HMRC Thursday: Shedding Light on Some Rice Buildings

I’ve always wondered (in a non-snarky way, honestly) what they were thinking when they built the post-WWII science buildings. To me they look and feel like motels, with all those straight skinny lines and corridors and staircases along the outside of the buildings and more or less open to the elements:


The other day I found some photos from the Houston Post archives that help me understand it better. Here is one of the new buildings at the University of St. Thomas, in an image dated September 10, 1958:

And dated September 12, 1958, the new Cullinan Wing at the MFAH, right across the street from Rice:

In this context the Biology and Geology buildings at Rice, which were under construction at this exact moment, make much more sense.

Bonus: The whole place gets power washed for commencement.

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4 Responses to HMRC Thursday: Shedding Light on Some Rice Buildings

  1. loki_the_bubba says:

    Maybe some day the new ugly grey art building will make sense to someone.

  2. marmer01 says:

    You are exactly right: those pictures show just what they were thinking. In the early days of A/C, rooms opening into shaded exterior corridors was quite common to minimize conditioned space. In fact, that is why you think of a motel. Cf. the somewhat-lamented old Wiess College. Of note, however, is the fact that the Museum’s Cullinan Hall, designed by the International Style master Mies van der Rohe himself, and the St. Thomas buildings, an early project of Mies protege Philip Johnson, emphasize steel framing and glass while the Science triplets emphasize “Rice materials” like St. Joe brick, concrete, and even some colored stone detailing. While they look dated now, back then they seemed incredibly modern. It makes sense, in my opinion, to include Hamman Hall and Herman Brown Hall in that group as they were all designed by George Pierce and Abel Pierce, who had the firm of Pierce and Pierce and were not related to each other.

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