February 16, 2016 – Sun, 80 degrees
Miles Today: 16
Miles to Date: 11,852
States to Date: 28
I rose with the sun and pedaled to the campus of Rice University, which ranks as one of the most attractive campuses of my trip. Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram came to Houston to design the campus over a hundred years ago. He developed an axial plan and eclectic Mediterranean style for the buildings such in polychrome and fantasy. He also lined the walks with live oaks which, although apparently not native to this area, have become signature landscape features.
The campus continued to develop along strict lines except for one sad addition, a 1940’s library that bisects the quad. Fortunately, Rice built two superb structures in the early 2000’s to mitigate the mess. Near the backside of the unfortunate library they built The Pavilion, a crisp white and glass space for hanging out. The simple form creates an airy indoor area, covered outdoor spaces, and extensive gardens. Though small in footprint, it manages to mask the library. At the far end of the long space Rice terminated the quad with a respectable School of Music Building, in the traditional Rice style, and then set James Terrill’s Skyspace in front of it, an echo the Pavilion’s taut whiteness. The two modernist elements are the exclamation points that make the entire ensemble coherent.
I enjoyed a trio of fascinating conversations. Ron Sass, Fellow for Climate Change at the Baker Institute and Rice Professor Emeritus met me at The Pavilion to talk about energy from the global to the molecular. I pedaled over to City Hall to meet Lisa Lin, Houston’s Sustainability Manager. Finally I walked across the plaza to the imposing One Shell Place to talk with Lyman Paden, attorney and partner at Baker Bott as well as an old high school friend who’s savvy to the comings and goings of his adopted hometown.
Then I cycled to the other side of town and stayed with a bartender and his girlfriend who prefer their unpretentious Mexican neighborhood to Houston’s hipster precincts.