Rice Building Workshop

Danny Samuels, FAIA + Nonya Grenader, FAIA 
Director and Associate Director

The Rice Building Workshop (RBW) started in 1996 with the goal of bringing students out of the studio and into Houston, where their creativity could be challenged by the demands of real-life practice. Sixteen years and some four hundred students later, RBW has designed and built more than a dozen innovative projects.

Working at various scales and in diverse situations, RBW students engage all facets of the building process. Budget, schedule, and construction constraints test conceptual ideas as students work together to transform designs into built contributions. 

Architecture students at all levels, from sophomores through the graduate program, participate in the workshop seminar, where projects range in scale from furniture to neighborhoods and involve different stages in the process of design and making. Some projects reach fruition in one semester; others may require several years to move from idea to reality. In the design stages, the workshop functions much like an architect’s office: students meet with clients to develop programs; small teams propose and develop a variety of design solutions; the choices are narrowed down; and budget, technical detail, and code compliance assume greater importance. 

Every building reflects the collaborative process among client, architect, consultants, and contractors. The student architects work with each other, as well as with consultants, contractors, suppliers, and crafts-people, to develop the projects. Every project expands the school’s horizons, bringing us into contact with an extraordinary array of Houston non-profits, including Project Row Houses and The Menil Collection.


Collaboration with Project Row Houses


The relationship between Rice Building Workshop and Project Row Houses began in 1997 with the design and construction of a low-cost house prototype on the Project Row House campus and has continued to grow through numerous design, planning, and building projects.  The continuing nature of this collaboration means that students not only learn from individual projects, but are able to participate in a longer arc of development than is usual in the school experience.