Rice students gave feedback on plans to redesign the campus’ Academic Quadrangle and received an update on the project’s next steps during an event in the quad March 9.
President Reginald DesRoches and Thomas Woltz, owner and principal landscape architect of Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBW), which is partnering with Rice on the redesign, spoke to an audience of students about the plans, while representatives involved in the project were stationed at various points across the quad to discuss specifics and solicit feedback. Concept images and illustrations were posted throughout the area, with student survey QR codes available and sticky notes to leave suggestions.
“The quad is one of the university’s most iconic spaces,” DesRoches said. “It’s what people visualize when they think of Rice. That’s why the evolution of this space is so important. It’s also why we are asking for your input on how you currently use the space and how you would like to use the space in the future — in short, what’s working in the quad and what’s not.”
NBW’s reimagining of the iconic space includes not only relocating the Founder’s Memorial statue of William Marsh Rice and repurposing its current location to highlight the many voices that reflect the diversity of the university, but also dedicating areas within the quad to be centers for student community life.
“We come to Rice in service,” Woltz said. “We come to Rice in service of its students, its faculty and to its leadership, as well as the future minds that will be shaped by this institution. I think that's an important lens through which to approach the landscape.”
On the Founder’s Memorial specifically, he added: “Our scope is to keep the sculpture within the confines of this quad, but to reimagine and recontextualize it.”
In addition, a new main walking path from the quad’s southwest corner (Rayzor Hall) to its northeast corner (Herzstein Hall) has been proposed due to the walking patterns students have historically displayed in the quad.
“I walk in the quad basically every day, and I am interested in landscape design, so it's really interesting to come out here and see the design opportunities happening on campus,” said Carolyn Muldowney, a graduate student in architecture. “I’m hoping in the future that it becomes more of a spot where students want to hang out, relax and study.”
Muldowney said she was grateful for the opportunity to provide feedback.
“I think it's so imperative when you're going to design something to actually talk to the people you're designing it for, because we're the people who are going to be engaging with this every day,” Muldowney said. “I think it's great the firm is asking students (firsthand) what they want and not just projecting maybe what the university wants. It’s actual engagement with the student body and their opinions on the matter.”
“I think it's important and really good that people are asking for feedback so that the end product works for the student body and everyone likes it and uses it,” said Benjamin Murdoch, a senior linguistics major at Lovett College.
Other campus and community stakeholders will have similar opportunities to learn about the redesign plans in the near future.
To take the student survey, click here. It will be open until March 23.
(Photos by Jeff Fitlow)