Halbouty Geosciences Building
Howdy and welcome back!
Let’s go through a few logistics before we get started. This week is the last “normal” week of posting where we will focus on a single building. Because we talked about so many details in this section of architecture and missed so many others, next week is a conclusion to the Beaux Arts era where we will discuss details we have not focused on in great depth as of yet. The following three weeks we will discuss the Modernist era and the Postmodernist era.
This week we are talking about The Halbouty Geosciences Building. It is definitely one of the most interesting buildings on campus due to its very eclectic look. While it has mostly Beaux Arts and Modernist (we’ll get to that) details, it also includes several art deco elements to it.
At the very least, the architects had a lot of fun putting together the façade of Halbouty.
Let’s look at some of the history of Halbouty before we get into the façade.
Halbouty is a rare mixture of different architectural styles because it went through renovations and gained annexes at pivotal times in the eras of architecture: the 1930s with the original Beaux Arts style (though very influenced by Art Nouveau), and the 1970s and 1980s with the modernist style.
The façade seen in the picture above is the Beaux Arts entrance, in a little while, we will take a look at the Modernist entrance, but let’s focus on one thing at a time.
Image courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library
In a major break with the normal facades of Beaux Arts, Halbouty was originally built with a very large tower above the central entrance to cover a water tower. The tower was very Art Deco with its open coursework (the stone detailing on the sides) and general shape.
This tower was heralded by many as too tall and unsightly, but it was functionally built to cover a water tower for main campus.
In the 1970s, the tower was torn down due to disrepair and today Halbouty looks a lot like the rest of the Beaux Arts buildings on campus, but with little details to remind us of its original whimsical nature (Chapman).
A lot of what makes Halbouty unique is that it has two facades with two major eras represented. The front façade and main entrance is obviously Beaux Arts style while the North end of the building was annexed in the 1980s and is very obviously Modernist in style. (Chapman).
Instead of using this blog to look at the main details of the facade, we will look at the two main eras of architecture present in Halbouty, focusing on Beaux Arts and only lightly touching on modernist style since we will speak in depth about Modernism in two weeks.
As always, before we start breaking down the façade specifically, let’s start with a list of the details notable to Halbouty’s façade.
- Recessed, vaulted entryways
- Mosaic reliefs made of tiles, shells
- Tripartite design
- Three front entrances
- Sculptural reliefs
- Really tiny ionic pilasters between the windows on the third floor
- Rusticated masonry
Let’s take a look at the recessed doorways and Beaux Arts style portion of the building first.
In keeping with the style of many buildings of Beaux Arts style, there are three main doorways on the front side of Halbouty.
These doorways are different than many we have seen in that they are recessed barrel vaults creating a Baroque influenced Beaux Arts style. The doors are set back in the building and reached by a covered stairway or barrel vault as seen above. A barrel vault is many rounded arches connected together. It is basically a very deep rounded arch that is often found in hallways or entrances (“Vault”).
The barrel vaults seen in Halbouty are covered in seashell mosaics to point to the purpose of the building.
Halbouty was built as the center for the Geosciences at Texas A&M and is still used for that purpose today.
The seashells fit in with the Beaux Arts era because the style is often known for its busy detail work such as the acroteria we spoke about in the last blog.
Before we finish the blog, let’s take a really quick look at the Modernist side of Halbouty.
It’s hard to believe this is the same building, right? The image above is a view of the North end of Halbouty that was built and annexed in the 1980’s to allow for a library of Geosciences.
I won’t go into a lot detail about what makes this section of the building Modernist because I need to keep a little mystery for our blog in a few weeks, but I will say this is our first official look at a style other than Beaux Arts in on-campus architecture, and there is more where that came from in the next few weeks.
There you have it. That is a quick overview of the memorable Halbouty Building. It was kind of a whirlwind tour between a few different eras of architecture, but I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to cover such a wacky building with so many styles merged into one.
Next week will be the conclusion of our adventure in the Beaux Arts era, but don’t worry, we will still be covering the Modernist and Post-Modernist eras of architecture in the weeks following.
- “Vault.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
- Halbouty Geosciences Building – 19. 1934. Cushing Historical Images Collection, College Station, Texas.
- Chapman, David L. “The Halbouty Geosciences Building.” Reprints from the Texas Aggie. Cushing Memorial Library, 1999. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.