Category Archives: Hometown Tours

2015 Hometown Tour: The Big Easy and Beyond

Last April, 35 RDA members spent a four-day weekend in New Orleans, Algiers, and the River Road. Planned with the help of Blaine Adams and Patrick Falcon, both from Louisiana, and led by Lynn Kelly and architectural historian Stephen Fox, the tour included unique, eccentric, and soulful stops around the city and beyond. Read More

The French Connection: 2015 RDA Hometown Tours Explore New Orleans and France

Opéra Nouvel in Lyon by Jean Nouvel.

Opéra Nouvel in Lyon by Jean Nouvel.

In 2015, the RDA Hometown Tours will take a French twist. In April we will visit New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou Country, followed by a week in France in May and June. Both trips will focus on historic and modern architecture, and the itinerary will be interspersed with unmatched gastronomic experiences. Read More

RDA Hometown Tour to Santiago, Chile

Chile: Land of a Thousand and One Sights
RDA 2014 Hometown International Tour
June 8-14, 2014

$3,600 pp/dbl

Chile’s distinct geography and remoteness is intensified by a set of unique landscape conditions that range from the world’s driest desert to the north to the incomparable Andes to the east, from the limitless Pacific Ocean to the west to the spellbinding fjords cascading all the way south to Tierra del Fuego. The Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia (1500-1553) founded Santiago in 1541 at what turned out to be an ideal location: close to the middle of the thinnest and longest country imaginable. Occupying the basin of this rich fertile valley, Santiago is the country’s strategic capital, cultural, political and financial center, as well as the largest metropolis with a population of close to 6 million people (in a country of 17 million people as per the 2012 census).

A significant watershed in Chile’s recent history was the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, the first democratically elected Marxist president, a short lived but cathartic moment for the country. Allende (1908-1973) was killed during a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet who ruled the country under a harsh and brutal dictatorship (1973-1990). Upon the demise of Pinochet’s regime the country ventured forward with the expeditious establishment of democratic institutions. This dramatic transformation was the result of timely political will aided by a similar will to develop important social, infrastructural, and cultural projects. Today Chile enjoys one of the most stable governments in the Americas, an emerging power in the region and beyond, with a growing economy and the benefits of a working democracy. Paralleling the changes of these last two decades, Chilean architects have received growing international attention, gaining the respect and admiration the world over for the outstanding quality, rigor, and inventiveness of their architecture.

Our trip to Santiago, and to such nearby cities as Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, will reveal the expansive architecture/urbanism of this singular and intriguing country. The one-week trip (June 8 – June 14) will bring us in contact with the country’s most notable architects such as Jose Cruz Ovalle, Mathias Klotz, Alejandro Aravena, Smiljan Radic, Cristian Undurraga, Felipe Assadi of Assadi and Pulido Architects, and Cecilia Puga, to name a few. Equally important is the exposure to the rich and multifarious life of this cosmopolitan metropolis by sampling an array of local experiences, including the food, music, and dynamic art scene. To that end we will have the opportunity to visit such landmarks as the National Fine Arts Museum, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the Plaza de La Moneda Cultural Center, recent faculty buildings and libraries designed for the Pontifical Catholic University and the Diego Portales University, progressive housing projects such as Edificio Gen, insightful mix-use developments such as Edificio Cruz de Sur, and the memorable Mestizo Restaurant, to name some of the architectural sites that we will visit during our stay in Chile. Other highlights include a visit to a private winery on the outskirts of Santiago, and to “Open City,” the celebrated experimental architectural project along the Pacific Ocean in Valparaiso, Chile’s second largest city.

The tour will be led by Carlos Jimenez and Stephen Fox, as well as local experts. To secure your reservation, please complete and return the registration form and the terms and conditions document with your deposit. Click here to see the trip’s itinerary. For more information contact Lynn Kelly at 713-256-3244 or

2014 RDA Hometown Tours

San Diego-Tijuana: Architecture at the Edge
January 29 – February 2, 2014
$2,000 pp dbl; $2,510 single occupancy
Registration is closed

Santiago, Chile
June 8 – 14, 2014
Guided by Carlos Jimenez; click here for registration information!

Please join the Rice Design Alliance for a tour of San Diego, guided by architectural historian Stephen Fox with assistance from former RDA President and award-winning landscape architect Jim Burnett. The tour includes four nights in the luxurious US Grant Hotel downtown, dining at the Hotel Del Coronado, George’s on the Cove with its ocean view, and the Prado at Balboa Park, and a crossing into Tijuana, accompanied by Rene Peralta, a native of Tijuana and Director of Master of Science in Landscape Urbanism at Woodbury University in San Diego. To secure your reservation, please complete and return the registration form and the terms and conditions document with your deposit.

