Semicentennial Art, 1962

You may remember this contraption, which I wrote about near the beginning of summer, wondering whether it was art or plumbing. An alert reader kindly let us know that it was neither, but rather a “Sound Worm,” designed by architecture students to deliver sound from various live feeds around campus. (I’m not so sure how I feel about this but what the heck.)


The moment I first saw it I knew that it reminded me of something but I couldn’t quite get it to come clear. Then on the plane home from New York yesterday I accidentally stumbled across what I was trying to remember. This photograph was taken during the semi-centennial celebration in October, 1962 and this sculpture (about which I know nothing) is only a few yards away from the Sound Worm, just on the other side of the sidewalk. I feel much better now.

Semicentennial sculpture

However, nothing in life is ever so simple. My stomach lurched a bit when I looked closely at this image because I see something (admittedly trivial) that I can’t explain. Check out the lamp post.

That just ain’t right.

Now look if you dare at this post from April of 2013, which goes on at some length about campus lamp post configuration. This may or may not be the exact same lamp post that I’m talking about, but one way or another it’s supposed to be a German High Hat and there is NO HAT! There’s some kind of ridiculous globe where the hat is supposed to be. I need to go have a cool drink and think about this.

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4 Responses to Semicentennial Art, 1962

  1. almadenmike says:

    An explanation of this structure can be found on page 7 of the Oct. 24, 1962, Thresher (

    The article, by Douglas Johnstone, is headlined “Allegorical Significance Absent In Junior Architect’s Project” and is accompanied by a photo showing it being assembled. It begins:

    “Light-colored and up-looking over the sea-green grass, it is obviously Moby Dick.”
    So a senior English major interpreted the discontinuous compression structure squared in the angle between the Memorial Center and the walk between the Library and the Chemistry Lecture Hall.
    Dr. Charles Thomsen of the Architecture Department, speaking less symbolically, said that the structure was a project executed by the junior architects.
    Thomsen, who assigned the project, said that each of the twelve junior architects built a model of a discontinuous compression structure and that the design by Hank Winkelman was selected to be built epic-scale for posterity, or at least for however long it would last.
    A discontinuous compression structure is a form composed solely of members in either pure compression or pure tension so assembled that some compression members are supported only by tension members. Usually there is a basic unit that is repeated throughout the structure.

    Thomsen … knew of no example, except Winkelman’s here at Rice, which was not symmetrical on at least one axis. … “

  2. Your comment on the lamp post reminds me that during my time at Rice, one of the tops of one of the High Hats was sitting out by the Recycling Center upside down with flowers planted in it. I think there is a photo of this in one of the Campaniles; I’ll have to look. I wonder if it got restored to use as a lamp eventually?

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