A few days ago I got an email from a young man at the University of Houston who had written a paper for his architectural history class and needed to get it published as part of the course requirements. Apparently I qualify as a reputable outlet, so he was politely asking if I’d post his work. After reading it, I gladly agreed.
It’s not long–about 1,500 words–but it’s long enough that I need to post it as a pdf. I heartily endorse his thesis, by the way, and only regret that he didn’t have access to the materials about the pavilion that were very recently donated to the Woodson by Raymond and Susan Brochstein. My favorite thing about the paper, though, is his unselfconscious and complete condemnation of the placement of Fondren library. He gives no quarter at all on this and he is, of course, correct.
Here’s the link, and do feel free to comment if so moved:
Extra Bonus: Water main fixed, mess cleaned up, new sidewalk in, fresh sod and bushes ready to go. Never any doubt.
Stephen Fox, not Michael Fox, for pity’s sake. It’s not _Back To The Future._ I’m OK with his take on the Brochstein Pavilion, which I agree has been a testament to architecture’s ability to define space and create an appealing environment, but I’ve long thought that the Fondren Library site-detractors doth protest too much. Putting the library in a site that was near the residence halls and similar in scale and prominence to the Administration Building probably seemed like a reasonable idea at the time and is hard to argue with today. And Fondren is a perfectly decent late-40’s building by Houston’s most prominent architect of the time. In any other context besides the Academic Quadrangle of Rice University it would probably be seen as a beautiful or at least well-designed and proportioned building. It’s not its fault that it pales beside the Physics and Administration peacocks!
I like the library and think Brochstein is an eyesore.
Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth. I think the library was ok before the arcade connecting it to Rayzor was built. That change badly distorted the front of the building. I think the placement was really bad. It wrecked the plan and cut the campus in half, turning what is now the middle quad into a backwater and leading to decades of problems with siting new buildings. I was actually against the pavilion until it was built but it has turned out to be a great change, making that middle quad very lively.
We should get one of those giant tunnel boring machines and just punch a sallyport through the library, connecting the two quads.
Lol. You need to come see me. We could have fun.
It seems to me that when Fondren was built the symbolic meaning of the library being central to the campus was very much understood. Any kind of real thought of an academic or scientific “middle quad” was far off, with most other construction either happening northward, like Abercrombie, or completing the existing quad, like Anderson and Rayzor. My guess is that the Cram plan is actually more closely studied, if not adhered to, today than it was in the 1940s.
Interesting reading. It is hard for me to really comment since I have not seen the pavilion but the campus badly needed another place to meet and chat, and it sounds like it has accomplished that.
I think the whole piece has that breathless amazement quality that I assoicate with art criticism or fashion reporting.
I like the Brochstein – I had coffee and pastry there when I last visited the campus.