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Moody Center for the Arts has a new outside art installation.



Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration 

February 23 - May 15, 2021

In the spring of 2021, the Moody Center for the Arts will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel by presenting a unique group exhibition.

Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration will highlight the extraordinary impact the Rothko Chapel has had on both artists and the public since opening in 1971. Organized in two sections, the first part will restage the 1975 exhibition Marden, Novros, Rothko: Painting in the Age of Actuality organized at Rice University by Harris Rosenstein and supported by Dominique de Menil. This presentation will be the first time the works by Brice Marden and David Novros will be reunited since 1975, recreating the immersive experience that viewers had upon first seeing them installed at Rice. The second section looks to the future, highlighting works by contemporary artists of diverse ages, nationalities and backgrounds - Sam Gilliam, Sheila Hicks, Shirazeh Houshiary, and Byron Kim- as a means of exploring the wide-reaching influence of the non-denominational Chapel, and how its legacy has manifested through various media and aesthetics.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue, which will include new installation images, interviews and contributions by the artists featured in the exhibition, as well as testimonies by local figures, reflecting on the Rothko Chapel and the arts at Rice. The catalogue is distributed by Yale University Press and will be available in March 2021. 

The Moody Center for the Arts will organize a series of interdisciplinary programs around the exhibition, which will take place in tandem with the Rothko Chapel’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in the spring of 2021.

This exhibition is curated by Frauke V. Josenhans, Associate Curator, Moody Center for the Arts.

The exhibition is made possible through the Moody Center for the Arts Founders Circle, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Elizabeth Lee Moody Excellence Fund for the Arts with additional support from the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation.

The catalogue is supported by the Rice University Art Gallery Catalogue Endowment, Gagosian, and the Dedalus Foundation.

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Rice University awarded grant for 'mass timber' building on campus


Rice University has won a federal grant to help advance its plans to develop a building using "mass timber," a type of engineered wood touted as being more environmentally friendly than concrete or other materials.

The $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is portion of $1 million in funds designated to support the construction of mass timber projects on college campuses across the country.


Mass timber refers to the use of engineered wood products as the structural components in a building. Small pieces of wood are laminated and compressed to create large, solid panels that can serve as load-bearing beams, panels and posts.

"A thriving mass timber market helps maintain forest health and resiliency, supports employment opportunities in rural communities and advances sustainability of the built environment," according to a Department of Agriculture announcement. The program is a partnership with the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

Recent advances in engineering have made mass timber a more viable method of constructing taller buildings. In January, the International Building Code, on which many city building codes are based, doubled the allowed height of a wooden building to 18 stories.


Houston-based Hines has been on the forefront of the movement. It has a line of wooden office buildings called T3, short for timber, transit and technology.

Rice's proposal is for a five-story, 50,000-square-foot student housing building on its campus.

Mass timber buildings can replace concrete construction, which generates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, during manufacturing, according to an announcement from Rice, which has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2038. Rice's architecture school also provides instruction on mass timber.

"This parallels our architectural research, so that's one of the rationales for us wanting to build with timber," Mark Ditman, Rice's associate vice president for housing and dining, said in the announcement. "We're teaching this, so we should be willing to do it."

The federal grants have been awarded to schools planning a variety of building projects, including a basketball arena, an arts and education complex with a recital hall and theater, a museum and classroom buildings.

The Forest Service received 16 proposals. The 10 selected are at universities in Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Texas schools San Jacinto College and Stephen F. Austin University also received funds.

The new building at Rice would replace the existing 120-bed wing of Hanszen College. Construction is pending approval by Rice's Board of Trustees and its Buildings and Grounds subcommittee. Rice Architecture professors Jesús Vassallo and Albert Pope, whose model of a timber skyscraper for Detroit was accepted to the 15th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2016, are providing expertise for the project.

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Rice announces major expansion of student body and campus

Brittany Britto, Staff writer

March 29, 2021Updated: March 29, 2021 7:47 p.m.

Rice University plans to increase its student body to 9,000 and to expand the campus footprint as well, officials said Monday.

The private Houston university’s board of trustees approved a plan that will scale up the number of students annually over five years, and by fall 2025 increase the full-time teaching faculty by nearly 50.

