A funny thing happened on the way to carefully disassembling the former Menil Museum on the campus of Rice University so that it could be rebuilt somewhere in the Fourth Ward with the help of a Brown Foundation grant: After workers spent a week or so carefully removing the corrugated galvanized but weathered panels on the building, an excavator began summarily demolishing the rest yesterday. Or almost the rest — work had to be stopped after crews hit a power line, Molly Glentzer at the Chronicle reports.
So by midday today the scene near Rice University’s University Dr. entrance looked something like this:
The only building parts that have been salvaged, it appears, are the metal panels, which have been carefully laid on a flatbed — bringing to the campaign to salvage at least parts of the building’s history all the scope and charm of a scrap-metal operation.
In March, Rice’s student newspaper reported that the hastily announced demolition of the structure — left without a purpose after the university’s School of Continuing Studies moved to a brand new building across the drive — had been put on hold after Rice alumni and art faculty protested. After the Brown Foundation agreed to guarantee funds to pay for the disassembly of the building and its reconstruction on an unidentified site in the Fourth Ward, where it would be used as some sort of art center, “the university . . . agreed to allow [the] building to stand for a couple more weeks [in order] to come up with the actual plan for moving the building,” wrote Rice Thresher reporter Jieya Wen at the time.
Whether Rice got antsy waiting for details of the proposed disassembly deal to be worked out, or after careful consideration of the building’s parts it was determined that only the metal panels were worth saving is unclear. But the building Dominique de Menil commissioned from architects Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry for Rice’s then-fledgling art program in 1969 — as a predecessor to the Menil Collection she and her husband later established on a former washateria site several miles north — is now mostly a pile of rubble.
- Rice moves forward with demolition of museum [Houston Chronicle]
- Rice Art Barn gets the wrecking ball after all [Houston Chronicle ($)]
- Art Barn [Vine; more here]
- Previously on Swamplot: Menil Collection Predecessor on Rice Campus Is Headed for the Fourth Ward; Protests Delay Planned Demolition of Former Rice Museum, May Mean More Gentle Dismantling, Reconstruction Elsewhere; Daily Demolition Report: Discontinuing Studies; Rice University To Demolish Former Menil Museum, Godfather of the Tin House Movement, Real Soon
Photos: Allyn West