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Rice to ‘reset’ student center rebuild, hire new architecture firm

Rendering courtesy Adjaye Associates Graphic by Robert Heeter

By Prayag Gordy     8/22/23 11:53pm

The new student center project has been delayed again, dean of undergraduates Bridget Gorman announced in an Aug. 21 email obtained by the Thresher. Rice has chosen to ‘reset’ the project, firing the architecture firm, Adjaye Associates.

“We are still waiting to learn what this will mean in terms of new architects, design, and timelines, but we know that it will mean that the project is not likely to break ground for the next sixteen months,” Gorman wrote in her email.

David Adjaye, the founder and principal of Adjaye Associates, was accused of sexual misconduct by three former employees in July. Rice had previously said they were “very much reconsidering” Adjaye Associates’ role in campus projects.

A spokesperson for Rice did not say exactly why the university fired Adjaye Associates, nor did they clarify if Adjaye’s design will be completely scrapped. Gorman and Kate Abad, the associate dean of undergraduates, did not respond to an interview request.

In Adjaye’s design, Pub at Rice would have shared a second-floor food court space instead of their current exclusive basement location. Elizabeth Groenewold, a former general manager, told the Thresher in 2022 that Rice did not provide Pub with other options.

“I think that [admin] does want to give us what they think we need, but it just seems like they had made a lot of decisions as to what Pub was going to be before they talked to anyone from Pub,” she said. “Even when I first met them, they were like, you’re in this [food court], there’s no other room for you, you can only have one corner, we’re going to cut your hours, we might not be able to get you a stage, which was a little frustrating.”

Natalie Pellette, the current general manager, said Pub hopes to be more involved in the new design process.

“We definitely want to be more involved and see more transparency and open communication from the people involved in the design,” Pellette, a Hanszen College senior, said. “Pub has stood the test of time; we're approaching 50 years on campus. I think we've earned our spot in the new student center, and I think the same goes for other student organizations that create student life on campus.”

When the Moody Center for Student Life and Opportunity does open, Pellette said she hopes Pub maintains its culture and legacy. She highlighted the furniture, signs and wall decor, which may not have been included in the old design.

Rice Coffeehouse would have had a larger space with an outdoor pickup window. Caroline Leung, Coffeehouse’s general manager, said she wants Coffeehouse’s new space to retain its old flavor.

“I would love to strike a balance between fitting the demands of a growing student body at Rice, but while still keeping Chaus’ homegrown, DIY, artsy atmosphere,” Leung, a Lovett College senior, said.

The Moody Foundation donated $100 million for the new student center in 2021, and Gorman wrote that donor funds are still allocated to the new student center. The Thresher was unable to determine how much money Rice has spent on the project thus far.

The project has already been delayed multiple times. Construction was slated to begin in fall 2022 and be completed by fall 2023. Then, Rice postponed the construction by a year, which Gorman at the time attributed to economic conditions. Demolition was expected to begin at the end of the spring 2023 semester. Now, the RMC will likely stand through the end of 2024.

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