Public Programs


With its vast, complex, and diverse territory, Houston faces many of the environmental, architectural, and urban issues now affecting cities worldwide.

The goal of the Houston Design Research Grant (HDRG) is to promote quality design research for Houston-specific urban conditions that can also inform urban discourses and debates more broadly. The grant is open to U.S. university students and faculty looking to work on research projects that contribute to the improvement of Houston’s urban environments and urban life for all its citizens. Winning proposals in both categories (faculty and student) should demonstrate potential to catalyze a Houston-based design project that is relevant both locally and globally.

The grant is open to a broad array of urban topics, scales and methodologies, providing seed funds for further research and expansion of the topic. All applications must address Houston’s built environment, its history, present condition, and future development and show specific connections to architecture, design, and spatial thinking. Potential areas of research could include but are not limited to: design innovation, preservation, gentrification, climate change, affordable housing, environmental issues, public space, and
urban transportation.

The grants are administered by the Rice University School of Architecture and are made possible thanks to a generous gift from The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. (“Mitsui USA”).


About The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation
Established in 1987, The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc., for active social contribution programs in communities where the company does business. Currently, it supports more than fifty initiatives across the United States in the areas of education, community welfare, arts and culture, and employee matching  and volunteerism.

Applications Closed

Grants will be awarded in two categories, faculty and student.

If you have any questions, you may contact Carla Haskins. Director of Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives via email to Carla Haskins.  

HDRG Winners

2023 Winners

This year, applicants explored a range of topics, from preservation to climate change and accessibility. The two winning proposals were selected from twelve entries from eight universities, including Auburn University, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Louisiana State University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the Ohio State University, University of Houston, and University of Texas.

The winners were selected by an eight-member jury that included Mide Akinsade, Perkins&Will; Georgina Baronian, Rice Architecture and clovisbaronian; William Batson, Prairie View A&M University; Lonnie Hoogeboom, B.Arch. ’94 and M.Arch. ’96, Rice Architecture William Ward Watkin Council; Deepa Ramaswamy, University of Houston; Troy Schaum, Rice Architecture and Schaum/Shieh; Maggie Tsang, Rice Architecture and Dept.; and Richard A. Vella, City of Houston. 


In the faculty category, Nathan Friedman—who cofounded the design practice Departmento del Distro—will explore how the fields of architecture, urbanism, and design can be leveraged to expand upon Houston’s existing strategies to collect trash along Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. The research investigates how architecture and urbanism can support waste management systems by making them more effective and perceptible, while promoting critical discussions on the environment, waste, and urbanism. Friedman’s research would support the future development and design of a prototype waste trap device that could be sited in Houston.

The winning proposal in the student category by Alice Bian and Stuti Mehta, looks into the intensifying flooding caused by heavy, short-duration rainfall that results in daily inconvenience for Houstonians. They plan to reenvision detention ponds for drainage efficiency and rain gardens for absorption to better understand how to create a hybrid system that helps the efficacy of the open ditches. Their project smartly addresses the role of design and infrastructure as it investigates the overlooked potential of localized approaches to stormwater management.

The recipients will present their findings to the Rice Architecture community and the general public in the fall of 2024. Details will be posted on the school’s event calendar at as they become available.

Previous Faculty Winners

Daniel Jacobs and Brittany Utting

Elizabeth Gálvez
The Transgressive Kitchen: Collectivity and Food in Houston

De Peter Yi
The SRO Model in Houston: Adaptation, Transformation, Revitalization

Ernesto Alfaro
ICONS – Quilting / Mapping the Third Ward

Andrew Colopy
Auxiliary Dwelling Unit

David Costanza
CIRCUS - Interactive Chair Installation

Rafael Longoria
Third Ward Smart Choices

Gregory Marinic
Fifth Ward Renaissance

Gordon Wittenberg
Linear Parks for Houston

Donna Kacmar
Made in Houston

Bryony Roberts
Lobby Urbanism: Converging Downtown’s Interior and Exterior Streets

Susan Rogers
Thick Infrastructure

Stephen Fox and Michelangelo Sabatino
Howard Barnstone Architect: Publication & Online Digital Access

Donna Kacmar
Accommodation in Houston: Beer, Burgers and Barbacoa

Thomas Colbert
Documentation and Analysis of Prison Architecture In and Around Houston

Charles Tapley and Chula Ross Sanchez
Green Roof

Rafael Longoria and Susan Rogers
Houston Hope: Strategies for Change

William Charles Truitt
No More White Space – Undeveloped Space of Northside Village