The number of undergraduate students will rise by 20 percent, to 4,800 by fall 2025, according to a release. And the number of graduate students is also expected to grow, which will bring total enrollment to around 9,000 students.

Officials predict that the expansion and higher enrollment will help the university create a more diverse campus, recruit more talented faculty for teaching and research, and will create a larger alumni network across the world.

“The overall strategic plan is to increase both the opportunities Rice provides and the impact that it has on the world — nationally, in our state and locally,” Rice President David Leebron said, but he added that officials have taken into consideration how large the small private university should be.

“Rice does have a distinctive sense of community and culture,” he said Monday, “and when we plan this, we’re very careful about how to plan and still preserve Rice’s sense of community, student experience and the Rice culture — the trilogy.”

The physical expansion on the college’s 300 acres, will include a 12th residential college, a new engineering building, a building for the visual and dramatic arts, and a new student center that will largely replace the Rice Memorial Center. All of the projects will be an investment of around $300 million, Leebron said.

The three-story, 80,000-square-foot student center will be designed by the international architectural firm Adjaye Associates, the same firm that designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The university chose the firm after a competition, during which they narrowed it down to three firms and chose Adjaye Associates for its bold, creative design, Leebron said.

The center will include a multicultural center and a variety of gathering and event spaces. The university plans to break ground on the center in the first quarter of next year.

Rice’s projected growth follows two decades of expansion at the college and a surge in applications. Applications for admissions increased by about 75 percent over the last four years, with a particular spike following the university’s launch of the Rice Investment in 2018. The financial aid program offers a range of assistance to undergraduates with family incomes up to $200,000.

Applications for the Fall 2021 semester alone totaled 29,519, which a university spokesman noted, is a 26 percent increase from last year.

Enrollment at Rice has increased by 80 percent over the past 20 years and undergraduate enrollment, by 35 percent between 2005 and 2013.

Leebron said the university did its first strategic expansion under his presidency between 2006 and 2010, which has helped the school receive more applications from international and national students and increase enrollment and visibility of the institution.

“We also dramatically increased diversity on our campus, and we were able to extend the benefits of a Rice education to many more students. As before, we must undertake this expansion carefully in order to assure that we retain the best aspects of Rice culture, student experience and sense of community,” Leebron said.

Describing the initial expansion under his presidency as successful, Leebron said the college began having conversations about expanding again about two years ago.

And as with other expansions, the university has carefully considered how large the small private university should be, Leebron said.

The university also announced its first undergraduate major in business, which will be offered this fall, and will grow its online presence, starting with two online-only master’s degrees and additional programs coming within the next two years.



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This is great for Rice and for the city. I'd like to see Rice become the size of its peers like Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Wash U St Louis, etc... It'll still be quite a bit smaller but moving in the right direction.


Rice used to be concerned that enlarging the student body, especially undergraduate, would cause their profile to drop. The largest thing holding Rice back in attracting out of state kids was the image of Texas and the city. 

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Rice Media Center confirmed to be torn down by end of 2021, film and photography professors reflect on goodbyes, transitions and expectations

By Shiyu Miao     4/20/21 9:13pm

University administration has confirmed that the Rice Media Center will be torn down by the end of this calendar year after stating an uncertain timeline last September. Kevin Kirby, vice president for administration, said an architecture firm named Diller Scofidio + Renfro has been selected for the new building, and the design process will start in August of this year. The building will be ready to open in about three years.

“[Diller Scofidio + Renfro] were selected after a design competition,” Kirby said. “The lead architect is Charles Renfro, and he is a Rice grad. The design process takes roughly one year, and then [it] takes roughly two years to build, maybe a little bit faster.”

Kirby said Rice Media Center was built to be temporary and many problems now have occurred in the last 10 years. When the center’s demolition was first announced, Kirby revealed that the building had required $800,000 in maintenance and repairs in the last three years alone due to issues such as water leakage and faulty air conditioning. 

“It's a 50-year-old building that was meant to be a temporary building,” Kirby said. “It opened in 1970, and we've had many problems with the building over the last decade, [like] maintenance issues. It's just at the end of its useful life.”

