Rice architecture students reimagine Rienzi

Mini-charrette winners take refreshed view of classic Houston home 

Winning entry

The winning entry in a mini-charrette at the Rice School of Architecture compared the plan for Rienzi to styles that served as inspirations, a Palladian building and a contemporary ranch.

Rice School of Architecture students Lucien Muir, Elizabeth Stanfel, Marcel Merwin and Kyle Byrne presented the winning entry – a new representation of Houston’s Rienzi — at a mini-charrette at the school Oct. 21.

The competition was held in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s (MFAH) exhibit “Rienzi Begins: Architect John Staub and the Mastersons.” That exhibit is on display at Rienzi, the River Oaks mansion that was donated to the museum and opened to the public in 1999.

Byrne said the team set out to show how Staub designed the Rienzi House as a hybrid of the contemporary and classical Palladian styles, taking advantage of the efficient circulation of traffic utilized by each. To illustrate their theory, the students came up with an axonometric drawing that defines the points of contact from one style to the next, through the floor plans of Rienzi and buildings in the other styles.

“The mini-charrette gave the RSA an opportunity to get outside the hedges, to collaborate with the MFAH, to discuss Houston’s architectural legacy and — most importantly — to think about its future,” said Ron Witte, an associate professor of architecture at Rice and a judge at the competition.

The winning team’s poster will be on display at Rienzi, 1406 Kirby Dr., for the duration of the current exhibit, which runs through Jan. 31. Rice students are admitted free.





About Mike Williams

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