March 3, 2020
L to R: Andrew Albers, OJB Landscape Architecture; Jonathan Brinsden, Midway; Margaret Wallace Brown, City of Houston's Planning & Development Department;  John J. Casbarian, Rice Architecture; Maria Nicanor, RDA, and Jesús Vassallo, Rice Architecture.
L to R: Andrew Albers, OJB Landscape Architecture; Jonathan Brinsden, Midway; Margaret Wallace Brown, City of Houston's Planning & Development Department; John J. Casbarian, Rice Architecture; Maria Nicanor, RDA; and Jesús Vassallo, Rice Architecture.

HOUSTON – March 3, 2020 – Rice Design Alliance is pleased to announce the jury for the Houston Design Research Grant. The grant is open nationally (deadline extended to April 15) to university students and faculty looking to work on research projects that contribute to the improvement of Houston’s urban environment.

The six-member jury meets early April to select two winning applicants, who will receive $6,000 each for the student and faculty categories and will be invited to present their project at a public lunchtime lecture at Rice Architecture and to publish their research in Cite magazine. Winners will be announced April 30 during the Rice Architecture Annual Awards Ceremony.  

This year’s jury includes expertise from a variety of fields ranging from academia, architecture, city planning, real estate, and development:

Andrew Albers, AIA, Vice President, OJB Landscape Architecture; Vice President, RDA; and Lecturer, Rice Architecture. 

Andrew Albers is a Vice President at OJB Landscape Architecture. While at OJB, Albers has had the opportunity to work on many notable landscapes, including the ASLA National Honor Award-winning Brochstein Pavilion and Central Quad at Rice University. A past recipient of the AIA Ben Brewer Young Architect Award, Albers brings his understanding of site, landscape, and architecture to his professional work as well as his engagements with the community. Albers is a lecturer at Rice Architecture and serves as Vice President of RDA.

Jonathan Brinsden, CEO Midway. 

Jonathan Brinsden serves as chief executive officer of Midway, a Houston-based real estate and investment firm. Brinsden guides the company's overall business strategy and operations and is a member of Midway’s leadership team and investment committee.

Margaret Wallace Brown, Director, City of Houston's Planning & Development Department.
Margaret Wallace Brown oversees the City’s regional and community-based planning efforts, including land-development standards and neighborhood character preservation programs such as historic preservation. She also leads the strategic transportation planning and community planning efforts, including the Mayor’s signature Complete Communities Initiative.

John J. Casbarian, Interim Dean and the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture, Rice Architecture. 

John J. Casbarian, FAIA, is the interim dean and the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith professor, director of External Programs, founding director of RSAP, and dean emeritus at Rice Architecture, where, since 1973, he has taught design and design theory at both undergraduate and graduate levels. In 1973, he founded, with his partners, Danny Samuels, FAIA, and the late Robert H. Timme, FAIA, the internationally recognized design firm, Taft Architects.

Maria Nicanor, Executive Director, Rice Design Alliance.

Maria Nicanor is an architecture curator and architectural historian with an interest in the ways that cities and people interact through the lens of design. She is currently the executive director of Rice Design Alliance. Formerly, she was the inaugural director of the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid. Nicanor has been a curator at the Design, Architecture, and Digital Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and between 2006 and 2014 was the associate curator of Architecture and Urbanism at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she was also a curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab project. 

Jesús Vassallo, Gus Wortham Assistant Professor, Rice Architecture.

Jesús Vassallo is a Spanish architect and writer, and currently an assistant professor at Rice University. His work focuses on the problem of realism in architecture through the production of design and scholarship. Vassallo recently opened his own design practice in Houston, where he has focused on a series of projects that study the relationship between architectural form and urban space through a focus on housing.

The Houston Design Research Grant is made possible thanks to a generous gift from The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. (“Mitsui USA”).

Established in 1987, The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation currently supports more than 50 initiatives across the US in the areas of Education, Community Welfare, Arts and Culture, and Employee Matching and Volunteerism.

More information and the grant application form are available here.

About RDA

Rice Design Alliance is the public programs and outreach arm of Rice Architecture. We curate public programs, architecture tours, design competitions and publications that communicate the importance of design in our everyday lives and its ability to make our lives better. We are based at and work from the Rice Architecture school as an advocacy group that believes that multidisciplinary and research-based design can improve our cities and the way we live in them. 

RDA was established within Rice Architecture in 1972 by the school's first dean, David Crane, together with alumni and other civic-minded community members who believed that quality design thinking should be available to all in our community and that Houston’s citizens – experts and non-experts alike – should feel empowered to act and transform our city through design. 

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