthews so kindly took me on a tour through the recently dedicated Brockman Hall. As much as I love the old building, this one is also stunning. I can’t speak to its utility (although I have much faith in the people who contributed to its design), but its beauty is plain to see. Let me acknowledge right up front that I was initially put off by the building’s siting–it’s in what used to be the small green space between Hamman Hall and George R. Brown on one axis and the Engineering Quad and the Natural Science buildings on the other. (Even now I don’t think “wedged” is an unfair description.) All the same, I was deeply impressed by the obvious–and I think successful–care that was taken to make certain that Brockman would not be left sitting there all alone.
It’s not alone at all. In some ineffable way, it’s talking to every building around it. It doesn’t try to reproduce or mimic the older Rice architectural styles, but instead reflects back something of our past and sort of graciously nods in passing. I totally get that. I completely respect it. We are who we are because of our past, and that needs to be honored. But we need to move forward, with dispatch. I really like this building. If you’re on campus you should go have a look at it.
Bonus pictures: The reason I was looking for a picture of Hamman Hall yesterday was because I was startled by how it seems so transformed by its relationship to Brockman. (By the way, I’ve always loved Hamman, but I realize I may be in the minority here.) Here’s a photo I took the other day:
And here’s what it looked like from pretty close to the same spot in 1974:
And speaking of reflections, here’s me reflected in the glass as I take a photo in the old physics building: