September 10, 2019
Group photo of RDA Rice Architecture and Mitsui representatives
L to R: Ashley Tagle, Maria Nicanor, John J. Casbarian, Yasushi Kokaze, Sandra Kenny, Katheryn DeRouen, Emily Stein, and Namie Smith.

Rice Design Alliance is set to advance design solutions for Houston through the launch of the Houston Design Research Grant, thanks to a generous gift from The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. (“Mitsui USA”).

The goal of the grant is to promote research on Houston-specific urban conditions that need urgent attention and that can make a significant contribution to the Houston community through quality design-thinking.

“Houston is an incredible laboratory for some of the most urgent urban conditions that cities around the country are facing. By encouraging urban research specifically focusing on some apparently local issues, we believe we will be generating valuable knowledge and design-oriented solutions to a variety of topics of interest to our community and others nationwide,” said Rice Design Alliance Executive Director Maria Nicanor.

“By fostering innovative research, Rice Design Alliance promotes urban design solutions that will benefit the Houston community. We are extremely pleased that The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation is supporting these efforts through the establishment of RDA’s Houston Design Research Grant, and we hope the ideas generated through this important initiative will have a positive impact in Houston and beyond,” said Katsurao Yoshimori, president & CEO of The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation.

Applications will open nationally in January 2020 to all university students and faculty working on research projects of relevance to Houston’s urban environment, with a winner from each of the two categories announced at the end of April, during the annual Rice Architecture Awards Ceremony.

Areas of study should have a critical focus on Houston’s built environment, its history, present condition, and future development. While addressing local conditions of Houston and its region, the proposals should be able to provide context and draw connections with other global trends in urbanism, design, and architectural thinking.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone at The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation, not only for their generous gift but for their commitment to making the greater Houston area a better and more livable place through their support of urban research,” said John J. Casbarian, interim dean of Rice Architecture and the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture.

Submitted applications will be reviewed by a jury of five to seven members comprised of a diverse mix of individuals representing the community, academia, city governance, and local and international experts and practitioners in the fields connected to architecture, design, and engineering.

The Houston Design Research Grant will provide seed funds for research to a proposal of quality that demonstrates potential to catalyze a Houston-based design project. In addition to funding, the winning proposal from each category will be published in Cite magazine, and the winners will present their projects at a lecture at Rice Architecture.

Established in 1987, The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc., for active, social contribution programs in communities where the company does business. Currently, it 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 about the Houston Design Research Grant will be available on when applications open in January.

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 and work from within 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 a group of faculty and civic-minded community members who believed that quality design thinking should be available to all in our community and that Houston’s citizen’s – experts and non-experts alike – should feel empowered to act and transform our city through design.