Rice University moves forward on 'transformative' opera theater project

March 17, 2014
By Olivia Pulsinelli

Rice University said Monday it has selected a design team for the Shepherd School of Music's new opera theater. The predesign phase is expected to begin in mid-April.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro was named the architect for the facility, and Fisher Dachs Associates will lead the theater design. Both are based in New York City. Additionally, Chicago-based Threshold Acoustics will provide acoustical direction for the project.

The firms' portfolios include projects such as the renovations of New York institutions the Juilliard School, Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, all by DSR; FDA's guidance on projects at Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts; and Threshold's renovations at Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Houston native and Rice alumnus Charles Renfro, a partner at DSR, is the lead architect. He studied music and architecture at Rice, where he also received a professional degree and returned as a visiting professor.

Houston-based Linbeck Group is the general contractor. Linbeck has overseen the construction of other facilities at Rice, as well as performing arts facilities throughout Texas.

The design team was chosen after a 10-month search following the lead gift from an anonymous donor for a state-of-the-art opera theater.

In the university's statement, Robert Yekovich, dean of the Shepherd School, called the project "a transformative addition to the opera program, the Shepherd School and the greater university" and said the building will also provide space for special campus lectures and presentations.

"It's the equivalent of the foundation building with the Sallyport (arch at Lovett Hall), except on the west side of campus," Renfro said in the statement. "To me, it will signify the entire shift of the university perceptually from one based in sciences to one that's based in arts and sciences. The new front door will be an arts building, in addition to the existing Alice Pratt Brown Hall, which will be a great and wonderful new way to think about Rice in the city of Houston."

Read the full article at the Houston Business Journal.