Every year hundreds of parents and prospective students tour Houston's many college campuses. Along with football team stats, the average class size and the cost of tuition, the campus ambience is always a big topic during those tours. We took a look at the various campuses, including the University of Houston, Rice University, Houston Baptist University and Houston Community College facilities, searching for must-see college buildings. Here's our list.
10. The University of Houston/Downtown One Main Street
The UHD building is an impressive landmark. Built in 1930 as the Merchants & Manufacturers Building by Giesecke & Harris, an Austin-based firm, the 11-story structure was designed in the modernistic Perpendicular style. Taken over by the UH system in 1974, the building has been remodeled and updated periodically since then in an effort to accommodate the school's growing student population. The M&M building made our list strictly on its exterior and adaptation to its site (a parking lot on the south side was converted to a large terrace with a great view of downtown and access to Buffalo Bayou below). Inside, however, the building is pretty vanilla.
9. The Administration Building, University of St. Thomas 3812 Montrose
The only former residence on our list is the opulent 1911 home built by J.W. Link, the Montrose-area developer. Now used as the administration building for the University of St. Thomas, the mansion is a stylistic anchor for the rest of the mostly nondescript campus.
8. Rice University's McMurtry's Dormitory Dining Hall 6100 Main
Two dormitories were added to Rice University in 2009. Each of the five-story buildings has its own dining hall. This is the McMurtry Dormitory dining hall. While we appreciate the building's energy-efficient design and the care with which the new construction was styled to echo existing structures, we can't help but feel a definite beehive vibe to this structure, which explains its rather low ranking on our list.
7. The Ezekiel Cullen Building at the University of Houston 4800 Calhoun
Built in 1950, the Cullen Building's exterior is made of shell limestone facing. The tall central block is flanked by symmetrical wings, designed to fit into the University of Houston's 1937 master plan. While it might seem a little dated to some, we think its clean lines and weighty proportions are classic.
6. Houston Baptist University's Hinton Center 7502 Fondren
The only building from Houston Baptist University to make our list, the landmark Hinton Center houses the School of Business, the School of Education, lecture halls, classrooms and administrative offices.
5. Houston Community College 1300 Holman
The three-story classical block framed with limestone Doric columns and modernistic setback towers started life in 1914 as South End Junior High School, later becoming San Jacinto Senior High School before it went on to become part of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts' first campus. Eventually it became part of the Houston Community College system. Over the last 99 years, a variety of additions and changes have been made with varying degrees of success. Thankfully, two ugly detached wings were recently demolished, opening up the school's courtyard.
4. University of Houston's Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture Building 4800 Calhoun
Philip Johnson, of Johnson/Burgee Architects, designed the clean exterior of the four-story UH College of Architecture Building based on a never-constructed 18th-century French design. The building is topped with an open-air stone temple.
3. The University of St. Thomas Chapel of St. Basil 3800 Montrose
The only religious building to make our list, the St. Thomas Chapel of St. Basil was designed by Philip Johnson, with David Cargill, Michael Dobbins and Michal Ploski contributing elements. Striking and stark, the chapel offers a place for quiet meditation just a few feet away from the busy Montrose-area streets.
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2. Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston 4800 Calhoun
The museum makes a repeat appearance on our Rest of the Best Top 10 list (it was also named to our Rest of the Best Museum list), the only double awardee we've had so far. That recognition was for the museum's outstanding programming. This time, we're recognizing the museum's newly remodeled building, just completed last year. A glass-enclosed staircase was added, bringing in more natural light and freeing up exhibition space.
1. Rice University's Lovett Hall 6100 Main
Lovett Hall was the first structure built for the Rice Institute, which later became Rice University. The majestic structure was named after Rice Institute president Edgar Odell Lovett, who hired architect Ralph Adams Cram of the Boston firm Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson to design a world-class, serious building as a symbol of the school's intention of becoming a world-class, serious educational institute. Back then, the campus was in the middle of farmland and visitors to Lovett Hall were significantly impressed by the long, low brick and stone building. These days, of course, it's at the heart of the Museum District, but that first sight of the structure hasn't lost its ability to impress.