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McMurtry + Duncan Residential Colleges

Rice University elevates undergraduate living with the strategic expansion of residential colleges, embedding them within the campus's mature tree canopy to create efficient, well-integrated communities that evoke a sense of timeless belonging.

The evolution of the residential college system at Rice University has been fundamental to the undergraduate experience. A strategic vision articulated in 2006 emphasized the unique role these colleges play, setting an ambitious goal to accommodate 80 percent of students on campus. This initiative led to the development of McMurtry and Duncan Colleges on the North Campus, transforming a former parking lot into a vibrant community hub. The complex, consisting of seven buildings, surrounds primary and secondary quads, incorporating student and faculty residences, central commons areas, and shared dining facilities. Similarly, on South Campus, the historic Baker and Will Rice colleges underwent thoughtful expansions, including the Baker Servery renovation and the introduction of a new East Servery, to accommodate the growing student body.

Redesign efforts were guided by Rice’s commitment to landscape tradition, material use, and climate considerations. A primary goal was to integrate the buildings with the established tree canopy and green spaces, aiming for sustainability and a minimal ecological footprint. The resulting designs encourage interaction and enrich the campus experience by creating inviting, communal spaces.

The design both respects and enriches the campus's architectural mosaic, drawing inspiration from the original Italian Romanesque style, adapted for the Texas coastal plain. This sensitivity extends to material and scale, with exteriors chosen for their understated elegance, contrasting the more vibrant interiors. Connectivity is a key feature, achieved through covered walkways and perimeter shading, with the uppermost floor of each building recessed to align with neighboring structures, accommodating terraces and gardens alongside a green roof over the shared McMurtry-Duncan servery.

“The planning of the colleges was inspired by the 2004 Rice University Master Plan Study, but the elegant and subtly nuanced final design provided a living and learning environment that hardly could be imagined or surpassed.”

– Barbara White Bryson, former Associate VP for Facilities Engineering and Planning

  • Virginia Society AIA Design Merit Award for Context, 2013
  • AIA National Specialized Housing Design Award, 2012
  • Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) International Award, 2011
  • AIA Hampton Roads Design Honor Award, 2011
  • AIA VA Award for Excellence, 2010
  • Virginia Society AIA Special Jury Citation - Interior Design, 2009
  • Inform Magazine, Object Design, 2009
  • Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, Bathroom pods displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (July - October 2008)
Project Team
Jane Cady Rathbone
Design Principal
Michael C. Beaver
Project Manager
Jean Webster
Project Architect, Housing
Stephen Ste. Marie
Project Architect, Dining
Richard J. Rusinak
Project Architect
Wesley L. Page
Project Illustrator
Hopkins Architects
Design Architect
Haynes Whaley Associates
Structural Engineering
CHP & Associates, Inc.
MEP Engineering
Walter P. Moore
Civil Engineering
A/V, Technology Consultant
The Office of James Burnett
Landscape Architect