‘Dyche Hall felt incomplete’: After 5-year absence, stone grotesques being reinstalled on KU Natural History Museum building

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Construction workers await the arrival of the grotesque at Dyche Hall on the KU campus on Aug. 4, 2022.

Construction crews Thursday morning draped a black tarp over the 400-plus pound carved stone ape that was set to be hoisted by crane to the top of Dyche Hall on the University of Kansas campus.

The ape was no dummy. It wanted its eyes covered for this.

Everyone else, though, was eager to see the sight that had been five years in the making.

The ape is one of eight grotesques — the architectural term for an animal figure attached to a building — that is part of the design of historic Dyche Hall, which is home to the KU Natural History Museum.

A small crowd Thursday morning watched the ape made of Cottonwood limestone — the type found in the Flint Hills — take its place along the eastern front of the building without incident. (The tarp was to protect it from any last-minute chips or other damage as it was hoisted the more than three stories.)

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sculptors Karl and Laura Ramberg, have a last-minute discussion on Aug. 4, 2022 before a crane begins to raise the grotesque, which was covered as part of the lift.

Probably nobody was more relieved than Lawrence artist Laura Ramberg. She was a sculptor on the project, along with her brother Karl Ramberg, who was atop Dyche Hall on Thursday to secure the grotesque in place.

“I feel really happy that I’ve been able to participate and serve my community in this way,” she said.

With any luck, the stone sculptures will still be gracing Dyche Hall in another 150 years or more. The original grotesques were not quite so lucky. They dated back to 1902, and when they were removed five years ago, it became clear they could not be rehabilitated.

The Rambergs, though, were selected from a national search to build re-creations. Laura Ramberg said that was a heavy task, at times.

“Honoring the original stone carvers,” Laura Ramberg said, was the hardest part of the project. “I had to imagine what had been there, or imagine the texture because the texture was gone, or the whole leg was gone or half the face was gone.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A close up view of an ape grotesque moments before it was hoisted atop Dyche Hall on the KU campus on the Aug. 4, 2022. Notice the fossil in the grotesque’s right eyebrow.

Lori Schlenker, assistant director of collections and facilities for the Natural History Museum, said she was pleased with how the works turned out. She knows many patrons too will be pleased to see the grotesques back on their perches.

“Dyche Hall felt incomplete without these grotesques looking out over Jayhawk Boulevard,” she said.

The ape was the fourth grotesque to be hoisted, with a cat, a dragon and a rhino preceding it. Schlenker said the other four are expected to be put in place by early next week.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Construction workers direct a crane operator on the ground as a grotesque awaiting installation hangs in the balance.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A member of the construction team pulls his tools up in a bucket as he prepares to install a grotesque atop Dyche Hall on Aug. 4, 2022.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sculptor Karl Ramberg, left, fits the grotesque to its base on Dyche Hall on Aug. 4, 2022.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Dyche Hall on the University of Kansas campus is pictured on Aug. 4, 2022 as construction crews install a grotesque on its new perch along east face of the historic building.


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