San Diego was founded in 1769 as a Franciscan mission to indigenous people and an accompanying Spanish presidio, both named for the Spanish saint, Diego de Alcalá, to whom this territory had earlier been dedicated by Spanish explorers in 1602. The Spanish first visited the area in 1542. San Diego’s original town site (now Old Town San Diego State Park) was developed adjacent to the presidio after 1820. The present downtown, fronting San Diego Bay, was platted by Alonzo R. Horton in 1867 three miles southeast of Old Town’s plaza, nineteen years after Alta California was conquered by the United States. Connected to the national rail grid in 1885, San Diego emerged as a navigational, military, and resort center. One consequence of the railroad boom was the founding of Tijuana, Baja California, in 1889, fourteen miles southeast of downtown San Diego.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, San Diego was home to the proto-modernist architect Irving Gill, whose austere, ingenious buildings provide backdrops for the brilliant sunlight, vegetation, and rugged terrain of the Pacific coast. One hundred years later, innovative young architects in San Diego and Tijuana follow Gill’s do-it-yourself approach, making both cities incubators of exciting trends. Significant works by famed architects (Bertram G. Goodhue in the 1910s, Louis I. Kahn in the 1960s, and Arthur Erickson in the 1980s in San Diego, and Pedro Ramírez Vásquez in Tijuana) enhance the architectural legacy of the sister cities of the Pacific. San Diego (eighth largest city in the US) and Tijuana (fifth largest city in Mexico) today construct architectural culture out of their dissonant contradictions.

An Arc of Portuguese Architecture

RDA Executive Director Linda Sylvan reflects on the RDA Hometown Tour to Lisbon and Oporto, June 17 – 24, 2013

Thirty-nine RDA members began their weeklong tour of Portugal in Lisbon, the country’s resplendent capital by the Tagus River, and concluded their adventure in Oporto, the country’s second metropolis along another great river – the fertile and aromatic Douro. Portuguese architecture is admired the world over for its poetic rigor and exquisite materiality, and local guides joined Rice School of Architecture professor Carlos Jimenez and architectural historian Stephen Fox for a romantic tour of one of Europe’s most visited destinations.

In Lisbon the group stayed in the Hotel do Chiado, designed by Portugal’s great contemporary architect and Pritzker Prize laureate, Alvaro Siza Vieira (1992). The rooftop bar, with its amazing views of the city, became our gathering place.

The view from the bar at Hotel do Chiado.

Our first evening was packed with activities, beginning with a private reception and visit to the medieval castle of Castelo de São Jorge, located atop the highest hill overlooking the Tagus river. João Luís Carrilho da Graça (RDA’s 1994 lecture series participant), a Lisbon architect who restored the grounds to heighten the castle’s layered history while providing new panoramic views of Lisbon, led us through the archeological site, uncovered in 1998. Dinner followed at 1300 Taberna, located in the LX Factory of the Alcantara district. Alcantara dates back to 1846, and is now occupied by creative companies and industry professionals.

Touring the archeological site at the Castle of St. George.

View of Lisbon from the castle.

Dinner at the hip new restaurant 1300 Taberna.

The next two days were spent exploring Lisbon and environs. The esteemed Lisbon architect-about-town Gonçalo Byrne took us on a meandering walk through the Alfama and Chiado neighborhoods. Sites along the way included Byrne’s remodeled headquarters of the Banco de Portugal (2012). We also saw another recent Byrne project, the Teatro Thália (2008) with Patricia Barbas and Diogo Lopes, which is a radical architectural rescue of the architect Fortunato Lodi’s neoclassical theater (1843). Next the group visited the grounds of Expo ’98, an international exposition. Major Portuguese and international architects designed the individual buildings, including the Pavilion of Portugal by Alvaro Siza and the Pavilion of Knowledge of the Seas by João Luís Carrilho de Graça.

Rossio Square, Lisbon.

Gonçalo Byrne's restoration of a neoclassical theater, Teatro Thália (2008).

The Pavilion of Portugal by Alvaro Siza Vieira at the Expo '98.

Just 18 miles west of Lisbon is the town of Cascais, which faces the rio Rejo estuary near the Atlantic coast. Of medieval origin, it was historically a fishing village, but because of its proximity to the mouth of the Tagus river, Cascais became the site of fortifications to control access from the Atlantic to Lisbon. Now a popular resort town, it boasts two cultural sites that we visited, the Casa das Histórias Museu Paula Rego by Portugal’s second Pritzker Prize laureate, Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), and the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, designed by the brothers Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, which entailed the restoration of the lighthouse and several adjacent buildings. They also designed the three tiny buildings on the site to contain museum and visitor spaces. Back in town, tour guest and landscape architect Sarah Lake led a group through the Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira at Benfica. Manuel Aires Mateus later entertained us at a private reception at his home in Lisbon.

