Rice Architecture appoints Maria Nicanor as executive director of the Rice Design Alliance


David Ruth

Rice Architecture appoints Maria Nicanor as executive director of the Rice Design Alliance

HOUSTON — (Nov. 7, 2017) — Maria Nicanor has been appointed executive director of the Rice Design Alliance, the programming public engagement arm of Rice Architecture.

Maria NicanorUntil recently, Nicanor served as the inaugural director of the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid and was previously an architecture and design curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

“I am thrilled that we are bringing Maria’s intelligence, energy, global network and compassion to Rice and to Houston,” said Sarah Whiting, dean of Rice Architecture and the William Ward Watkin Professor of Architecture, who announced the appointment along with the board of the alliance..

“Maria brings a wealth of experience in engaging a broad public as well as leaders in government, the nonprofit sector and industry to take on the big challenges and opportunities of global cities like Houston,” said Kristi Grizzle, principal at Walter P Moore and Rice Design Alliance board president.

Rice Design Alliance is a nonprofit that develops programs and projects related to architecture, design and urbanism. It was established within Rice Architecture in 1972. Its mission is to facilitate an actionable understanding of how design influences the built and natural environment. It empowers the general public, practitioners and academics related to architecture, engineering, construction and related fields to transform Houston into a better place to live and a global model for the 21st century.

Nicanor will be building on the Rice Design Alliance’s strong foundation after 29 years of leadership under previous executive director, Linda Sylvan, who is the honoree of the Rice Design Alliance’s gala Nov. 11. During Sylvan’s tenure, the organization grew into a highly reputed mainstay of Houston’s nonprofit world with a broad corporate and individual membership that includes architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, artists, writers, contractors, developers and the general public.

“It’s exciting to join the Rice architecture community and Rice Design Alliance in this important milestone of its history,” Nicanor said. “As an organization with a multidisciplinary background and a long-standing presence in Houston, it is uniquely positioned to tackle some of the most urgent issues of the urban environment, both in Houston and beyond. Houston is in the front row for some of the issues that cities are dealing with everywhere in the world. From infrastructure and climate change challenges to finding better ways to connect with each other as civic-minded people through design-solutions, these are issues we all need to be thinking about regardless of our location.”

Nicanor is an architectural historian and a curator of architecture, design and urbanism. At the Victoria and Albert Museum she was a curator at the museum’s Architecture, Design and Digital Department, where she curated the museum’s first “Engineering Season.” At the Guggenheim Museum she was associate curator of architecture and urbanism. She worked on such shows as “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward” and “Contemplating the Void.” She curated the exhibition “Participatory City” and was a curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab project, a traveling laboratory for experimental urban research that traveled to New York, Berlin and Mumbai. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Autónoma University in Madrid and Sorbonne University in Paris, with a focus on architectural history and theory, and a master’s degree in museum and curatorial studies from New York University.

“The ‘Engineering the World’ exhibition that she curated at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the BMW Guggenheim Labs that she launched in New York, Berlin and Mumbai are among the most exciting and effective examples of public outreach I can imagine,” Whiting said.


Image for download: 

Maria Nicanor photo courtesy of Rice University.

This release can be found online at news.rice.edu.
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Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.