Is This What That Rice Opera House That Diller Scofidio + Renfro Was Going To Design Will Look Like?

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005A set of unattended display posters spotted during Rice University’s graduation weekend appear to show interior and exterior renderings of the campus’s planned opera house. The drawings (which were reportedly laid out somewhere in would-be-next-door Shepherd School of Music’s building) included a campus site plan showing the rendered structure’s footprint in place between the existing music school and the remaining stadium-side parking lots.

Rice announced back in early 2014 that Diller Scofidio + Renfro would be the architect for the project — but this design doesn’t really look like the kinds of projects DS+R is known for. DS+R hasn’t yet responded to Swamplot’s attempts to confirm whether or not the firm is still involved.

Included with the presentation materials was the foamcore model below, which renders the building’s ornate exterior details in full 2D and demonstrates some additional landscaping options:



Here’s a similarly angled digital view, looking head on toward the southwest from the Shepherd School’s building. The design seems to echo bits and pieces of a wide range of other campus structures and design flourishes, from the nested arches of the Baker Institute to the green stone panels featured on the 1950s natural science laboratories on the campus’s north side:

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005

A few interior shots were included, showing what appears to be a multi-story atrium with a green-and-white checkered floor:

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005

Photos of model and renderings: Swamplot inbox

Lifting the Curtain

24 Comment

  • Looks more like something by Robert AM Stern, of George W Bush Presidential Library lore…

  • Right next to the football stadium? What happens when opera night coincides with football night? I can hear those stadium speakers a mile away from campus. I hope they soundproof the exterior… Maybe it’s good that they are holding off. Whatever happened to the minimalistic spirit of Rice though? Keep tuition low and educational standards extremely high… seems they changed their mission to be more aligned with the rest of Houston in the quest for maximum cashflow.

  • Looks nice to me. Anything is better than the surface parking lot.

  • Barf! A flying buttress Bastille… Really Rice, REALLY!? What happen to progressive architecture on this campus? I mean with past buildings by Antoine Predock and James Stirling when at the middle of thier careers you would think Rice would stay in the same vein?

    This is obviously not DS+R work unless they are, well you know, pro*^t!*ing themselves as architecture has been known to do before… I doubt it though! Look at that cheesy model, ha! This has more resonance to the fiasco that was the ‘Blanton Blunder’ in the early 2000’s that kept UT, and the state of Texas, from getting the first Herzog & DeMuron Musuem. Look it up! Classic Texas boondoggle, at least we have the Menil Drawing Institute and the MFAH expansion as successes in current history of architectural progress in the ‘H’!

    There should be more!

  • @ Matt: no, not next to the Stadium. It’s next to the Shepherd School, so the new building leaves a wide expanse of parking lot between itself and the football stadium.
    Whatever your definition of Rice’s “minimalistic spirit” might be, you’re misinformed. Tuition is low compared to comparable schools, and educational standards are extremely high. This building has no impact on Rice’s cash-flow, outside of the enormous fund-raising effort required to build it.
    The purpose of this new building is to provide a full-sized operatic venue for the Shepherd School’s voice students. That’s part of the school’s educational mission.
    @ Kineticd: Rice has this south-European Romanesque theme in much of its architecture. This building apparently continues that.
    @ nobody/everybody: The model and pictures weren’t on public display. I wonder who leaked them to Swamplot?

  • @Kineticd, I didn’t see a single Flying Buttress, and the whole thing looks pretty similar to their other buildings all over campus. And what’s with the word salad tirade, I think you’re missing few emojis in there to truly date yourself.

  • @ Houstonreader : So you are justifying this piece of trash? Just because you use southern Euro style, which is actually Ralph Adams Cram’s Masterplan; you can use similar bricks and other materials to create interpretations of the villa and veranda with a porte cochere. At least you could back when people knew what was possible with good design in this city…;_ylt=A0LEVjL3XlBXbZIAXMcnnIlQ?p=antoine+predock+rice+university&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

    Along with others like Charles Moore and Macahdo and Silvetii;_ylt=A0LEVvhCX1BXBj0A6V8nnIlQ?p=machado+and+silvetti+rice+university&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

    @ commonsense : Ohhhh, you crack me up your clever word play… If you might notice interior shots of the ‘Naive’, I was referencing the buttresses for what this building is attempting to do without actually accomplishing it in true architectural form, but such is Post Modernism, I guess… I mean you should know right? With your extensive knowledge base and what not. Where did you study Architecture again? Just curious.

  • Ralph Adams Cram and William Ward Watkin must be spinning in their graves.

