Touch The SkyWith thanks to: “The Campus Guide: Rice University,” by Stephen Fox (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001); “A Walking Tour of Rice University,” by James C. Morehead Jr. (Rice University Press, 1990); “A History of Rice University: The Institute Years, 1907–1963,” by Fredericka Meiners (Rice University Studies, 1982); and Susann Glenn of Rice University’s Facilities, Engineering and Planning department.
Height: 125 feet
Architects: Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson
When Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, Rice’s founding architects, began designing the campus, they envisioned a tower that would hold water. That plan was scrapped in favor of underground tanks, but the idea of a tower so captivated then-President Edgar Odell Lovett that the architects sought a practical function to justify one. The result was the Campanile, the campus’s first and most impressive tower.
Built to decoratively mask the smokestack for the Power House, it is still used to vent steam. In the beginning, the Campanile was simply described as campanile-like; it didn’t have a capital “C” until after the publication of the first edition of the “Campanile” yearbook in 1916. The hipped tile eave that originally hooded the top was removed when the tower was rebuilt in 1930 following a lightning strike. Architectural historian Stephen Fox calls the Campanile Rice’s “most ambiguous component … because it has no visible base. It is always seen from a distance.”
Howard Keck Hall
Height: 82 feet
Architects: William Ward Watkin and Cram & Ferguson
Originally known as the Chemistry Building and then as Dell Butcher Hall, Howard Keck Hall is a storehouse of scientific symbols, a number of which are located on the building’s tower. Most notable are those that use contemporary representations to depict the first part of the periodic table of elements. The tower was built to house a mechanical system for venting the laboratories.
The Rice Memorial Center
Height: 70 feet
Architect: Harvin C. Moore
Even a nonsectarian place for fellowship such as the Rice Memorial Center Chapel needs a bell tower. Unlike its larger sibling to the north, the Rice Chapel’s tower is a true campanile, although its bells are electronic chimes rather than real bells. The chapel and its campanile are based on the design of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, though on a much smaller scale. Architect Harvin C. Moore was a member of Rice’s class of 1927.
Russ Pittman Tower
Height: 94 feet
Architect: Alan Greenberg
The Humanities Building is highly visible from College Way, but when you are standing in the Academic Quad, its Russ Pittman Tower is what you notice most. This is the one tower on campus that always has been purely decorative — unless you count it serving as a roost for the large sculpted owl that watches over the western half of the Academic Quad.
The Crystal Campanile
Height: 85 feet
Architects: Antoine Predock ArchitectPC, Morris Architects, Michael Graves & Associates
When Antoine Predock designed the new South Plant, which will supply the steam and chilled water necessary to heat and cool buildings on the south side of the campus, such as the new 10-story BioScience Research Collaborative, he came up with his own modern take on the Campanile.
Although the newest tower at Rice, called by some the “Crystal Campanile,” may be a functional sibling to the oldest, the two couldn’t be more different. The sleek, high-tech South Plant tower shows not only how design has changed during the last century, but also just how far we’ve come technologically. Built to cool and recycle steam rather than belch smoke, the Crystal Campanile resembles a modernist sculpture more than it does a functional piece of equipment.