Rice University in Houston, Texas was established in 1912 and has been carefully developed as a highly consistent collection of finely detailed brick buildings, set amongst a rich environment of mature oak trees. The original campus was masterplanned and designed by Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, and the first buildings were designed by reknowned architect Ralph Adams Cram. Since the 1980s, Rice has carefully added to the campus through engagements with architects James Stirling and Michael Wilford, Caesar Pelli, Ricardo Bofill, Cambridge Seven Associates, John Outram, and Antoine Predock and others.
Since the 30's. the University Campus has been developed as Faculty and Administration Buildings and as a series of Residential Colleges. Hopkins Architects were commissioned to design two new colleges, McMurtry and Duncan, on the northern part of the Campus, each an independent entity, but sharing common kitchen and dining facilities. The two new colleges provide a total of approximately 400 rooms, housing up to 650 students, with approximately 115,000 sq ft in each college.
The colleges were designed to preserve as much as possible the green spaces around them and conceived in the tradition of collegiate quadrangle arrangements. Shaded arcades around all the new buildings carefully weave together the spaces of each individual college with the existing tree-lined walks of the campus that provide such an integral order to the original Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson plan. Residential accommodation is provided on the upper four floors with communal college accommodation below, and each college quadrangle is completed by a 'commons' or dining space, the communal heart of the colleges.
The commons are served by a kitchen and servery which is placed in a central position at the end of one of the primary external walks on the north campus. Upper floors are highly modular but offer different types of bedrooms and different living environments. The typical double bedroom has its own individual prefabricated GRP bathroom pod - modules designed and fabricated in the U.K. and assembled in the U.S.
With masters' houses making smaller, more private courts behind the commons, the whole composition establishes a careful hierarchy of buildings and spaces for these new collegiate communities. The fifth floor accommodates more bedrooms and a large shaded, outdoor terrace among extensive green planting to enhance the sustainability of the new development and create a special environment at high level above the canopy of the oak trees.