Re-Imagined ‘Grotto’ Unveiled at College of Architecture

It started as a student exercise to re-think the classic "Grotto for Meditation" space created by famed designer Frederick Kiesler for the arts community of New Harmony, Ind.  It has become an opportunity for scholarship, research and design for University of Houston architecture students. 

The UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture is presenting the work of Frederick Kiesler along with a lecture by Beatriz Colomina, a conversation with Ben Nicholson and Jane Blaffer Owen, and the unveiling a digitally fabricated "Grotto" at a lecture and reception.   "Frederick Kiesler-From New Harmony to Houston," begins at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26 in the college's auditorium. 

UH President Renu Khator and Provost John Antel are among those who will attend. 

Philanthropist Jane Blaffer Owen originally commissioned Kiesler to create the space in 1963 as a quiet and relaxing environment for the arts community of New Harmony. The meditation space featured abstract shell and dolphin forms.  Widely considered one of Kiesler's masterworks, it was never built.   

Students used digital fabrication technology in the college's Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center to re-imagine "Grotto."  Digital fabrication refers to objects and prototypes designed and generated on computers using  3-D modeling software and computer aided manufacturing equipment. The finished Grotto will overlook a new water garden that is adjacent to the college.  

Following a welcome address from Patricia Oliver, new dean of the college of architecture, guests will hear a brief lecture titled, "Kiesler: Architecture and Psychoanalysis."  Ben Nicholson, associate professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and former UH architecture professor, will discuss his work with students in a presentation titled "The Kiesler Studio" and will lead a conversation with Mrs. Blaffer Owen before the unveiling of the New Harmony Grotto.  

The process of building Kiesler's Grotto will be chronicled in an upcoming book.  

WHAT: "Frederick Kiesler-From New Harmony to Houston"  

WHEN:  5 p.m.    Welcome, Patricia Oliver, Dean UH College of Architecture

Event Introduction, Prof. Michelangelo Sabatino

Lecture "Kiesler: Architecture and Psychoanalysis," featuring Beatriz Colomina

                 6 p.m.    Presentation "The Kiesler Studio," featuring Ben Nicholson, Art Institute of Chicago,                                                        and Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen

                 6:30 p.m. Unveiling of Grotto, featuring Joe Meppelink and Andrew Vrana, UH College of Architecture 

WHERE: UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, auditorium