Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where is the application to be a Texan?

I've made a few observations about life and about places I've been. You can tell me what ever you want to tell me about wherever I may be going, but I do like to make my own opinions. Texas is not exempt from this either!

Texas is the one place where people here are more proud of being Texans than they are being America. I noticed the Texas flag is the same height as the American flag. Texas is bigger then most countries, and the resources here it could easily support itself should they ever decide to leave the United States, which by the way, they can do on their own free will since they are the only state to voluntarily join the Union! If they were ever to do this, life in America would change, oil and gas would skyrocket, they boast huge energy fields and large agricultural gain which would all become foreign imports! Hell the land mass is bigger than most countries! And they know it! Look at this; it's a bumper sticker I found at Rice University:

Today I'm in Houston, TX. I stayed with my college friend and now my cousin-in-law, Chris. He's a crew scheduler for continental airlines, and because he works for an airline company, one of his benefits is domestic round trip flights for 50 bucks! Traveling is not an issue for them. He's even said he has flown somewhere just for the cuisine and flown back. He was in the middle planning a trip to Atlanta to see his wife, my cousin Janet, but has said that he wants to fly to Boston for Chowder at lunch or go to San Fran for a delicious seafood dinner then head home. This is a luxury most of us wouldn't dream about, but has done it before. I'm slightly jealous.

Chris was a wonderful host. Outside of bragging about his travel opportunities he enjoyed having someone to talk to that didn't want to mention Oklahoma or Texas. He provided what is likely the most comfortable couch to sleep on. I would probably take it over my old bed back in Auburn! Then my last night in town we visited a local seafood joint. Decent prices, nice atmosphere and delicious food. I took up Chris' recommendation on the Shrimp Prosciutto (Maybe that's spelled wrong); it was about time that someone combined the three greatest ingredients to grace a kitchen table. This dish was a plate of huge jumbo gulf shrimp stuffed with bell pepper slivers and a lot of cheese; they were then wrapped in bacon and grilled over an open flame. The skewer was then placed on a heaping portion of Cajun jambalaya rice that rivals most Creole chefs! While my arteries are taking a hit, my stomach was satisfied. I can't say it was one of the best meals I have ever tasted, but its close.

But my adventures in Houston, let's get back on track!

Part of this adventure was to be able to look at grad schools. My eventual decision will be based on a few criteria. Where is it: I want to learn in a different environment than that of my undergraduate studies. Auburn is a small college town in Alabama, that means the polar opposites are a large metro or the middle of nowhere in a cold snowy climate or a super hot dry area. I also want to be in a place where I can feel at home in the culture of the area. There is also a slight preference to cities that have water: beaches, wharfs, or even a nice riverwalk like San Antonio's.

First on the docet, Rice University:

I was highly impressed with the Rice campus. It had a turn of the century feel with classical organization. The buildings there spoke of history and tradition while providing a place for modern civilization to learn. It was hard to even tell you were in Southern Houston..

The loggia at Lovett Hall.

Entrance to Andersen Hall, the School of Architecture.

View of the quad from the Architecture building. That is Lovett Hall, the gateway of the university. There are four buildings or schools, that line the quad, and then the library is opposite Lovett (it's behind me as I take this photo).

Finally, Andersen Hall. Behind those windows are the studios. The archway colonnade on the left side connects to a breezeway that wraps around the back side of the quad providing a covered path to the library and the building on the opposite side of the quad.

The program offerings at Rice would have me studying in Houston for two and half years with the possibility of spending an entire summer at a studio in Paris. The graduate program only takes 20-30 a year which is dispersed among 2-3 professors by the second semester. They boast an internationally acclaimed faculty with plenty of facilities to cover all your studio needs. While I don't have a picture of it, the review spaces here are absolutely incredible. In the center of the building is a triple height space 25'x25' square room that rises with stark white walls to a rim skylight that fills the room with crisp clean rays. There is a small opening of entrance on the first floor and a sliding wall on the second so observers can watch from above too. I can only imagine being able to present there, or for that matter, being grilled by a design jury.

This is in the grad school hall. There are red feet prints on the floor and the lines which go all over the various walls are supposed to visually redefine the space. If you look at just the red lines it looks like a large mass on the right side and then a flat wall to the left. Real neat, huh! It didn't quite work for me, as I believe the girl was a little shorter than I am, but this is me attempting to line it up with my camera.

My venture around the campus led off the old block onto the new areas. Rice just opened a new student center and has a new coffee shop in the middle of campus. The coffee/danish/study/meeting space, as it serves all sorts of purposes slowly being found as a popular place on campus, is highly contrasted with the surrounding built environment. While slightly refreshing, it does speak more to the current time than the new buildings which were designed to have an old antiqued feel.

Simply a square glassed box with a central core of bathrooms and services it provides a hang out spot either inside or outside. Inside you have minimalist furniture surrounding a round cafe island. Outside on the wrap around patio you also have the same furniture but a screen roof of small white round cylinders. Small while steel elements allow the lighting to suspend itself out from the building. I'm sure it's dramatic at night time, but I enjoyed the day environment. I got to see it in use at peak hours. Plenty of people were studying, socializing, and one group even had a Bible study going on.

Here is a close up of the patio roof. It was relatively cooler under the patio awning than in the sunlight, and it doesn't remove too much light either.

There was also a garden space in between this pavilion and the library (brick building behind this one in the over all photo). I spent a few minutes there and produced a few artsy photos. I think Josh will recognize something is some of these.

Every architecture student has to have structures classes. Basically it is three semesters of physics with building materials. At Auburn the professors wanted us to do hands on learning and actually build something with concrete, metal, and wood. I would assume it is a similar practice at Rice. I found these benches and stools in the archs of the colonnade of the architecture building. Some are very interesting, other not, but I was intrigued by the last one I show here.

This one here is three slab of concrete: one as the seat, and two more on their sides to create a front and back panel of the base. Connecting the seat to the base is truck spring from the rear axel of a pick-up truck.

The spring works like it should too! The seat bobs up and down as you sit on it. It also rocks front to back, but that felt like a poor connection job between the seat and the springs. I made a video to show how much deflection the springs had in them, and then the seat started to rock, I felt like I was going to fall off so you see me brace for impact. It's kind of funny, once it's loaded up, I'll post a link here.

I know I'm a few days behind on this, but I'm still going to post these as one entry per day. Next comes my trip across West Texas, Yee Haw!

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