In preparation for the demolition and construction of the new building, faculty and staff who previously occupied the media center have been relocated. Geoff Winningham, a professor of photography, said he planned to move his darkroom in August last year but the main move did not happen until January.

“The equipment from the main darkroom and the digital lab was moved out starting at the end of January,” Winningham said. “January and February [was] when we were actually moving the equipment so it was a big job, because there's a lot of equipment and lots of stuff to move at the media center. It took more than a month to get it all over.”

Winningham said the digital lab, which is used for digital photography, has been moved to the basement of Sewall Hall and the darkroom for film photography has been moved to the basement of Herzstein Hall. Winningham said the new darkroom will be half the size of the original one but he has high expectations for it.

“The university has spent a good bit of time and money making this temporary darkroom,” Winningham said. “And although it's smaller, it's going to be every bit as good as the darkroom we had before. And it's closer to the center of the campus. That would be easier for students so that they don't have to go all the way up to the media center. It will be operating by this summer. All the equipment is there, all the plumbing and electrical is installed, so it's almost ready to go.”

Winningham said a new VADA building will help connect the arts departments and enable them to learn from each other. In the past, the Rice Media Center has primarily been used by the photography and film departments, while other visual arts courses have historically been held in Sewall Hall. Winningham said he hopes to find more inspiration for his photography by being able to observe other visual artists in the printmaking studio, which will be within walking distance in the new VADA building.

“We'll all be working in the same place that the painters and sculptors and printmakers and the filmmakers are all working,” Winningham said. “They may be on a different floor. They may be way down the hall, but we'll all be in one place. So we'll all learn from each other.”

Brian Huberman, a professor of film, said he hopes to have a space in the new VADA building that allows an adequate level of noise for film editing, which requires constantly rewinding and rewatching films. After relocating his office to Sewall Hall, Huberman said he always wears headphones now so he will not invade everyone else’s space.

“Our film is noisy,” Huberman said. “Film editing is a nightmare for those around it, because you're constantly replaying stuff over and over to see how edits are working. And maybe your movie has bugles and trumpets in it like my current documentary does, and they're loud … For the future, I would hope that there is a recognition that the film people need something different. We need to be able to shout [and] make noise.”

Huberman also hopes that the new building will have a design that fosters communication between the faculty and students like the Rice Media Center.

“The great thing about the current media center design is that all the main elements of the program are really together,” Huberman said. “My office is where I work and have my editing setups, and it’s right there in the heart of [the center], so students that are there just have to walk a couple of steps, and I'm right there for them. And that way, you're not always limited by office hour connections or having to make an appointment like they do now. I would hope that the new building respects the design of the old in that sense.”

After relocating to Sewall Hall, Huberman is planning to teach FILM 444: Handmade Film next semester. He says it is a hard course to teach because of the space necessary and the equipment involved.

“We need a messy space,” Huberman said. “Because in addition to filming films, they also work on the film as a plastic medium, painting on it and gluing stuff to it and exploring the many different approaches to film. Maybe we'll just push out into the sculpture yard which now has these covered areas. Maybe we'll colonize some of those spaces and have the students do [the work]. Because in the days of the media center, when the weather was good, we would go outside then, and they would paint on the film.”

Huberman said there will be a few activities held around the media center before it is demolished, including a potential final screening of “Last Night at the Alamo,” a 1983 film co-directed by influential Texan independent filmmaker Eagle Pennell that Huberman worked on as a cinematographer. As the media center’s last days loom, Huberman is reflecting on his long Houston and Rice careers.

“I'm getting through a period of mourning,” Huberman said. “I've worked at the media center, I think, for 46 years. It's like my whole professional life has taken place in that building, so it's a kind of a life experience. I came to Texas from England in 1975 to take up the position, so the passing of the media center is the end of an era, certainly, for me.”

While full of nostalgia for the old media center, Huberman is equally excited about the new adventure the department will have in the future.

“We [should] remember to reinvest some of this energy into the next stage of the life of the film program that will now be very much embedded in the art department,” Huberman said. “It's a new adventure.” 



