Texas art website Glasstire.com has confirmed the rumor that Rice University intends to demolish the Martel Center building—more informally known as the Art Barn. The corrugated metal structure was commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil in 1969 to house the Rice Museum, a predecessor of The Menil Collection.
The utilitarian structure inspired the “tin house” movement that gained some momentum in Houston’s West End neighborhood in the 1970s.
Historian and Rice School of Architecture lecturer Stephen Fox put the demolition in context:
Designed by Houston architects Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry, it was faced with corrugated galvanized sheet iron, which was used to materialize its identity as a workshop for art, rather than a pristine gallery. Along with its architectural companion, the adjoining Rice Media Center, the Art Barn introduced the use of sheets of metal as an architectural finish material to Houston. The Art Barn is a building of exceptional cultural value to Rice University and Houston. It should be preserved and used as a studio for art instruction.
Rice, which claims that the structure is in “very poor condition,” will replace the building with grass. The university, however, decided not to remove a live oak tree that Andy Warhol planted on the site in commemoration of the Art Barn.
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