Friday, June 25, 2010

Rice & Tulane: Sociable Dalliance

In the autumn of 1912, William Woodward (1859-1939) -- Tulane University Professor & founder of its Architecture School -- was delegated to attend the opening of the Rice Institute. With an estimated endowment of $10 million, the fledgling institution had contracted with Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson to design the campus plan and its buildings.

When Woodward returned to New Orleans, he reported on the buildings and their architect:

"The buildings of the Rice Institute of Houston Texas are genuine marks of Architectural Art, as I found on my recent visit there to participate in the formal opening as representative of the American Federation of Arts of Washington, D.C.

Three buildings of the large number provided for on the spacious campus are completed, or nearly so, and are widely separated -- The Administration building, the Power plant with mechanical laboratories and one group for men's residence composed of dormitories and commons.

As to what style no attempt at description would be adequate without many illustrations of details, but it can be said that one feels at once that the whole has been studied and erected under the eye of an architect who could realize his conceptions in sound construction.

I had the good fortune to be taken to the Institute by Mr. Cram of the firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, the architects, and his resident assistant Mr. Watkin, and thus can say first hand that Mr. Cram has aimed to construct in the best materials for each purpose and he is best pleased, perhaps, in the placing of the bricks, which are of a mellow color, brightened by inlays of marble and glazed tiles of varying and unique shapes. The cement courses are often wide enough to give the idea of banded work.

Mr. Cram was pleased when I jestingly spoke of the 'elocution' of the facade of the men's residence before which we stood. The sociable dalliance of the banded columns of the arcade on the ground, the serene wall rising above, accented with convenient balconies and crowned with sheltering eaves appeals at once. As might be expected the hardware and fixtures are all unique and pleasingly hand wrought in many cases. To a professor, one of the points of interest is the seating of the faculty chamber which has benches facing each other across the central aisle, as in a choir. Mr. Cram's sensitive eye was disturbed by the flare of crudely colored 'near' banners, which overwhelmed his color scheme in this chamber, and which had evidently been put up before his arrival. The only address or paper on Art was Mr. Cram's paper read one night at 2:30 A.M. when his audience had been reduced to almost a state of stupor by the events of the day and night."

William Woodward. [untitled article]. Architectural Art and Its Allies 8:3 (September 1912), p. 8 . The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Emphasis my own.

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