Rice Media Center demolition delayed, new VADA building announced

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Photo by Stéphany Marchany

By Melissa Carmona 09/29/20 10:44 PM

When plans to demolish the Rice Media Center were initially announced in April 2019, Vice President of Administration Kevin Kirby said the teardown process would take place before the end of 2020. Today, those plans having been severed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Media Center faces an uncertain future. However, plans recently announced by Rice for a new visual and dramatic arts building suggest that the arts community will remain alive and well on campus.

There is still no concrete timeline for the teardown of the Media Center, although there are rough estimates that the building will likely be demolished in the summer or fall of 2021 in preparation for the construction of a new VADA building, according to Kirby.

“We keep it as a treasure for as long as we can,” said Kathleen Canning, dean of the School of Humanities. “Then [we’re] in the hope of building on this legacy by creating something even more beautiful that will be permanent and allow a whole new opening for [the] artistic. “



Given the Media Center‘s vital role in Rice’s arts programs, there was a shock and setback on campus when demolition plans were announced last year. Students and faculty have expressed concerns about how the administration will provide alternatives to the Media Center’s unique facilities – including the only darkroom on campus and one of only two silver screens in Houston – when it will be demolished.

However, conversations about the fate of the VADA facilities have become more optimistic after a recent donation from Houston philanthropist Fayez Sarofim for the construction of a new VADA building.

The new building will bring together all of the VADA programs, which are currently widely dispersed across campus. Canning noted that he will likely replace existing facilities while creating spaces for new art forms. VADA President John Sparagana said he hoped the new building would amplify VADA’s interdisciplinary work in different university departments. He also noted that in recent years there has been increased interest in the VADA program.

Based on the 2018 VADA external review and senior exit surveys, the department noted a growing need for facility improvements, and the new VADA building should serve to address some of these concerns about their seniority. wear, according to Sparagana.

“Surveys of seniors in recent years [say] students have [felt] very positive about their experience in the department… The only constant negative has been the facilities, ”said Sparagana.

At present, the proposed VADA building is in the very early stages of development and there are no concrete plans as to what the building will look like. According to Sparagana, there are currently three architectural firms competing in a likely remote design competition. This process is expected to end in January 2021, after which a permanent design team will be selected. This design competition is a change from the regular hiring process and will showcase the creativity of the three different companies.

Earlier this year, the Rice Media Center celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since its opening in February 1970, the Media Center has been a hub for the arts not only on the Rice campus, but in the Houston community at large. Several prominent filmmakers and photographers in Houston, such as Geoff Winningham and Brian Huberman, have doubled Rice faculty and made the Media Center an influential epicenter for local creatives and students.

Sparagana said renovations were made to the Rice Cinema to bring its ventilation up to COVID-19 standards. For now, parts of the Rice Media Center are still open and used by Rice Cinema, although most of the other occupants have moved to Sewall Hall. As the VADA department plans to expand its facilities, Canning and Sparagana highlighted the enthusiasm for the new building and the expansion possibilities within the program.

“When we think of the arts, we want to build a building that can expand later… [to include] what opportunities might exist for future growth, ”Canning said.



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