When, in 1909, the trustees of Houston's first university, the William M. Rice Institute, acted on the recommendation of the institute's first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, and retained Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram to plan a campus for the university and design its initial buildings, they must have assumed that Cram would produce the sort of Collegiate Gothic complex for which he and his partner Bertram G. Goodhue had become famous in the early twentieth century. Instead, Cram proposed a Byzantine style for the university's buildings, justifying his choice by asserting that the architecture of medieval Byzantium was the proper historical model for an institution of high culture in a hot, humid, Southern setting.
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