Architecture students pick up quick wins

Suggested student center redesigns, Anderson Hall art earn kudos for competitors

Speed was of the essence for Rice School of Architecture (RSA) students over the past week, and their ability to think and work quickly paid off.


Josh Herzstein's winning design for the Rice Memorial Center.

RSA students won a pair of design competitions, one campuswide and one for students of the school, both of which called for structures that could be appreciated by the entire Rice community.

RSA student Josh Herzstein won the first, sponsored by the Student Association, which sought student designs for a new Rice Memorial Center (RMC). His design would add two large wings to the current student center that would wrap around the Grand Hall and Sammy’s to incorporate new study and rehearsal spaces, an expanded coffeehouse and club meeting rooms.

Josh Herzstein

Josh Herzstein

The winning strategy was worth $500 to Herzstein, who found out about the competition two-and-a-half weeks before the deadline. “But I really only concentrated on the design for a week,” he said. Herzstein, who is serving his preceptorship year (the one-year internship that all RSA students do between their B.A. and B.Arch degrees) at Machado & Silvetti Associates in Boston, said the historic nature of the current RMC prompted him to add on to the structure rather than start anew.

Juniors Claire Elestwani and Shaan Patel placed second for their plan, which would replace the RMC with a building that would converge on a central atrium. Third place went to Kyle Byrne, who, like Herzstein, is on his preceptorship year. He would renovate the current RMC with additions and a covered courtyard. Elestwani is a linguistics student with an architecture connection; she took part in RSA’s LAUNCH program last summer. Patel and Byrne are architecture students.

None of the designs are expected to be built, but they should inform an eventual reconfiguration of the RMC, according to Susann Glenn, manager of communications for Rice Facilities Engineering and Planning and a judge of the competition, along with Kevin Kirby, vice president for administration, and Boyd Beckwith, director of the student center.

The winning design for the Rice School of Architecture charrette is an interactive artwork called "Flow."

The second event was RSA’s Centennial Design Competition, a charrette dubbed “INFORMATION” that called for ideas – in the words of organizer and RSA senior Joshuah Howard – that would give “form to the formless.” The designs for a public display were intended to turn the virtual, digital cloud into a physical form for Anderson Hall’s Smith Courtyard.

The winners were RSA juniors Yigit Ergecen, Tianshi Ji and Juncheng Yang. Their “Flow” wraps a figure eight of data around visitors who are expected to both observe and contribute to the stream. The rules of the charrette dictated that the design process begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 and be complete by midnight Oct. 8, leaving the teams little time to work through their creations.

“The intention was to combine something abstract and artsy with something grounded,” Howard said. “With all the resources we have at Rice – the engineering sch

ool, with a focus on real-world solutions; architecture students who work in the abstract; art students who are super involved in the aesthetics; and even music students – my dream was to synthesize all that into a well-thought-out object.”

Howard said the project will go into a development phase next semester. “Some of the professors will help the winning team develop a prototype to test out the technologies,” he said.

“Both competitions demonstrated that our students are particularly adept at fast and nimble thinking that combines the visual and the verbal,” said RSA Dean Sarah Whiting, the William Ward Watkin Professor of Architecture. “These collaborative designs had to be done quickly, but also compellingly, so as to convince a jury. What was striking was that each team didn’t just solve problems; they utterly redefined the problems at hand.”


About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.