The American Brick in Arcadia

‘The architect is a bricklayer who has studied Latin.’ – Adolf Loos
‘Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together.’ – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
‘Even a brick wants to be something.’ – Louis Kahn

The studio will investigate typological variations of the campus building type that utilizes the brick as its primary tectonic and material expression through the design of a new Multicultural Center on the Rice University campus in Houston. 

The Arcadian model of the American campus, which began with the University of Virginia as the archetype, is being consistently challenged today. As the growth of cities encroaches upon the once remote campuses, along with the advancement in pedagogical approaches that promote active engagements with the city, the evolution of the isolated island campus as an ideal model for the city needs to be reexamined.

The Academic Building, the building block of the Arcadian campus, faces a similar challenge of fitting into an evolving master plan while accommodating for changing needs to foster collaboration and community. 

Brick has been the building block for the construction of the American campus and a symbol of its tradition and permanence since the University of Virginia. Rather than perpetuating the use of the brick simply as a unifying stylistic armature for a campus’ identity, the studio will study and investigate the role that brick plays as a contemporary building material. Research will aim to reconsider archetypal brick detailing techniques and relations between forms and taxonomies, techniques and construction, and structural opportunities: serving as resources for the brick as both a tectonic and cladding material for the design of Multicultural Center.

Originally planned in 1910 by Ralph Adams Cram in the lineage of the University of Virginia, the Rice University campus is known for its architecture, landscape and planning. Architecturally, the campus has maintained an overall coherence over different periods of expansion, while at the same time being a palimpsest of different architectural styles and convictions. Organized around various quads, the Arcadian campus is a microcosm of Houston, an urban island situated within a city of fragments without zoning.

The 100,000 sq. ft. Multicultural Center will serve as a center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for high-level strategic leadership around diversity initiatives and will house multiple diversity offices across the campus. 

Research projects will be conducted in teams while the design projects will be developed individually.  The research on typology and tectonics will be treated as collective knowledge and used as an inventory for individual projects. We will commence with precedent studies and building design at the outset of the semester-long studio. There will be invited guest presentations over the course of the semester, and participation in weekly studio meetings, readings, and collective documentation will be the basis of evaluation. All deliverables in the studio will be drawing-based with no specific additional production costs anticipated to complete the course. Any special accommodations for Zoom sessions can be made prior to specific studio meetings.

GSD students may view additional information on option studios:
Option Studio Presentations
Schedule for Zoom Q&A sessions