Rice students install hammocks to enhance community space on campus
HOUSTON – (Oct. 5, 2016) – Rice students are putting the finishing touches on The Hangout this week in time for the installation's dedication at 5 p.m. Oct. 13 in the grove on the south side of the university's Fondren Library.
The students will attach a set of 12 moveable canvas hammocks between 14 steel poles embedded beneath the trees in the small grove to make a place for members of the Rice community to read, chat, teach or just contemplate.
The installation is based on the winning entry in a Rice School of Architecture charrette last October. Teams in a charrette are required to start and complete designs over a weekend; the competitive event mimics the time pressure architects face in the working world.
What followed was nearly a year of designing the unique elements of the installation, which included designing the poles, their placement and anchoring systems. The multidisciplinary team of students has been working with Rice administrators and Facilities Engineering and Planning staff to keep things on track. The students have discovered along the way that designing a project is not nearly as hard – or as satisfying – as completing one.
"I think the hardest part has been the nature of construction itself," said Eric Hsu, an architecture student. "We've only made drawings of architecture. Construction's very messy and you have to be on your toes all the time. Having to learn how to deal with that was very difficult."
"It's 5 percent design, 95 percent execution, in terms of effort," added Kajal Patel, also an architecture student.
The designers put hooks high and low on the poles so the hammocks can be rearranged into more than 700 configurations, according to the students’ calculations. Customized solar-powered lighting fixtures atop each pole will provide accent lighting at night, with general illumination from Fondren Library itself.
"We debated putting outlets on the poles, and it's still a heated topic, but we have for the most part decided not to implement that because we mean for this to be a contemplative space where people can look up at the trees and not down at their laptops," Patel said.
Team members include electrical engineering major Yoseph Maguire and sociology major Geneva Vest, as well as architecture students Ethan Chan, Toshiki Niimi, Mitch Mackowiak and Andrew Bertics.
The installation, funded by the Rice Environmental Society and proceeds from the sale of the KTRU tower, frequency and license, is intended to be temporary – but its designers hope it will become so popular that de-installing it will become unthinkable.
"Our funding had to include the anticipated cost for removing the concrete (in which the poles are set), so the cost is worked in," Patel said. "But if The Hangout does its job of creating a public space on campus, I don't see a reason Rice would take it away. It becomes a site for conversations and a catalyst for interaction between students from all parts of campus."