I mentioned yesterday that I think the original design of Fondren was ok—not stellar, but ok. I’m certainly not any kind of expert on architecture but I have looked at this campus long and hard for a very long time, thinking about why things are the way they are and whether they work. One of the reasons I’m at least a modest fan of the original building is that its back end, which one might charitably call “stumpy,” seems to have actually worked fairly well.
It was excruciating trying to find pictures of it—there are hundreds that show the front, beginning with groundbreaking and continuing up until this morning, but there are only a couple of the back. Here’s one—a construction image from 1948:
While I’m in complete agreement that the massing was a mistake (and a bad one), I think that the presence of so many large windows mitigates it somewhat. (And it is miles better than what was to come.) Also, note the construction shed at the far left. Just to it’s right you can see the opening for what would be a double door, which was eliminated in the 1969 addition. For another look the best I could find was this aerial shot from 1952. You have to zoom in to get a close look:
You can clearly see the door here and you can also, I think, get a sense of how it’s presence meant that there was some life on that side of the library. That door provided a connection to the RMC and allowed people to park back there. (In certain moods I’m prepared to argue that the addition of a back door in Fondren a few years ago has been the single most important physical change on campus since I’ve been here.)
Those big windows across the back also made the interior very pleasant. Here are a couple of pictures of the Science Reading Room, which was located along the back side on the first floor:
This looks much more like the bright and cheerful front of the library than the dark cavern that the back would come to resemble after the addition. Tomorrow I’ll start talking about the changes that began when Rayzor Hall was built.
Bonus: It’s been a bit damp recently. Alert reader Marty Merritt sends this dispatch from the swamp.