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Sense of Place

A Central Place to Meet and Greet

Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University (Texas)
University Business, Aug 2008

LOCATED IN THE ACADEMIC heart of campus, this facility is a conversation starter in which conversations are started.

--FUNCTION: Coffeehouse, café, and meeting place

--PROBLEM: Rice was in need of both a central meeting spot for undergrads, whose residences aren't in the immediate vicinity of the heart of campus, and visitors, who might come to an event but not spend any time on campus before or afterward, explains President David Leebron. "People coming to a lecture shouldn't park their car, go to the lecture, and leave."

--SOLUTION: A coffeehouse with a transparent design so that one can sit and leisurely enjoy the beauty of the campus was the answer. "We tried to make the building extraordinarily transparent and open, so that the landscape went through the building, almost like having beautiful wallpaper," says architect Thomas Phifer. Outside the approximately 6,000-square-foot building, a trellis provides shading over a patio area, and people can relax on the lawn under trees and among simple fountains as well. The exterior wraparound plaza adds another 10,700-plus square feet of gathering space.

The pavilion is the first of several new capital projects for Rice, which has 300 acres but is located just three miles from the center of Houston. "Even though this was the least expensive of our freestanding capital projects, it was really very important to us," Leebron says, adding that "the space is literally just a crossroads of our campus." The student center is located on the quad, close to the pavilion, and a new recreation center will soon open nearby.

While the building's grand opening was at the end of the spring semester, Leebron says it was quickly adopted by the Rice community. "People don't realize what they didn't have until you give it to them." To that end, he says the building will rarely be closed for special events so that students can expect it to be open to them on a daily basis. The president gets stopped on campus and thanked for the building. "This is what a university is about. It's about engaging in conversation, people running into each other," he adds. "The spaces you make available to people do determine the opportunities people have to take advantage of each other."

--COMPLETED: April 2008

--COST: $7.25 million (for both the pavilion and central quad around it)

--PROJECT TEAM: Thomas Phifer and Partners (New York City), building architect; The Office of James Burnett (Houston), landscape architect.

--DEVELOPMENT OF THE EAST CAMPUS AT XAVIER UNIVERSITY IN CINCINNATI. Located on the 20-acre site of a former factory building, the development will create a college town atmosphere to attract students, residents, and the broader community to the neighborhood, currently an economically depressed area with closed-up storefronts. The plan involves building retail space, office space, student and community housing, a student recreation center, a boutique hotel, and a health and counseling center. Corporex Cos., a Covington, Ohio-based real estate developer, is leading the project, which is expected for completion in fall 2010.

--CONSTRUCTION OF A 151,000-SQUARE-FOOT RECREATION AND WELLNESS CENTER AT SACRAMENTO STATE UNIVERSITY. Architecture and planning firm Hornberger + Worstell, and partnering health design firm Ellerbe Becket, broke ground on the center in June. Unlike campus fitness facilities that focus just on exercise, the center is being designed as the heart of student life, uniting fitness, medical care, and social activity spaces for 28,000 students and 3,400 faculty and staff under one roof. The $60 million facility's expected completion is fall 2010.