Credit: The Menil Collection
This week, citing "prohibitive" restoration and maintenance costs, Rice University in Houston began taking down the campus's Martel Center, also known as the "Art Barn," which had been constructed as a temporary structure for a Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition. In 1969, at the request of John and Dominique de Menil, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry, FAIA, created the moveable structure which was built in 10 weeks to house the exhibition, "The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age," displayed at MoMA in late 1968 and early 1969 before it came to Houston.
The corrugated metal structure stayed on the campus, and later housed Andy Warhol's "Raid the Icebox." Warhol planted a tree near the building at the time; today, the tree is staying, but the Art Barn is not.
According to The New York Times, the building also contributed to the "Tin House" movement in Houston. The metal panels were removed in advance of this week's demolition, as some alumni are looking for a new owner.
In March, Dallas Morning News critic Mark Lamster called the university's plans to demolish the structure "an act of obscene vandalism." He wrote, "The justification, predictably, is expense, though that seems like the fig leaf for a condescending attitude toward a building that was bestowed on the school without its consultation and which it now deems beneath its dignity."
The university intends to plant grass in the structure's place.