Casa das Histórias Museu Paula Rego by Eduardo Souto de Moura (2009).

Interior, Museu Paula Rego.

Restored lighthouse at the Farol Museu de Santa Marta by Aires Mateus, Cascais.

Coincidentally, guests dressed in their sailor striped shirts for the lighthouse tour.

The gardens at the Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira at Benfica.

On the fourth day of the trip, we bid farewell to Lisbon after a must-stop trip to Pasteis de Belém and a visit to the Mosteiro da Santa Maria da Belém, a landmark of Portuguese architecture in the Manueline Gothic style. Then it was off to Oporto on the train, leaving from the modern, multi-level station Gare do Oriente (1998), designed by the Spanish-born Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava.

A sampling of pastries at the Pastéis de Belém.

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (1501-1601) is a landmark of Portuguese architecture.

RDA travelers went by train to Oporto, leaving from Lisbon's Gare do Oriente station.

Oporto is the hometown of Siza and Souto de Moura, and it is a marvelous city of intricate tiled buildings, multiple shades of porto wine, and striking baroque buildings. Among the places we visited were Siza’s birthplace, Matoshinos, and the Siza’s masterful Serralves Foundation Museum, which houses the national museum of modern art of Portugal. The 44-plus-acre site includes an Art Deco pink villa, formal gardens, and beautiful landscapes.

Gallery, the Serralves Foundation Museum, by Alvaro Siza Vieira (1991-1999).

The pink villa of the conde de Vizela is a monument of Portuguese Art Déco architecture that sits on 44 acres of landscaped gardens.

After a tour of the University of Oporto’s architecture school, where Siza designed the complex of his alma mater, the group visited individual works by Souto de Moura, the magnificent baroque church of Los Clerigos, and the Casa da Música designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, an inspired addition to an already rich legacy of singular buildings in the city.

The Casa da Música designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA (1999-2005).

Our tour concluded with a one-day trip to Santiago de Compostela to visit Siza’s masterwork, the Galician Center of Contemporary Art, with a prolonged pause at the city’s incomparable cathedral and pilgrimage site, and the experience of its innumerable granite streets and portals. On our way back to Oporto, we made a last stop at Peter Eisenman’s controversial Ciudad de las Artes.

The city of Santiago de Compostela's famous cathedral and pilgrimage site.

Back in Oporto, we were lucky that our last night coincided with the Festival of São João. After dark, streets were closed to allow celebrations in the many squares throughout the city. Live music, food trucks, fire balloons, and fireworks were abundant. Revelers participated in an interesting tradition with roots in pagan courtship rituals by hitting each other with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers. It was great fun to “get bonked” in this family-friendly celebration. It was a night to remember after a memorable week in the romantic cities of Lisbon and Oporto.

Thanks to our fantastic tour guides Carlos Jimenez, Stephen Fox, and Lynn Kelly! We also thank our photographers, Jay Allison and Hill Swift.

RDA Hometown Tour: Detroit 2013

In May, RDA members made a four-day visit to the Motor City to learn about its glorious past, difficult present, and hopeful future. Planned with the help of Joyce and Larry Lander, both from Michigan, and led by architectural historian Stephen Fox, the tour included a full array of architecture and history of Detroit and its suburbs.

The city seemed to be in sync with our visit – tulips, magnolias, in fact most flowering plants and trees seemed to be in their prime to welcome us. On Thursday, we began our adventure with a tour of the Ford Rouge Plant, where we were privileged to see the world’s largest living roof, which is covered in grasses and succulents and provides energy savings for the factory floor underneath. Of course, a trip to the factory would not be complete without a tour of the assembly line itself, where we saw Ford trucks being created. Several in the group wanted to take one home as a souvenir, but alas, they were not completed by the end of our tour.

We then drove to Woodward Avenue to begin our tour of the inner city. Yes, we passed many empty and boarded-up buildings along the route, but found our way to the Fox Theater (C. Howard Crane, 1928), which is definitely still in full activity. The spectacular art deco theater houses one of only a few Wurlitzer theater organs in the world to remain in its original location. As a surprise treat, our guide was the organist and he gave us an impromptu performance to show off some of the features of this amazing machine.

The Detroit Institute of Arts, “DIA,” (Paul Philippe Cret, 1927) houses significant art collections, including murals by the world-famous artist Diego Rivera. Following a brief tour of the DIA, we set off for a walking tour led by Detroit native Mark Coir to include the Detroit Public Library, Charles Lang Freer House (Wilson Eyer, 1887), and Wayne State University. Thursday ended with a delightful dinner in the historic David Whitney House (Gordon W. Lloyd, 1890).

