Adjaye Associates tapped for Rice University’s new student center

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Adjaye Associates tapped for Rice University’s new student center

The new student center will act as an anchor for the Rice Campus, and break up its massing through segmented sections. (Courtesy Adjaye Associates/Provided by Rice University)

Following up on the other big student center news this week, Rice University in Houston has selected Adjaye Associates to replace the extant Rice Memorial Center (RMC) with a new student center.

However, unlike BIG’s boxy plans for the Johns Hopkins University campus, Adjaye Associates, according to Rice’s selection announcement, will retain the existing chapel and cloisters of the RMC.

Rice, which typically doesn’t hold design competitions for its on-campus projects but did in this instance, ultimately selected Adjaye Associates from a shortlist of three firms, though the two other finalists have not been named.

“We could not be more delighted than to have a design architect of the standing of Sir David Adjaye and Adjaye Associates for Rice’s new student center,” wrote Rice President David Leebron in the announcement. “Building on the insights of Rice graduates at his firm, Sir David’s competition submission reflected a deep understanding of the needs of our student community, including the need to support diversity and inclusion through a vibrant and prominent Multicultural Center that is a central element of this project.”

Interior rendering of the new rice university student center with curving walls
Inside, it looks like the new student center will lean on timber and other earthy materials. (Courtesy Adjaye Associates/Provided by Rice University)

Design-wise, the three-story, 80,000-square-foot new student center looks like it will lean heavily into vertical striations—Adjaye Associates has broken up the center’s massing into a series of smaller interconnected buildings rather than a monolithic block, but the facade pattern will unite all of the disparate volumes. Rooftop solar panels and outdoor amphitheater-type seating are also expected.

From the renderings, it looks like timber will play a major part inside, and a neutral color and material palette will echo the earth tones used for the student center’s exterior.

The project is moving ahead now thanks to a $15 million donation from Houston’s Brown Foundation, and the new center will retain a memorial to ten Navy ROTC students who passed away in a plane crash in 1953.

Demolition of the current RMC hasn’t kicked off yet, but once complete, the school expects to break ground on the new center in 2022, and finish construction in time for the fall 2023 semester. Houston-based Kendall/Heaton Associates will serve as the project’s executive architect.