website stats

Monday, January 23, 2006

Architect Superstar

This tie was "made exclusively for Rice University, designed by John Outram." The connection to Rice University is not immediately apparent; it doesn't seem to refer to the university's athletics mascot, the owl, except for maybe in a late-onset schizophrenic way a la Louis Wain's cat paintings. It's actually a ceiling mural (properly, the Steve and Sue Shaper Ceiling of Martell Hall) from Anne and Charles Duncan Hall, a remarkable buidling designed by British "philosopher-architect" John Outram for Rice's departments of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics, and completed in 1997. (Those in the fundraising business will note the abundance of "naming opportunities.") According to Outram, Rice's own architecture faculty has thoroughly denounced the building, but everyone else quite likes it. There is a wealth of information about the project on the John Outram Associates website, which can make your mind reel after a while if you're not a regular consumer of architectural theory. Is there a meaning to this bizarre pattern? You bet there is! While Outram has not yet posted it to his own website, some of his explanations of it are transcribed on this page of the "unofficial" Duncan Hall website, which also includes more readable summaries of Outram's design theories.

This reminds me of another new whiz-bang buidling for computer types, Frank Gehry's Stata Center at M.I.T., where my brother has an office. To me it looks just silly, and my brother isn't thrilled with it but doesn't hate it either. What does John Outram think of Frank Gehry?
Well, well, well! Still, for all his implications that he is the greatest architect alive, Outram's buildings look pleasant and seem to be highly functional. I'll have to make a point of visiting one someday. And I haven't seen such a great tie design from an architect since Boxelder's architect lines, which now include a Santiago Calatrava design! And not only that, you can now buy single ties directly from Boxelder!

No comments: