Rice Architecture
Sep 11, 2023

The goal of this competition was to create a functional space within a community for gathering, play, and shelter. The challenges of the past few years have not only demonstrated this need but it also asked participants to imagine a multifunctional building that can be used in a variety of ways that would meet the needs of how communities will gather in the future.

Their winning entry, titled Fifth Ward Haven, proposes a community center for Houston’s Fifth Ward, one of the city’s historic African-American neighborhoods. Located along Lyons Avenue, the design reinforces an East-West axis of existing civic institutions and serves as the logistic center for the famed Easter Renaissance Festival. The site is strategically located on high ground, south of one of the most vulnerable parts of town which sits on the floodplain, making it a natural haven for community members affected by Houston’s many hurricanes and flood events. One juror commented, "Fifth Ward Haven has eye-catching axonometric drawings and amazing renderings. The design plays with the masonry units to create a grand community space. Overall, a delightful project showcasing the use of block."

A series of three-dimensional modules at the project's perimeter house services and ancillary programs in order to free a central nave comprising both indoor and outdoor spaces, where the life of the building and the neighborhood unfolds. Working as service cores while also providing structural integrity for hurricane hazards, the CMU modules create a consistent pattern that shields the interior of this community center. Each module provides infrastructural support for the building, ranging from the restrooms, shower, and kitchen to storage, offices, and classrooms.

Fifth Ward Haven was developed in coordination with Associate Professor Jesús Vassallo, who served as a faculty advisor for the project.  Read the full press release and more details about their winning project here.





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