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Houston: Rice breaks ground on new business school building

Feature Photo: Dean of the Jones Graduate School of Business Peter Rodriguez. Image: Jeff Fitlow.

Posted: 5-19-2024

Houston (Harris County)Rice University has broken ground on a new $54.5 million building for the Jones Graduate School of Business, unveiling the innovative design of a facility that will support the school’s growing student and faculty population.

The new 112,000-square-foot structure features state-of-the-art classrooms, modern office spaces and vibrant amenities such as dining areas, open gathering spaces and facilities for private events. The new building will seamlessly integrate with McNair Hall — the current home of Rice Business — enhancing the campus environment and continuing to cultivate a collaborative culture.

“This remarkable new building embodies the evolution of Rice Business over the past five decades and its commitment to equipping graduates who are not only integral to organizations around the globe but are also poised to lead them,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches said. “We’re committed to offering top-tier facilities that complement our top-ranked academic programs, attracting the best students, faculty and staff to our campus.”

Architecture Research Office (ARO) leads the building’s design, while Houston-based Kirksey Architecture serves as the project’s executive architect. Skanska and its joint venture partner, B. Bell Builders, are the general contractors. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2026.  

The interior of the building is designed for various teaching and learning styles, including traditional lectures and informal collaborations. Two 120-seat classrooms, two 65-seat classrooms and breakout rooms throughout the building will support increased enrollment and team-based learning.

The expanded facility will broaden Rice Business’ capacity for world-class innovation and leadership development as a hub for collaborative and interdisciplinary thinking. It will allow Rice Business to:

  • Establish a home for undergraduate business education.
  • Centralize resources for Rice’s top-ranked entrepreneurship programs.
  • Offer versatile spaces for entrepreneurship competitions, events and accelerators.
  • Introduce innovative event venues for faculty, students and the wider Rice community.
  • Become a premier location for speakers from the Houston and global business community, allowing students to connect with the top organizations and minds in business.
  • Lead in addressing global challenges like energy transition, finance, health care and more.

The new building will expand around the existing one, creating new public spaces between both. Designed to blend seamlessly with the campus and its surroundings, the exterior includes a serrated brick facade, which deflects sunlight and keeps the interior cool, a red clay-tile roof, and a cast-stone trim. The use of glazed brick in bond and herringbone patterns pays homage to the traditional materials found on campus. The new building will be constructed above an existing underground parking garage and will include flood-proofing measures to enhance the school’s resilience to extreme weather.

“The opportunity to design a building on Rice’s historic and exceptionally beautiful campus comes with enormous responsibility,” ARO’s Principal Stephen Cassell said. “Our task is to deliver a contextual yet forward-looking structure that embodies Rice Business’ focus on the future as it continues to grow.”

The new building encloses the Woodson Courtyard with a glass façade and a skylit coffered roof, creating a shaded atrium and landing space. A triple-height pathway called The Walk will connect the courtyard to a new West Commons. Dining facilities on the ground floor will flow outdoors to a tree-shaded terrace, blending indoor and outdoor spaces. The atrium will be a central hub for community gatherings with a larger event space on the second floor.

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