New Physics Building at Rice: Fifties Courtyard Block

Why is it so hard to get a definitive image of Rice’s new physics building? There’s no real uncertainty about it — it’s already under construction. It’s just that the thing is going in so close to its neighbors it’s hard to find a good angle for a solo portrait.

The Brockman Hall for Physics, funded in part by $11.1 million of — yes, stimulus money doled out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology — and designed by Philadelphia architects KieranTimberlake, will plug up an unnamed courtyard on the fifties-and-science-themed north part of the campus.

Here’s a rendering showing the 110,000 sq.-ft. building blocking the path between the legs and through the open portal of 17-year-old George R. Brown Hall:


What’s it blocking? The view to Rice’s late-fifties brick-moderne shy pop icon, Hamman Hall. But you’ll still be able to see those feet at the auditorium’s entrance from under the new building’s underbelly:

Here’s another snapshot of the new structure, trying to work its way to the camera from between two Brown buildings, George and Herman (Herman’s the one on the right — better at math):

Brockman Hall won’t block the courtyard entirely — just the sun from seeing too much of it. Three above-ground levels will have labs, lecture halls, and offices. Mechanical equipment and an observatory will hang out on the fourth floor.

Flood protection is also critical to the design, since much of the expensive equipment for physics research will be set up in the basement to take advantage of the noise and vibration control underground. “If the basement floods, we’ll lose as much as we’re putting into the building,” said [former dean of natural sciences Kathleen] Matthews, the Stewart Memorial Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Images: KieranTimberlake, via Rice University

13 Comment

  • Hamman Hall as a “shy pop icon”…Gus, how sweet!

  • That rapidly diminishing “courtyard” in front of Hamman Hall used to be a long lovely quadrangle which, because it was not closed off with shrubs like the main quad, was well used by the students for picnics, studying, playing frisbee, etc. All back when I was an undergrad, several spasms of building ago. Where do undergrads hang out now, when they want to hang out outside?

  • It’s time for rice to become a proper urban school versus a lazy suburban university.

    They could go up more if their self imposed rules allow them and then keep the court yards.

  • One word I would never use to describe Rice is “lazy”.

    In any case, I was just reminiscing. Not criticizing. When I got my MBA at Rice (many years later than my undergraduate degree), I looked out every day over the enormous courtyard bounded by McNair Hall, the Baker Institute, and the Shepherd School. But undergrads rarely hung out there for some reason. Hence my question–where do they go to play frisbee golf (or whatever the 2009 equivalent is)?

  • I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I guess the layout and style of the university reminds me of a more “laid back” atmosphere. The courtyards, shorter buildings, lack of density add to this feel for me.

    Whereas schools like Loyola and Tulane in New Orleans have much more of a city feel (their campuses or campi? or much more cramped).

  • Students hang out behind Fondren at the Brochstein Pavilion. That space has since been dubbed the “central quad.” It is the focus of the administration’s push to create a more unified social space for undergrads, grads, faculty, and visitors.

    Whenever they get around to completely renovating the Student Center, this will become very obvious.

  • There are lots of intramural fields still left around campus where undergrads play frisbee, soccer, etc. They also hang out at Brochstein Pavilion, which opened last year, and there is the new “John and Ann Grove” that is supposed to attract students but I don’t really know if it does.

  • The area where the “grove” is was always very attractive and shady. Maybe doing something with it besides having walkways will encourage students to linger a bit. It’s weird how places where people congregate sometimes appear spontaneously but often have to be goosed into existence. I remember reading (it may have been here) about how Discovery Green was kept from being a “dead” space by having events there continuously. Contrast that with the lovely but isolated James Bute Park, which is scarcely more than a hobo campground at this point.

  • James Bute Park is truly lovely. But the location is netherworldy at this point. And all I ever see there is homeless folks, as RWB said.

  • The rectangular quad between brochstein and baker institute is quite nice, if you can coexist with the aggressive squirrels. Lots of shade. Not sure if students hang out there at all, but I know they set up a band stage there last spring that seemed to work pretty well.

  • What about Valhalla?

    Last time I was there I think it was 50¢ Pearl beer, all night, every night.

  • Yes we all love playing a friendly round of ultimate frisbee in Valhalla.

  • The grounds at Rice are ideal for higher levels of thinking. Take the student out of the city to allow for more individual thought. Of course, the city has it’s educational purposes too, as the university spends a great amount of effort to keep the students involved outside of campus life.