Plensa’s ‘Mirror’ sculpture reflects Rice’s aspirations

The quiet grove outside of Herring Hall will no longer be taken for granted. It now has art: a spectacular piece designed specifically for that space by acclaimed Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. It’s called “Mirror” and, according to its first visitors, it’s irresistible.

Speaking at the dedication on Tuesday, President David Leebron said the piece reflects Rice’s aspirations as a university. He called it “an artwork not designed to sit quietly in the distance, but an artwork designed to attract people to it, to engage — a sense of conversation.”

Judging by the crowd’s reaction to “Mirror,” the Rice community was instantly engaged. Students, children, alumni, even the artist himself, stood inside the two 12-foot-tall human figures to assess, marvel and pose for photos.

“A piece of art is nothing static,” Plensa said at the dedication. “It’s a link with the community, with a group of people.”

Made of white coated marine steel letters from many alphabets, the two figures are positioned as if they were in conversation with one another. Their placement under the trees next to Herring Hall is no coincidence. “I fell completely in love with the trees on this campus,” Plensa said. “My piece is in a certain way an homage to the trees — a conversation between all the branches.”

Generosity by Bill ’67 and Stephanie Sick made “Mirror” possible. Sick said he owes much to his alma mater: “for an incredible education, a lot of friends and also a brief introduction — about 55 years ago — to the emerging fields of semiconductors and computers.”

Sick went on to a successful career as an entrepreneur and investor. “Much of what has made my life so productive and satisfying can be traced back to Rice,” he said.

Sick recalled that he first met Plensa in 2004 when he was working on the artist’s famous Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Sick said he is delighted with “Mirror.” “It gives Stephanie and me great pleasure to make this happen,” he said. “I think it’s a beautiful and thought-provoking work that will enhance the campus.”

Leebron described “Mirror” as a milestone for Rice, “creating on this campus not only a sense of art for our students but also a sense of destination for our community and the way in which we engage with the city of Houston.”

The dedication of “Mirror” also coincided with Rice’s centennial year, and Plensa said he is extremely proud to be involved. “My piece is a part of that celebration,” he said. “Stephanie and Bill Sick are already friends from other projects who decided to offer my piece to Rice University to be part of that beautiful celebration.”

Standing next to the sculpture as others explored it, Plensa said, “Every time you finish a project it’s always a surprise to see what could be the reaction of people in front of it. I’m really pleased that people emotionally, immediately start to interact with the piece and to really walk inside it.”

“It’s a spectacular addition to the campus,” Leebron said. “Everyone with whom I’ve spoken has been enthusiastic.”

“Mirror” joins several other recent additions to the Rice campus by artists including Aurora Robson, Charles Mary Kubricht, Geoffrey Dashwood, James Surls, Leo Villareal and Lino Tagliapietra. Later this spring a skyspace by James Turrell will be dedicated, and this fall a statue of Rice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, by Bruce Wolfe will be unveiled. For a map of these artworks, go to


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