Imagine Rice, but compressed to a 10th its size. Replace the green hedges with grey houses. Keep the old, lovely live oaks and Jim Love’s giant red jack. Add more art. Add a lot more art. You see the Menil Campus.
It is a nexus of buildings containing art. The buildings are art, too. Lawns and trees separate the buildings. The lawns often teem with picnickers, families, musicians, sunbathers and games of catch. You know the scene if you have passed through the academic quad these past
The bastion of bungalows dampens the perpetual noise of traffic to a faint roar. The outdoors are as pleasant as the indoors. I guarantee a satisfactory experience.
Where is it?
Start at Willy’s Statue and head due north. Follow the streets across a bridge, past a park, across Richmond Avenue, and you will look right and see it. The Menil campus almost rubs shoulders with Rice’s campus. 1.5 miles away means a 30-minute walk, a 10-minute pedal or a seven-minute drive.
Next time you want to run the outer loop, consider running to the Menil and back. You will cover the same distance. Running away from campus will also give you incentive to complete the run. But if you need a break, wander inside the main building, the Menil Collection, for sweet climate control. Beware — they might not admit profusely perspiring patrons.
For those with particular attachments to Rice’s campus:
Love installations that combine light and space like Turrell’s Skyspace? Dan Flavin filled a defunct grocery store with fluorescent tubes. Can’t part with Mark di Suervo’s behemoth stainless and Corten steel sculpture on Herzstein’s lawn? Another one of his stainless steel-less sculptures sits on the Menil’s lawn. Need an all-quiet zone for studying? Enter Rothko Chapel, a large room hung with big blackened canvases.
If you like Rice’s campus, the Menil Campus is similar. If you don’t like Rice’s campus, the Menil Campus is different. Either way, it is worth one or two or infinite visits.