Rice U Ready To Build Giant Ceremonial Mound in Center of Campus

A multimillion-dollar gift from eclipse chaser and Rice University trustee Suzanne Deal Booth will be used to build a monumental sod-covered pyramid that will serve as the focus of the campus’s long central axis. Construction is scheduled to start early next month on the $6 million mound, which will contain a room inside with bench seating, as well as a second level above. At the top of the flat-topped pyramid, a 72-ft.-square pavilion with a square hole cut into the top will frame views of the sky.


The mound will house artist James Turrell’s 28th Skyspace, his second in Houston. A similar work by Turrell in the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in Shady Acres reopened last year after 2 years of repairs to the retractable roof above it. The roof on Rice’s Skyspace won’t close, but the space will be outfitted for live and recorded music. Arrays of LEDs — mounted in troughs on the top of the pyramid — will create colored sunrise and sunset light shows on the underside of the roof canopy.

The construction will sit in front of the courtyard entrance to Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, and will likely become the central focus of Rice’s third giant central courtyard-in-the-making, framed so far by the music school, the Baker Institute, and the business school’s McNair Hall. The Skyspace is expected to open for sky viewings in November.

Rendering: Thomas Phifer and Partners

25 Comment

  • Heaven forbid they lower tuition for students.. but I guess that wouldn’t get anyone’s name on anything..

  • Wish other campuses across town would feel a little compelled to have at least the same asthetic sature like Rice. HBU,UST,UOH,and UHD.

  • How is that in any way aesthetically pleasing/artistic? Shepherd is a building of beautiful architecture, but that angular mound will obscure anything that was once attractive to the eye….

  • WTF. Beginning this year, I have started writing on the Annual Fund pledge sheet “I am not donating again while Leebron is still president.” Told the same thing to the class rep who called asking for money, too.

  • WTF is right 6 million dollars, really?! I did not go to Rice so…I’m not a smart man… but I know what stupid is.

  • Another work by the master, James Turrell, Houstonians, we should celebrate!

  • I agree with DrS, the rendering isn’t very persuasive, but my experience of several other Turrels (MFAH, Live Oaks Meeting House, and Nasher Center) is that they are AWESOME. Rice alums and Houstonians should be pleased that they have another artwork of distinction.

  • Anonymous: True no doubt about it, but I guess some crap is better than no crap. Just unbelievaable to hear that it’s worth 6 million…

  • Bill, Jon,Googlemaster; Can you read? This project is not funded from tuition or from your enormous donations; it is funded by Suzanne Deal Booth. It’s her money, so what are you complaining about? Get over yourselves.

  • Rice building has gone a bit crazy in the past few years . . . what happened to the elegant university in Cram’s vision?

  • I guess the Owls are too kind to say “thanks, but no thanks”.

    But to let her fug up the center of campus with that garbage?

  • What’s interesting about the choice of a Turrell skyspace in the context of a modern university is the contrast of the contemplative and meditative nature of sitting quietly and watching the sky, compared to the ADHD info dump texting iPadding smartphoning chatter and blather of the 21st century.

  • Hmmmm, an instant nighttime nookie-nook for the undergrads! And another Hill for Houston, yay! Turrell’s work is lovely and will screen the facade of the Shepherd School building, which has always needed some ivy cascading down from its flat roof to soften the fascist architecture.

  • UHD?
    Their campus is fantastic.

  • A Turrel mound should attract visitors from beyond our universe. I hope.

  • $6 million for a pile of dirt?? I’m in the wrong business!

  • Our university had too much usable green space anyway.

  • They created a h u g e courtyard that’s sort of dead right now. More trees would help. This is an odd jesture, not in context with the theme of the campus. But Phifer is an excellent architect and that gives me hope.

  • I think it’s great. Turrell is a master. I’m glad there are people willing to pay for this kind of thing. Some of you need to lighten the $%^&* up.

  • Is it April Fools already?


  • weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • I’m going upstairs to create my own ceremonial mound.It never ceases to amaze me how the wealthy piss their money away. “And you can have it all….my empire of dirt…”.