On Friday, Stephen Fox led the group on a walking tour of downtown showcasing the Art Deco Guardian Building (Wirt C. Rowland, 1929) with its stunning Pewabic tiles, and Washington Avenue among other highlights. After a bus tour of Belle Isle, we were treated to a refreshing lunch at the Detroit Yacht Club, then it was on to a visit to the Grosse Point War Memorial and Alger House (Charles A. Plat, 1910), and then on for a comprehensive tour of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House and Garden (Albert Kahn and Jens Jensen, 1927). This wonderful estate on the shore of lake St. Clair was designed for the young family an remains largely as it was when the family was still in residence there.

Saturday we traveled north on Woodward Avenue for a full day’s adventure at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where the three Wheaton ladies (JoAnne Wheaton, Joyce Wheaton Lander, and Polly JO Wheaton Kemler), all Cranbrook alums, had arranged behind-the-scene tours. Program Presenter Diane VanderBeke Mager led us through the campus with informative commentary on the architecture, art, and history of this bucolic academy. Eliel Saarinen first headed the school and designed many of the buildings that remain today. We toured his family house and the adjacent Millus House, both by Saarinen, and the Natatorium (Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, 1999), the Cranbrook Art Museum (Eliel Saarinen and Albert Kahn, 1926) and the Kingswood Campus. Our last stop of the day was the Smith House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1946).

Our last morning in Detroit included a tour of Lafayette Park (Mies van der Rohe, 1946), one of the largest residential projects of van der Rohe. In four days, we of course didn’t see it all, but we had visited a wonderful assortment of architecture – from classical to modern, intimate to grand, and institutional to private. The Detroit we found was a place of a proud past and a struggling present, but we left with a sense of hope for what might be ahead. The tour dates were May 2 – 5, 2013.

Motown Rocks: The Architecture of Detroit and its Suburbs

In May, RDA members will make a four day visit to the Motor City to learn about its glorious past, difficult present, and hopeful future. The tour will include both the inner city and the suburbs, including Grosse Pointe, Bloomfield Hills, and an entire day exploring and touring the Cranbrook Campus. As always, the RDA will have insider access to important buildings and private residences.

Architectural historian Stephen Fox along with local architects and designers will serve as guides. The tour dates are May 2 – 5, 2013.

To secure your reservation, please complete and return the reservation form and the Terms and Conditions document with your deposit.

From Lisbon to Oporto: An Arc of Portuguese Architecture

$3,750 pp dbl; $4,350 single occupancy

June 17 – 24, 2013, RDA members will embark on a seven-day visit to Portugal. The tour begins in Lisbon, Portugal’s resplendent capital by the Taugus River, and concludes in Oporto, the country’s second metropolis along another great river: the fertile and aromatic Douro. Portugal and Spain recovered their democracies almost simultaneously after enduring long and hard dictatorships. Since then the country’s architecture has flourished under the benefits and perils brought on by this newfound freedom as well as by joining the European Union. The result is an architecture admired the world over for its poetic rigor and exquisite materiality.

The tour will include visits to key works by the country’s two Pritzker Prize laureates, Alvaro Siza (1992) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), as well as works by other notable Portuguese architects such as Joao Carrilho da Graca (RDA’s 1994 lecture series participant), Aires Mateus, and Gonzalo Byrne. Highlights during our stay in Lisbon will cover such remarkable works as the Portuguese Expo Pavilion and the Chiado reconstructions by Siza; the astonishing Jeronimos Monastery in Belem; a visit to the mythical castle of San Jorge with Carrilho da Graca who restored the grounds to heighten the castle’s layered history while providing new panoramic views of Lisbon; and a meandering walk through the Alfama and Chiado neighborhoods accompanied by the esteemed Lisbon architect about town Gonzalo Byrne.

We will travel northward by train to Oporto, Siza and Souto de Moura’s hometown, marvelous city of intricate tiled buildings, multiple shades of porto wine, and striking baroque buildings. Among the buildings that we will visit are Siza’s masterful Serralves Foundation Museum, the Boa Nova Tea House, the architect’s first major work in Matosinhos, individual works by Souto de Moura, the magnificent baroque church of Los Clerigos, and the Casa da Musica designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, an inspired addition to an already rich legacy of singular buildings in the city. Our tour concludes with a one day trip to Santiago de Compostela to visit Siza’s masterwork: the Galician Center of Contemporary Art with a prolonged pause at the city’s incomparable cathedral and the experience of its innumerable granite streets and portals.

Rice Architecture professor Carlos Jimenez, along with local architects and personalities will serve as guides.

To secure your reservation, please complete and return the reservation form and the terms and conditions document with your deposit.