2nd Year Graduate Studio, ARC502
Rice University School of Architecture
Fall 2010

Section 01: Martin Hättasch
Section 02: Dawn Finley

Enrollment: 18 (2nd year graduate students)

The third semester core studio continues the study of disciplinary concepts and techniques raised in the first year while introducing more complex issues related to program, form, and context. The studio investigates issues of public architecture through the design of a medium-scale public institutional building, and specifically examines the projective potentials of program and site in relation to form. While diagrams and diagrammatic techniques are emphasized, enabling students to organize, study, and communicate information and concepts in architecture, the formal architectural manifestation of these concepts will be the primary objective of the studio. The studio advances inventive, plausible building design strategies that exploit the operational and representational aspects of architecture.

Civic Architecture as Urban Engagement

In recent decades, public buildings representing local or regional authorities have come to either resemble dull functional office sheds or replicate the formal glories of past public architecture by borrowing its formal vocabulary. The belief in contemporary architecture as a tool to not only functionally organize civic institutions, but to also adequately represent and spatially ground them in their context, seems to have been lost since the perceived failures of the last large-scale public projects in the United States.

At a time when corporate buildings dominate the public’s attention and civic services are increasingly found online, A503 makes a point for the persistence and renewal of contemporary architecture in the public realm. A continued belief in one of architecture’s main tools, spatial organization, coupled with a re-thinking of the programmatic exigencies of a contemporary civic architecture will be the driving factors behind a new type of administrative building.

Studio Project

This semester’s project - Reinventing the Civic Building—East End Annex – will investigate the possibilities of a new type of public architecture through the design of a hybrid civic building sited in the East End of Houston, in Harris County, Texas. The hypothetical proposal aims to reinvent the county annex building to surpass its minor administrative role in a peripheral urban setting in order to create a lively civic center that acts as an agent for urban engagement and renewal.

Student project images: Ian Searcy [top], Eunike [bottom]