The latest addition to Houston’s Rice University, founded in 1912, is the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion designed by Thomas Phifer and landscaped by James Burnett. Funded by the Brochstein donation, the new pavilion, built in 2007/08, lies along the university’s central east-west axis, near the imposing Fondren Library building. It is part of a wider campus enhancement policy drawn up in 2005.
This essential square construction is designed to foster a sense of community by allowing social interaction among students, teachers and visitors to the campus. Its lightweight structure and transparency make it an inviting place to come and sit - a feature enhanced by the broad canopy running right round the pavilion. This trellis structure of tubular aluminium elements on a slender steel frame creates a modern-style portico sheltering the broad paved terrace and allowing interior space to flow easily into the outdoors. The trellis structure also shields the pavilion’s full-height glazed facades from direct sunlight, improving internal conditions and cutting the mechanical cooling load.
The new programme sits easily among the older neo-Byzantine brick buildings of the rest of the campus with their decorative arches and tiled roofs. The new pavilion dialogues directly with the original buildings aligned along the campus’ central dividing axis. While its transparent facades open out toward the historical architecture, at the same time the pavilion forms a serene island apart, thanks to the newly planted grove of elms and oaks that forms a filter between it and the Fondren Library. Under the shade of the trees, black concrete fountains filled with beach stone gently reflect the light.
The pavilion’s flat roof features a series of projecting skylights that both funnel and filter the natural light thanks to white perforated aluminium sunshade diffusers. These are echoed on the interior by a perforated metal ceiling system that provides a further filter to ensure soft diffused light throughout. Outside, reflective luminaires on metal brackets jut out from the facades. Inside, the bathrooms and storage areas divide the pavilion into two distinct areas: the cafeteria with a seamless plastic serving counter, and the sitting area with multi-media wireless connection.