Rice University gets ready to break ground on its new Sarofim Hall for the arts

Aerial of Susan and Fayez Sarofim Hall from the northwest. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

A new $25 million arts facility, set to become a major addition to Rice University’s campus, has moved past planning stages.

Groundbreaking for Sarofim Hall is expected in early 2022, with an anticipated completion date in 2024.

Named for lead donor Fayez Sarofim, the 50,000-square foot space will be home to the university’s Visual and Dramatic Arts Department and aims to become a hub for art-making and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Printmaking, painting, drawing and senior studios in Sarofim Hall. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The rough timeline for the project comes as an architectural firm and design concept have also been announced.

Following a national competition, the design team of Diller Scofidio + Renfro was selected and will be led by architect and Rice alumnus, Charles Renfro.

The building’s architecture, with its metal structure, pays tribute to the former Rice Media Center and Art Barn, commissioned in 1969 by Houston arts patrons John and Dominique de Menil – and now the sites on which Sarofim Hall will sit.

While its steel frame makes a nod to the campus’ past, the new building’s open, indoor/outdoor design is meant to symbolize – and facilitate – the free-flow of ideas that will lead to artistic collaborations of the future, according to designers.

Sarofim Hall will connect sculptors, printmakers, photographers, filmmakers and other visual artists – currently scattered at facilities all over campus – and allow them to work in close proximity, potentially learning from and engaging with each other.

Sarofim Hall’s ArtStreet from the southeast. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

A glass-lined pedestrian “ArtStreet” will bisect the four-story structure, which will contain exhibition areas, labs, studios, shops, faculty offices, and other working art spaces. It will also feature an outdoor plaza.

“The building shell is thought of as a piece of infrastructure: simple, durable and timeless, while the insides can transform as needs change,” Renfro said in a press release.

Construction on the new building coincides with another change for the Visual and Dramatic Arts Department: newly-appointed department chair, Bruce Hainely, will step into the role in January 2022. Among his plans is a future graduate level program in the fine arts.

Located adjacent to the Moody Center for the Arts and nearby the Shepherd School of Music’s Alice Pratt Brown Hall and newly constructed Brockman Hall for Opera, Sarofim Hall will complete the university’s arts district on the southwest side of campus.

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