Two Questions About Hamman Hall

Specifically, two questions about the front of Hamman Hall. First, have a look at this image taken not long after the building was completed. The long walls off the sides aren’t there anymore. I was out there today and looked closely and no trace remains.

What I’d like to know is: when did they go away? I’m also curious about why they went away but I suspect that will be harder to answer.

Here’s another view, this one even earlier, which is enlivened by a nice peek at the west end of the Engineering Annex off to the right:

What I’m interested in here is the wide forecourt and its treatment in the 1983 Cesar Pelli Master Plan. Pelli contemplates its use for concerts and I’m wondering if that really ever happened. He also discusses placing the David Parson’s sculpture that we talked about here and here. I know the statue was there for a while but not which placement was used.

As always, any help is greatly appreciated. (And speaking of help, I thank Christan Hauser for helping me with these scans today! He’s a champ.)

Bonus: This is where I cross.

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17 Responses to Two Questions About Hamman Hall

  1. grungy1973 says:

    Yes, concerts were performed there.
    Here is Wunderwood’s shot of one of them.
    Our best guess is that this is St. Elmo’s Fire.

  2. Sandy Havens says:

    Hamman Hall has an interesting history. As I understand it, the hall was designed primarily as lecture space for the extremely popular biology lectures of Prof. Joe Davies as well as other large audience lecture classes. (Ask me about the details.) The Shepard School of Music was newly established and consisted of Professor Arthur Hall and a couple of adjuncts. If you explore the building you will see that the stage is pretty much an afterthought–added to make possible musical performances.The spaces underneath the auditorium were given over to a rehearsal room for a choir and a couple of departmental offices. You could chop off the stage and dressing rooms and leave behind a perfectly good large lecture hall.

    Today, after major retro-fitting, Hamman is a pretty decent performance hall.

    • I’m pretty sure that the SOC 203 lectures were in Hamman Hall. You can ask Bill Martin.

      I know that Rev. Ike spoke there when Dr. Martin asked him to come to campus.

      • marmer01 says:

        Yes. They were. The largest lecture classes were held in Hamman. When I was a student and later started working at the Shepherd School, we had to fight with the Registrar to keep them from scheduling MWF classes at 1:00 in Hamman, because we couldn’t set up for orchestra rehearsal at 2:10 if there was a class in there until 1:50.

    • J Cameron Cooper says:

      My favorite feature of Hamman Hall, no longer operable, is the chalkboard situated to rise from the basement through a slot in the floor of the auditorium just in front of the original stage. The slot is now obscured by the extended stage (now in at least its third generation). The room in the basement where the chalkboard resides was used as tool storage for the woodshop, and probably still is. I always thought this an interesting relic from Hamman’s original function… along, of course, with the fold out tables on the seats.

    • Bill LeFebvre says:

      Several rooms underneath Hamman Hall were used as rehearsal space for percussionists in the late 70s and early 80s (at least). Most (all?) of the percussion instruments were stored there and had to be hauled up the stairs to get them on the stage for performances. There was no elevator. I still remember dropping some chimes down the stairs once while trying to move them.

  3. Marie Brannon says:

    Between 1968 and 1973, I was working at the Fondren Library, and lived on Wroxton Ct. My walk home was right through this area. The grackles were horrible on the left (west) side of the Chemistry building, but once I got through that, it was easy-peasy to walk past Hamman Hall and cross Rice to Ashby. So those long walls were already long gone by 1968.

  4. marmer01 says:

    Look! There are your benches! Obviously inspired by the arches over the first floor lobby of Hamman Hall!

    • Those benches were not designed for sitting, it was clear. They were out in the sun, so not a good place to sit. As I remember, the arches underneath prevented you from putting your feed under, so standing up was awkward. You had to scoot forward to get your weight over your feet, then stand.

  5. marmer01 says: says they were there in ’66. They were pretty clearly part of the landscaped forecourt, which was gone by ’95. My guess is that the construction of Space Science and Herman Brown required their removal for construction access. Once in a while there were performances in/on the Hamman forecourt, but generally the limitations of acoustics, lighting, outside noise, and especially temperature and humidity control made the enthusiasm for outdoor concerts pretty small.

  6. almadenmike says:

    A 2011 article about the landscape for Brockman Hall ( said:

    … The forecourt plaza at Hamman Hall was removed to allow for the construction of Brockman Hall. Hamman Hall now sits on a plinth of granite stairs that descend into grass to the east and west, and a decomposed granite court along the axis. The lifting of the north bar allows Hamman Hall room to breathe. The strongly symmetrical façade of Hamman continues to terminate the campus cross-axis and provides the Brockman landscape with a backdrop and sense of enclosure. …
    Landscape Architect: The Office of James Burnett (OJB)
    Architect: KieranTimberlake

    • Andrew says:

      If i remember correctly, in Stephen Fox’s book on the architectural history of Rice University he speaks of how Hamman Hall is a relatively small building having been charged with terminating the second major cross axis of campus. In addition to this, behind the building are parking lots. To address this, the building stretches its arms out in the form of those walls to make its presence larger.

      The walls were removed as this neighborhood of campus become more developed and a greater sense of connection was desired. Brockman Hall now effectively terminates the axis with it’s Venturi-esque columns that bifurcate the path.

      Brockman how shelters Hamman and changes its relationship to the axis and the space. Hamman has always been a favorite building on campus and its nice to see that it has a new place in relationship to the spaces created by the lifted up wing of Brockman.

  7. Robert Roosth says:

    Note that in the late ’60s and early ’70s Hamman Hall was the performance space for the Rice Players. There was small woodworking shop in the basement. i have no idea when the Players started using that venue nor when they stopped. I do not recall the arched walkway cover on the left side of the photo, but that could be my flaky memory. I do recall them on the other side.

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