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New garden at RMC comes from campus beautification funds

By Joey Capparella     9/22/11 7:00pm

The green fences by the Rice Memorial Center will soon be gone, revealing a new garden dedicated to the estate of Milus E. Hindman, a Rice alumnus. The garden will be opened in October and contains a brand new owl statue as the focal point of the space.

According to construction plans, the garden will be a gathering space replacing the grove of trees on the north side of the RMC by the Rice Memorial Chapel. There will be lighting, benches, a paved plaza, plants, and, at the center, an owl sculpture made by sculptor Jeffrey Dashwood and donated by trustee emeritus Ralph O'Connor and his wife, Becky.

This garden is the first project to come from the Milus Hindman Campus Beautification funds, Senior Director of News and Media Relations BJ Almond said. These funds come from a charitable remainder trust established by Hindman's estate specifically for campus beautification projects, Almond said.

This space was identified last year by a steering committee and university architects as a possibility for renovation, Manager of Communications for Facilities Engineering and Planning Susann Glenn said.

"The central quad will be an important space during the centennial year, and this new garden goes along with vibrancy efforts that have been going on ever since the Brochstein Pavilion was built in 2008," Glenn said. "This garden could turn the area surrounding the RMC into a destination."

Project Manager Tina Hicks said that the garden would also solve drainage problems that previously plagued the space.

"The garden will have underground drainage systems so the water won't pond and create a swampy area," Hicks said. She said that she hopes this will help the area become more of a gathering space for people.

On an interesting note, Hicks also said that the benches in the space source their limestone from the same quarry as the limestone in Lovett Hall.

"We changed the source of the limestone at the last minute, and it was exciting to have that historical connection with Lovett Hall," Hicks said.

Brown College junior Grace Serio said that she is curious about the environmental effect that the garden might have.

"My conservation biology class is doing a project on the ecosystem services that Rice provides on our campus," Serio said. "I wonder what effect the paved area might have on the ecosystems in that part of campus."

Construction of the garden started in early June although it may have seemed like nothing was happening during periods of time during the summer, Glenn said. This was due to the planting and landscaping involved with the project.

"Because this project involves planting and landscaping, the construction needed to take place during a time conducive to growing," Glenn said.

Hicks said that the finish date for the garden is Oct. 31, and that there should be an unveiling ceremony on Nov. 1, just in time for Homecoming on Nov. 4.

Baker College senior Christine Cooper is happy about the garden.

"I think that gardens are great because it means that another building won't be built there," Cooper said. "I like that it preserves more green space in the center of campus."

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