Keith Krumweide
Education Through Form: The Schools and Homes of Donald Bartheme

Patrick Peters
Critical Making as Foundation Pedagogy

Nonya Grenader and Danny Marc Samuels
The Extra-Small House

David Brown
ROW: Trajectories through the Shotgun House

Celeste Williams
Houston’s Disappearing Art Deco

Previous Student Winners

Rae Atkinson
Carless Garages, Careless Spaces, and Everything In Between

Estefania Barajas
Tables in Deserts and Swamps: How Food Education Can Help Solve the Root of Rood Insecurity

Edward Liew, Shree Kale, and Anna Fritz
Long Term Motel

Jae Boggess
Industrious Ruins

David Richmond

Yigit Ergecen and Irmak Erman Eruz
Potential of Small Living in the Inner Loop Single Family Home

Giovanni Peña
Shaping the 'Rurban' Landscape

Andrew Daley, Jason Fleming, and Peter Muessig
InHouse OutHouse

Peter Stone and Kelly Barlow
Emergency Core

Melissa McDonnell
Urban Aeries

Robert Hadley and Samuel Jacobson
Make Houston Colorful

Jorge Galvan

Darren Preacely and Sharon Adams
Documenting Decaying Dreams

Tracy Catherine Bremer
Engulfed by Industry: Rethinking the Industrial-Residential Interface

Jessica Lauren Barnett, Rafael Morales, Maria Gabriela Oran, and Allison Parrott
Mad to be Saved: Finding Purpose for the Residual Space of Highway Intersection

Benson Gillespie
Sections Through a City

Lysle Oliveros
Houston Needs a Mountain

LaFayette Childs II and Marianne Do
An Unhurried Tour of Houston’s Alternative Market Places

Jonathan LaRocca
Grow Local: Plotting a New Urban-Rural Interface in Houston

Heather Rowell
Exposing the Fifth: Alternatives for Houston’s Lost Elevation

Jean Daly, Katherine Dankberg, and Benjamin Regnier
Urban Ecology of Houston

Heath West
Deploying Exurbia

Marcus Miller Farr
Houston: (Green) Space City

Philip Lee
Wet Life

Crystal Granger
Architecture as Liberator: Houston’s Historic African-American Church Architecture

Taryn Kinney
HIRes (Residual Highway)

Ben Koush
The New Look: Modern Architecture in Houston

Spotlight Award

The Spotlight Award was founded in 2009 under the leadership of Lonnie Hoogeboom with John J. Casbarian, Carlos Jiménez, and Rafael Longoria.

Every year, the Spotlight Award committee, formed by architects, academics, and design practitioners, convenes to consider local, national, and international architects within the first 15 years of their professional practice who have demonstrated design excellence and curiosity through their body of work. The Spotlight Award is by invitation only.

The 2024 Spotlight Award was awarded to Bangkok Tokyo Architecture, an architectural studio founded by Wtanya Chanvitan and Takahiro Kume in 2017. They are fascinated by open-ended structures and the assembly of ordinary elementsblurring the lines between ordinary and exceptional. Their practice explores resilient forms of living, seeking ways to liberate architecture and find models of sustainability. 

Troy Schaum, associate professor at the Rice University School of Architecture, said of Bangkok Tokyo Architecture’s work, “Wtanya and Takahiro are reformulating elemental logics of structure and form in surprising and inventive ways. In every project, they are ceaselessly asking if the architecture can do more.” Assistant Professor Georgina Baronian commented, "The unabashed pragmatism displayed in the work of Bangkok Tokyo Architecture belies its subtle sophistication, displaying a reverence for the everyday while achieving an architecture of enchantment. Modest yet magical, the recent projects of this young firm speak to larger questions of our present momentof maintenance, tradition, economy, and adaptation."


House K, 2023, Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Soopakorn Srisakul.

Spotlight Award Recipients

Previous Recipients

Kwong Von Glinow, 2023

Tropical Space, 2022

AD–WO, 2021

Fala Atelier, 2020

DUST, 2019

Anssi Lassila, OOPEAA, 2017

Cadaval & Solá-Morales, 2016

Tarik Oualalou and Linna Choi, Oualalou+ Choi, 2015

5468796, 2014

Georgeen Theodore, Interboro Partners, 2013

Pezo von Ellrichshausen, 2012

Grace La and James Dallman, LA DALLMAN,  2011

Sou Foujimoto, 2010

Antón García-Abril, Ensamble Studio, 2009

Apply Featured