Rice University Kraft Hall for Social Sciences

Rice University Kraft Hall for Social Sciences

Rice University has grown from the rural setting of its 19th century founding to become the urban campus it is today. Houston’s parallel growth and the development of the adjacent Texas Medical Center have required future plans to look inward rather than outward. The South Axis, with the 80,000 sqft Kraft Hall for Social Sciences as its first new building, was envisioned as an opportunity to implement more efficient land-use strategies. This new home for the School of Social Sciences combines multiple research institutes in one building to serve the largest section of the University’s undergraduate population. The new facility houses Rice's Economics and Sociology departments, four research institutes, the Dean's Suite, and innovative classrooms and collaboration and event spaces for students, faculty, and visitors. 


Higher Education, Institutional, Non-profit, 
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Rice University Kraft Hall Aerial
Rice University Kraft Hall Gateway

As the first building on a new formal axis of the expanding campus, the School of Social Sciences serves as a physical and intellectual hinge, creating a new policy corridor in concert with the Graduate School of Business and the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

An in-depth study of Rice campus typologies informed the design of diverse and flexible spaces for students and faculty that fit within the overall campus context. The ground floor emphasizes transparency, but also echoes the human-scale detailing of historic campus buildings. 

The departments and the institutes housed in Kraft Hall were previously spread across the campus; the new building was an opportunity to bring them together to foster creative collaboration. Informal spaces are clustered around stairways and circulation routes to foster impromptu meetings.

The project’s landscapes are planted with native gulf coast plants that provide habitat for local fauna while offering seasonal interest from wildflower blooms. The deep roots of the selected native plants retain stormwater and reduce irrigation demands – demonstrating adaptation for both flood and drought. 

Rice University Kraft Hall Courtyard
Rice University Kraft Hall Stair