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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Construction begins on two new residential colleges

Colleges 12 and 13 will be located between New Sid Richardson College and Wiess College. Renderings by Henning Larsen | Kirksey Architecture / obtained by The Thresher

By Riya Misra and Kenzie Langhorne     2/27/24 11:02pm

After the demolition of the old Sid Richardson College building finished last semester, construction of the two new colleges will begin soon. 

The colleges will each have the capacity of over 300 beds, President Reggie DesRoches announced May 19, 2023 — similar to McMurtry, Duncan and Sid Richardson Colleges, which each have a current capacity of exceeding 300. The other eight colleges have between 232 and 291 beds, the Thresher previously reported. 

Henning Larsen | Kirksey Architecture renderings obtained by the Thresher show that colleges 12 and 13 — which will have maximum heights of 11 and 10 floors, respectively — will “mediate between the larger [12-floor] scale of New Sid Richardson College, the Medical District and the lower scale of campus, stepping down towards [the 4-floor] Wiess College and outdoor recreational spaces.”

College 12 and the new servery, which both buildings will share, will be directly aligned with the John and Anne Grove. Both colleges will have two-tiered common spaces that open into an “elevated quad” belonging to college 12. The second-floor quad will hover among the treetops, featuring “multiple and diverse stairs, ramps, and lifts [that] offer ample connection up,” text on the renderings says. 

Both colleges echo the architecture of New Sid Richardson, featuring a smaller and larger tower, the latter roughly double the height of the former, offering residential housing. Typical residential floor commons in either tower will include acoustic walls, concrete ceilings with exposed lighting systems, built-in wall seating and direct access to dorm rooms, according to the renderings. Both college commons will feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows that open into the colleges’ lawns and terraces.

The decision to build Rice’s newest two residential colleges comes from an increase in undergraduate enrollment, which will grow from 4,494 students in Fall 2023 to a projected 4,800 by Fall 2024. Rice aims to house 80% of its undergraduate population on campus, DesRoches wrote, which is an increase from the current 70% on campus. The new colleges would bring Rice’s on-campus capacity to over 3,500 students. 

Vice President for Finance and Administration Kelly Fox said that the construction is being funded through a bond issuance, and Rice is actively fundraising for the buildings. The development of the new colleges are supposed to enable the university to further support students, according to Fox.

“Colleges 12 and 13 are the first colleges that have been added since the university began increasing the size of the undergraduate class,” Fox wrote in an email to the Thresher. “These additions will enable us to better support students and continue the tradition of undergraduate excellence through the college system.”  

Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman said the architecture team designing the new buildings is taking inspiration from the surrounding architecture and nature while creating unique spaces. 

“The architect team working on the new building designs have a great concept around creating a neighborhood in the south colleges area to build community,” Gorman wrote in an email to the Thresher. 

Deremy Leon, a junior at Sid Richardson, said he does not have a strong opinion regarding the new residential colleges, but thinks it is great that the Rice administration wants to expand.

“There are some things that Rice should do with the current colleges before they build new colleges. For example, redo [existing] colleges,” Leon said. “A lot of colleges have a big disparity in living quarters.” 

Hanszen College freshman Makenna Mack said she thinks the new residential colleges will be an interesting addition to the Rice community.

“A lot of my consideration for Rice in the beginning when I was choosing where to go to school was actually its size and how small the undergraduate student population was,” Mack said. “I think adding two new residential colleges is only going to increase the undergraduate population. I just hope Rice can maintain its community and culture where we all know each other.”

Mack said she hopes the new colleges do not further the disconnect she feels between North and South colleges.

“I think it is an interesting choice to build two more South colleges when there are already six colleges and some students feel disconnected,” Mack said. “At least in my experience, South feels as if it is the more active and bustling side of campus, but hopefully, with the added colleges that will draw more people living on the North side of campus to the South … hopefully that will increase interaction.”

According to Gorman, her team is at the early stages of planning for the opening of the new colleges on campus. Her office is reviewing how Martel College and McMurtry and Duncan opened to students as “guideposts” for the rest of the process. Gorman said she will share a timeline during the fall.

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