Changes are coming to Rice Coffeehouse. A three-day architecture design competition, or “mini-charrette,” organized by Architecture Students at Rice and Coffeehouse culminated Friday with the announcement that one team would see their design, “Coffee, Break,” constructed and implemented.
“Coffee, Break” is a set of wooden block units of varying heights connected with hinges. The hinges allow the blocks to be rearranged into different configurations while Coffeehouse customers wait for their drinks.
“It’s supposed to be very interactive,” Esther Tang, a McMurtry College sophomore on the winning team, said.
“We were thinking of having very simple units that can be used as tables and chairs,” XingYue Wen, a Martel College sophomore on the team, said. “They can also be turned to different configurations so it’s really flexible.”
In their presentation, the team said the blocks would promote social interaction. The competition prompt asked teams to try to reduce Coffeehouse congestion and “encourage users to pay more attention to their surroundings and each other in the present moment.”
“What kid doesn’t like blocks they can configure and reconfigure?” architecture professor Nonya Grenader said during jury review. “It could be quite interesting,”
The set of blocks will be located in the waiting area at the front of Coffeehouse. One of the higher blocks will be used as the drip coffee station, and the coffee condiments will be relocated to the side, near the employee storage area.
“It was a very different prompt from last year, but it created a more interesting challenge,” Tang said.
The recently constructed Hangout hammock space outside of Fondren Library is the result of last year’s mini-charrette, which challenged teams to create outdoor study spaces.
The competition is not restricted to architecture students; in fact, each team has to include at least one non-architecture student.
“People are amazed when you say you’re an archi but they don’t really know what you do,” mini-charrette organizer Ali Edelson said. “It’s great to have non-archis participate in something similar to what we do and understand what happens within the walls of Anderson.”
Melisa Pekiyi, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, and Eric Cheung, a Baker College sophomore, both architecture students, were also on the team. Tejas Kumar, a Sid Rich sophomore, was the only non-architecture student on the team as a biochemistry and visual and dramatic arts double major.
“It was kind of intimidating,” Kumar said. “Everyone had their little sketchbooks with designs in them and I was just like, ‘I pinned some things on Pinterest.’”
The prompt was handed out the night of Thursday, Oct. 27 and the final design was due Sunday, Oct. 30. The winning team worked up until the deadline Sunday night, turning in their design with only nine minutes to spare.
This year, there were an unprecedented number of entries: 35 students and seven teams. Edelson, a Brown College senior, attributed the high level of interest to the fact that the design competition was centered on Coffeehouse.
Both the current and incoming Coffeehouse general managers Harrison Lin and Mandy Weaver sat on the jury.
“I loved hearing the perspectives of each architecture professor,” Lin, a Brown junior, said. “Hilariously, they’re all absolutely savage. They get their critiques across unapologetically and speak their mind fully.”
Weaver and Lin advocated for “The Ribbon,” a design which received runner-up. “The Ribbon” was a custom piece of metal delineating a path through coffeehouse while rising and falling to form a coffee station and to interact with furniture.
“While we did vote for ‘The Ribbon,’ I think the open-endedness of ‘Coffee, Break’ will make it easier to mold to Coffeehouse’s needs,” Weaver, a Martel junior, said.
Edelson said she predicted “Coffee, Break” might be completed next semester, but there is no guarantee. The Hangout took an entire year to construct after winning last year.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Tang said.