  • Rice *used* to have a low tuition compared to similar schools. Then current-president Leebron decided to fix the “problem” of being perceived as a value school by vastly inflating tuition (now $40,500 in tuition and fees) to just about what its competition (Wash U ($48k), Emory ($45k), Vanderbuilt ($43k)) charge. Once upon a time, Rice was $20k cheaper than those schools. There, we fixed the glitch! Of course, Rice’s US News rankings didn’t improve one iota as a result, and the school has only become unattainable for the middle class.

  • Yes! Like it. Will take!

    Looks better than any of the links people have posted on this page. Cheers for tradition and sculptural, organic design!

  • @kineticd. What’s a “naive”? I’m just a country lawyer, not an architect.

    Building looks par for the course with my alma mater….classic and designed to stand the test of time. I can see why that would be frustrating to people who like the modernistic flavor of the moment.

  • (waits for marmer to chime in…)

  • @ kineticd: Nope, I’m not “justifying” it. I’m instead offering information. You’re entitled to your opinion, but given your identification of non-existent flying buttresses (kudos, commonsense), I don’t put much stock in your architectural expertise.

    @ Semper: I dispute your analysis. First, in terms of cost vs. admit rate (i.e., competitiveness), Rice is nearly unbeatable among US colleges and universities. Second, Rice most certainly is accessible to kids from middle-class families through the scholarships it pays out. Relevant to this article, music students at Rice are especially well supported.

    @ Googlemaster: yep, marmer.

  • Ha! Everybody is a Critic in this town, I lOVE it! For those less clear on the above comment, it is obvious there is no flying buttress (Duhh…). The arch of the free span atrium is what I am referencing, with the second floor framing around it is as where the tension forces are buried… Had the ‘Designer’ chosen to express those, that is where you might have seen the buttresses. Hence ‘Po-Mo’ and not expressed.

    I’ll put my CV in Architecture up against anyone else here on this Forum any given day of the week and (x2) on Sundays!

    As I DROP the mike!

  • Good gawd. Can we say “ugly” ?

  • I don’t really care about “cost v. admit rate (competitiveness).” People look to the US News rankings, where Rice has remained at 18 or so – behind Wash U and Vanderbilt – despite costs absolutely exploding. Tuition was about $13 grand as of 2000, now it’s $40k.

    As for scholarships, you make it seem as though any middle class student is handed free tuition. That’s not the case. Income-based scholarships will do little or nothing for middle or upper middle class families, which is rough because a Rice degree, even if finished in 4 years, is about $250k now once you factor in room and board. Those loans are gonna pinch.

  • Rice’s need-based scholarships do not extend to the middle class. When I attended both of my parents worked and had a combined income of under $100k a year and I received approximately $0 in financial aid from the university. The way the sell the school’s financial support is misleading, in my opinion, but as always, the devil is in the details.

  • That gaudy lobby will be great for when Vladimir Putin visits the campus.

  • @kineticd, I like how you keep trying to claw back but by no stretch of imagination can you call those Flying Buttresses, take out your class book and look up what those really are. I didn’t want a degree in Architecture because I wanted to make real money, which is in development, not being a glorified draftsman.

  • @ Semper: I think you over-estimate US News rankings as accurate indications of absolute value. Cost vs. admit rate are better in that they provide objective data. You also mistake my argument: I was referring to merit- as much as need-based scholarships. I should add that I don’t disagree that costs have gone up at Rice, but I would repeat my original point that Rice is cheaper than its peer institutions.
    @ kinetcd: the only architectural critic in our pas de deux is you. I haven’t said good or bad about the proposed design. But I have criticized you for your carelessness, and I stand by that criticism: no flying buttresses here, real or implied, in spite of your proclaimed credentials.
    @ the readership: I still wonder who sent those images to Swamplot.

  • why…..

  • In Trump’s America…

  • In the site plan graphic, what is does the black-dashed rectangle signify, and why would it be offset relative to both the Opera House and Brown Hall?

  • @almadenmike, maybe it’s an underground parking garage to take the place of the surface lot that they’re putting a building on top of. Perhaps marmer can tell us more?

    Also, they’re taking out a through road. The RUPD close all but one of the campus entrances (the one nearest the RUPD office on Rice Blvd.) at midnight, so if you’re in one of the north colleges or any campus building on the north or northeast side, the only way to get off campus after midnight is to come up the one-way past the Jones school, and then either turn left at APB or go a little farther and turn left between parking lots. They’re taking out one of those options here.