April 28, 2022

University of Houston Gerald Hines College of Architecture and Design Adjunct Faculty Member Daniel Jacobs and Rice Architecture Assistant Professor Brittany Utting, along with Rice Architecture student Rae Atkinson (M.Arch. ‘24) have been named the winners of the Houston Design Research Grant 2022, awarded by the Rice Design Alliance (RDA), the community engagement arm of Rice Architecture.

Each winner will receive research seed funds in the amount of $6,000. In addition to funding aid, 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


From L to R: University of Houston Gerald Hines College of Architecture and Design Adjunct Faculty Member Daniel Jacobs and Rice Architecture Assistant Professor Brittany Utting. Image: Yojairo Lomeli

Rae Atkinson Headshot.jpg

Rice Architecture student Rae Atkinson (M.Arch. ‘24). Image: Jacki Schaefer

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. This year, applicants explored a range of topics that focused on Houston’s architecture, its history, present condition, and future development. 

The two winning proposals were selected from nineteen entries from ten different universities, which included seven faculty submissions and twelve student ones. This is a record number of applications so far, representing schools such as Harvard Graduate School of Design, Pratt, Rice University, Stanford University, Texas A&M, The Ohio State University, Tulane University, University at Buffalo, University of Houston, and University of Virginia

“I am delighted that the Houston Design Research Grant gained such broad relevance and participation and I am grateful to all the applicants for their enthusiasm and insights,” said Igor Marjanović, the William Ward Watkin Dean of Rice Architecture. “The broad reach of the grant is yet another testament that the local issues here in Houston are relevant globally, such as flooding, climate crisis and rapid urbanization. With its diverse population, Houston also captures the beauty, richness and potential of a new multicultural world—an optimistic premise that too is reflected in this year’s proposals.”

The winners were selected by a four-member jury that included Amna Ansari, Founding Partner, Associates UltraBarrio; Margaret Wallace Brown, Director, City of Houston's Planning & Development Department; Daimian S. Hines, Founder and Principal, Hines Architecture + Design; Igor Marjanović, William Ward Watkin Dean, Rice Architecture; Ikhlas Sabouni, Dean of Architecture, Prairie View A&M University.

In the faculty category, Jacobs and Utting, who co-founded the architecture research and design practice HOME OFFICE, explore in their proposal, “HOUSTON-VARIATIONS,'' designing new typological variations for the city that adapt to Houston’s evolving urban and ecological conditions. 

Juror Amna Ansari said of Jacob and Utting’s winning research proposal, “In Houston, we often discuss the compound effect of mobility and the saturated ground - however, it could be productive to consider Houston's past climate balanced structures and their resilience to inform how the Bayou City builds its future. In the context in which climate, ecology and urbanization are shaping the future, Houston stands to benefit from critical proposals like this one - which intends to reveal and recast Houston’s built environment through demands of weather and economy.”



HOUSTON-VARIATIONS - Courtyard Typologies, drawing by HOME-OFFICE


HOUSTON-VARIATIONS - Office Mat (2701 Fannin St), credit: Sean Fleming




HOUSTON-VARIATIONS - Sport Court (Eastwood Park), credit: Sean Fleming


The winning student proposal by Atkinson, “Carless Garages, Careless Spaces”, questions the front-loaded garage as a default response to parking and storage needs for single-family homes. Atkinson aims to provide empirical evidence of market support for single-family housing typologies that do not foreground the garage and to illustrate housing strategies that would better serve the needs of the market.

Juror Margaret Wallace Brown said this of Atkinson’s winning proposal, “I believe that Rae Atkinson’s proposal is both ground-breaking and timely. She recognizes the paradox that by the city requiring off-street parking for individual homes, it is sacrificing its public realm to provide a private property with space, that more often than not, it doesn’t actually need. As we struggle to provide more opportunities to build homes at affordable rates, it seems folly for the city to require property to be set aside for parking that becomes storage. Her research will provide data that will help reset the City’s requirements for residential parking.”


Feagan St.jpg

A block of Feagan Street in Houston’s Rice Military neighborhood. Driveway crossings take up roughly half of the length of the sidewalk. (Source: Google Earth)


Hazard Townhomes.jpg

Townhomes on Hazard Street in Montrose. Driveways are too short to park cars, but curb cuts prevent on-street parking. (Image: Rae Atkinson)



Aesthetic preference Sketch2.png

Hand-drawn mock-up of image choices for an Aesthetic Preference Survey. Images in the actual survey will be rendered in a realistic style, and constructed to keep all variables constant aside from those related to garages.


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.