• Interior renderings of the new Rice student center reveal the application of natural materials free from artificial stains, finishes, or coatings. - image courtesy Adjaye Associates

After launching an international design competition for the first time in its history, Rice University has selected Adjaye Associates from a shortlist of three firms to design a new student center for its central-Houston campus. Adjaye’s 80,000-sf concept will replace the 1940s Rice Memorial Center (RMC), retaining only the existing chapel, cloisters, and memorial, which honors 10 Navy ROTC students who lost their lives in a plane crash in 1953.

The proposal is a collection of interconnected, three-story volumes that will house the existing functions of the RMC, in addition to a new multicultural center and rooftop auditorium. Although few design details have been revealed, early renderings demonstrate a beige grid connecting the earthen-toned volumes and an abundance of rooftop vegetation and solar panels. 

In a statement, Rice President David Leebron says, “Sir David’s global perspective will, we are confident, result in a project that speaks not only to our community but to the broader world that increasingly sees Rice as a destination for global engagement and problem-solving.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a few other major accomplishments for the firm. In September, the Princeton University Art Museum unveiled Adjaye Associates’ design for a 144,000-sf museum complex. Also in September, the firm’s founder and principal, Sir David Adjaye, was awarded the 2021 Royal Gold Medal, approved personally by Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects in recognition of substantial influence on the advancement of architecture. 

The Rice student center is the second Texas project for Adjaye, who made waves in 2019 with his design for Ruby City, a contemporary art center in San Antonio. “We are extremely humbled and honored to have won the competition to design the new student center at Rice University,” Adjaye says. “This is an important and inspiring project for Adjaye Associates, and we look forward to collaborating with Rice to imagine a new campus anchor point that engages its community in the most inclusive way possible.”

Houston-based Kendall/Heaton Associates will serve as the executive architect for the project, and Tellepsen will oversee construction. The university hopes to break ground in early 2022, with completion slated for the fall of 2023. 

Sophie Aliece Hollis is TA’s editorial assistant. 

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