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Abercrombye: Engineering Laboratory Building to be replaced by new engineering and science facility



Ryan Pai/Thresher

By Talha Arif     4/27/21 10:33pm

The Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory will be demolished and replaced by a new engineering and science building beginning this May. Demolition will start mid-May and construction of the new building will be substantially complete in January 2023, according to Associate Vice President for Facilities Engineering and Planning Kathy Jones.

According to Provost Reginald DesRoches, the new building will include research labs, classrooms and conference rooms, among other types of spaces. DesRoches said several departments in the school of engineering currently utilize the Abercrombie building, including chemical and biomolecular engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

“The faculty in those departments have been relocated to temporary space around campus until they can reoccupy the building in 2023,” DesRoches said.

The building will have a gross square footage of 250,000 with four floors and a basement, according to Jones. The final cost of the building, currently being referred to as the New Engineering and Science Building, is not yet determined.

DesRoches said discussions regarding replacing the Abercrombie building have been going on for several years and were not influenced by student expansion plans.

“This is an important investment in Rice’s science and engineering programs that will benefit our research and educational mission for years to come,” DesRoches said.

The announcement of the demolition follows a town hall involving expansion concerns for the mechanical engineering department. According to the current plans, the MECH department will not receive space in the new building, but other departments that move there will free up space that they previously occupied.

Michael Wong, chair of the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, said he is looking forward to the state-of-the-art space that the whole university can be proud to show off. 

“I am also looking forward to being next door to professors, staff and students from other departments, and to the random ‘water cooler’ discussions that lead to unexpected and crazy ideas at the heart of invention and innovation,” Wong said.

According to Wong, the Abercrombie building has been the home of his department for over 70 years.

“We did fantastic things in that building over the decades, with world-class research being done and one of the country’s best chemical engineering programs. It will be a happy and sad day when they lock the front door permanently,” Wong said.

Ashutosh Sabharwal, chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, said overall he is thrilled by the possibilities the building will enable for the school of engineering and the department.

“[It] will also be able to house future growth of the [electrical and computer engineering] department with larger, more modern spaces,” Sabharwal said.

Ben Zaltsman, an electrical engineering major, said he doubts the new building will have a significant impact on current electrical engineering undergraduates since usually only their labs were in Abercrombie.

“It will be nice for newer ELECs to have a better facility for doing their labs as [Abercrombie] was pretty run down and hadn’t been fully cleaned or organized in what I suspect to be years bordering on decades,” Zaltsman, a junior at Lovett College, said.

Access to the Abercrombie building will not be allowed after April 30. Karen Shelton, senior department administrator for the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, said they were able to give away about 80 percent of excess office items and miscellaneous items while emptying out the building to whoever came by last week.

Jerusha Kasch, director of institutional crisis management, said that Rice will continue to provide COVID-19 testing through the East Gym and Reckling Roost sites through the end of the semester after Abercrombie shuts down. According to Kasch, testing will not be impacted heavily, as the majority of tests occur at the East Gym site and the testing requirements for vaccinated community members have been updated.



Rode by and found a construction fence, a moving truck and Pod boxes.





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22 hours ago, mkultra25 said:

It's already been announced that William McVey's sculpture "Energy", which graced the entrance to Abercrombie for the building's entire history, will be preserved and incorporated into the new building.

That was the first thing I thought of when I heard Abercrombie was being torn down.  So glad the art is being saved.

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9 minutes ago, CraftA365 said:

Wondering how loud this type of construction usually is?

My kid currently lives a few feet away at McMurtry. I know they build right near colleges all the time and the students survive. Just curious what to expect.

I once talked with a worker when they built the new Sid Richardson dorms high rise and she said Rice limits work hours. So I'm sure they will only let them work during business hours.

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12 minutes ago, hindesky said:

I once talked with a worker when they built the new Sid Richardson dorms high rise and she said Rice limits work hours. So I'm sure they will only let them work during business hours.

I figured as much. Not that there is a choice in the matter, but this sounds good. Rice always takes great care of the students :)

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Looks like from his announcement, there will be a number of important new buildings on campus in the very near future. 


"To support our research and academic endeavors, we will begin construction of a major new science and engineering building, a new home for visual and dramatic arts, and an expansion of our architecture facilities."

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