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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rice University

Rice University is another of Houston’s “hidden gems”. 

The campus, which lies to the west of Herman Park, is framed by Main St, Sunset Blvd, Rice Blvd and University Blvd.  It is set in nearly 300 acres of well kept and generously wooded grounds providing plenty of options for interesting and shady walks.  Visitor parking is available within the campus but today we parked in the free 3 hour parking lot in Herman Park to the right of the Sam Houston Monument circle.  From there we followed the path through to the traffic light controlled crossing over Main and Fanin at Sunset Blvd which brings you to Entrance 1 on the corner of Sunset and Main. 

The students – there are nearly 5,000 of them - are on summer vacation at the moment and although there are still a few people around the atmosphere is peaceful and we quickly forget we are in the middle of the city. 

The driveway leads up to Founders Court and the imposing granite and marble Lovett Hall. This was the original building on the campus and the first classes were held here in 1912 – exactly 100 years ago!  Altogether there are about 50 buildings on the campus mostly laid out in quadrangles with geometrical gardens in the center. 

The central archway leads into the impressive main quad surrounded by buildings.  We walk round the arched cloisters to the Fondren Library at the opposite side of the courtyard which I have now learned is open to the public.  From there we work our way through archways and little pathways into the campus beyond.  

There are some beautiful sculptures to be found throughout the grounds and some wonderful details in the varied architecture.  We never walk the same way twice and love to happen upon a new piece of art or notice an impressive door we have not seen before. 

Today we come across a bronze sculpture of a barn owl in the Hindman Garden.  It seems all the more at home here with the Rice Owls baseball team and the fact that there is a long tradition of nicknaming Rice students “owls”!    

Only half way through our walk we are wilting from the heat so we dip into the fabulous Salento café in the Brochstein Pavilion for refreshments.  This café offers good coffee, displays some beautiful artwork and has one of the best outlooks in Houston. Today we enjoy watching people interact with Mirror - the new installation of cast-iron seated figures by Jaume Plensa. 

Then we were off to investigate the real reason for our visit today - the university’s latest art installation at the west side of the campus in front of Brown Hall. JamesTurrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace is an arresting pyramid-like sculpture designed to interact with the rising and setting of the sun.  The sleek flat roof of the structure has a square oculus through which spectators can view the natural lights in the sky enhanced with an LED light show!  The show is free of charge but seats have to be reserved.  The minute the storm clouds have passed we will be going along to experience this exciting work of art.

Enjoy Houston

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