top of page

2018 MCHAP

Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University

Michael Maltzan, FAIA

Houston, TX, USA

February 2017


Michael Maltzan / Michael Maltzan Architecture


Linbeck (Contractor) Guy Nordenson and Associates (Design Structural Engineer) Cardno Hanes Whaley (Structural Engineer) Walter P. Moore (Civil Engineer) Stantec (MEP) Horton Lees Brogden (Lighting Design) Fisher Dachs Associates (Theater Design) Nagata Acoustics (Acoustics) Rice University (AV/ IT/ Security) Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (Waterproofing) Ulrich Engineers (Geotechnical) Jensen Hughes (Fire & Life Safety)


Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University


Iwan Baan Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc.


The interior of the building prioritizes transparency, circulation, and campus connections. Sightlines transect through spaces within and beyond the building, creating layered views of the activities across production, instruction, and exhibition spaces. Simultaneously, views extend outward along major corridors to the campus, enabling building users to easily orient themselves. Extensive interior glazing offers views into learning, production, and exhibition spaces, highlighting artistic process as a complement to the exhibition of finished works. A wide stair rises from the first floor and turns back toward the building's interior at the northern end of the creative open studio. The stairs create an interior amphitheater that serves as an informal social space and connects the various adjacent program areas in section. The emphasis on transparency and circulation extends to the building’s exterior, with most of the building's first floor along the principal elevations clad in floor-to-ceiling glass. Arcades created by the second floor’s cantilevered massing create shaded walkways, with the overall effect of the building’s brick-clad upper storey appearing to levitate. Large picture windows punctuate the articulated brick facade in a playful rhythm and bring light deep into the interior spaces. The design incorporates aspects shared by many of the university's buildings. Pedestrian paths cut across the site’s open lawn and into the building, simultaneously organizing key interior program areas and linking the new building to the broader campus. The design creates an iconic place in the spirit of the building's forward-looking vision that is equally at home within the historic campus.


The two-story, 52,465 square-foot building houses a diverse collection of instructional, production, performance, and exhibition spaces. At the heart of the building is a double-height space that anchors the building in plan and section. Imagined as a kind of interior quad, this flexible studio echoes the numerous quadrangles found across the university campus. Within the interior landscape of the building the flexible studio functions to bring diverse programmatic functions into contact with one another while extending views out to the campus. The transparency of the spaces affirms the Center's artistic mission to foster connections between disciplines, while leveraging the constant hum of activity to energize the core of the organization. On the exterior, three signature lanterns hover over the ground plan. Two are located at each end of the northern arcade, supported by iconic "Starburst" columns. A third lantern houses the coffee lounge. Illuminated from within at night, they provide a collection of new beacons for the arts precinct. The building's exterior cladding is a manganese ironspot brick that shifts colors by reflecting the area’s environmental conditions. At times, the brick may take on a black, purple, silver, or pink hue depending on the time of day, weather, or season. This ephemeral quality can shift rapidly during the course of the day and challenges the notion of solidity typically associated with brick buildings.


The building is organized to create dynamic relationships between the diverse instructional, production, performance, and exhibition spaces in support of transdisciplinary interactions. The first floor includes major display spaces: a 150-seat Studio Theater for performing arts; the Skylight Gallery, Central Gallery, and Entry Gallery for exhibitions and experimental performances; and two Media Arts Galleries. Interdisciplinary maker labs including a wood shop, metal shop, paint booth, rapid prototyping areas, and a student classroom are dispersed on the ground floor. Outside the Central Gallery is an outdoor projection wall that brings the art outside. The second floor features a breakout study area, three classrooms, a large studio, an artist’s studio, a technology lending library, audiovisual editing booths, and a café that bridges the public spaces of the ground level. Offices and other administration spaces are also on this floor. The building’s architecture supports the internationally-focused arts institution and its mission to foster transdisciplinary collaboration through the arts. In its inaugural year, the Moody Center for the Arts has welcomed more than 12,000 public visitors and hosted more than 30 classes from 14 different departments serving 500 students. New modes of making flourish in the Moody’s flexible teaching, workshop and studio spaces, while the exhibition galleries and theater enable public visitors, students, and educators to engage with art and artists from around the world. The building has quickly become a creative catalyst for both Rice University and the wider world.

bottom of page