Rice alumnus Charles Renfro (Will Rice ‘89) will be the lead architect for the Shepherd School of Music’s new opera theater, which is scheduled to begin construction just west of Alice Pratt Brown Hall in mid-2015, External Relations Coordinator for the Shepherd School of Music Holli Clements said.

Rice alumnus Charles Renfro (Will Rice ‘89) will be the lead architect for the Shepherd School of Music’s new opera theater, which is scheduled to begin construction just west of Alice Pratt Brown Hall in mid-2015, External Relations Coordinator for the Shepherd School of Music Holli Clements said.

“The architect will be the New-York based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro,” Clements said. “Rice alum [Renfro] is a partner with the firm. Pre-design and design will take place over the next year, with construction likely to begin in late spring or summer of 2015.”

Clements said seed funding for the building came from an anonymous gift during the Centennial Campaign. According to Rice’s website, the gift was designated specifically for the purpose of building a new opera theater, and additional funds were raised by Rice to complete the project.

“The anonymous gift, announced last year, allowed Rice to begin moving forward with the initial phase of this project, which included forming a search committee and interviewing prospective architecture, design and acoustics firms,” Clements said.

According to Clements, the university has acknowledged that the new building will reduce available parking spaces.

“An underground parking garage that would be built below the new facility and would serve the needs of both music buildings, in addition to other users of the west end of campus, has been discussed, but not confirmed, at this point,” Clements said.

According to Clements, the new opera house will provide a wide range of needed services to the Shepherd School and the community.

“The new facility will include an opera theater with an orchestra pit and other associated spaces, including rehearsal rooms, practice rooms and teaching studios,” Clements said. “The pre-design process will help us determine exactly what we are able to include in the new building. It will be designed to work in complement with our current facilities –– to meet the needs of the Shepherd School as well as [those of] the greater university for many years to come.”

According to Clements, design and construction for the theater will be handled by well-respected, specialized firms, some of which have worked on Rice previously.

“Theater design will be led by Fischer Dachs Associates, and Threshold Acoustics will be the consultants in charge of acoustic design,” Clements said. “The general contractor for the project will be the Linbeck Group, which has overseen the construction of Rice’s McMurtry College, Brochstein Pavilion and James Turrell’s ‘Twilight Epiphany’ Skyspace.”

Kaitlyn Johnson, a vocal performance major, said the new opera house will 

“We’re all really excited,” Johnson, a Hanszen College junior, said. “[Chair of Vocal Studies Stephen King] said this is a reflection of how Rice opera students are having success with different opera companies around the world. Now, they have a facility to match. [We] have the faculty and resources put in place but didn’t have the performance facility. With the construction of the opera house, we will.”