Community Workspace

The following project outlines a concept design proposal for the new headquarters of the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in Houston, Texas. This design work, funded by a faculty summer research grant, established a unique synergy between the Rice School of Architecture, the architecture design studio Agency-Agency, and the local leadership of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is an organization dedicated to community service and social empowerment; the goal of the project to provide a clear and considered architectural solution to strengthen this mission in situ. One primary concern was ensuring that the building satisfied programmatic needs while creating a safe and welcoming environment for all its constituents. To address this issue, our team sought to reorganize the program based on ideas of “open” and “closed” community and office spaces. Not only did this make open work spaces more publicly available, it also helped generate different levels of privacy for members who often deal with highly sensitive information.

The design maintains a vertical connection between three floors, which would encourage a relationship between the user and the activities within the building. This transparency was important in ensuring that the institution felt accessible. To further develop this sense of approachability, special attention was given to materials and colors that appealed to kids. The building exterior is painted stucco, an idea inspired by Michael Maltzan’s New Carver Apartments in Los Angeles. This palette offers a fun and playful element to the project and is suitable for the warm weather of Houston.

In order for BBBS to increase its visibility and impact, the building also needed a strong presence within Houston. As a result, orientation and view corridors informed the project’s overall massing. Situated on the northeast side of downtown, the site sits very close to Interstate 45. This commuter route was treated as a possibility for creating an architectural “billboard.” By switching the pitch of the roof at the yellow wall dividing the open and closed sections of the building, a wedge of signage is revealed to the highway – a surface from which the favorite BBBS slogan, “Start Something” could resonate throughout the city.

Collaborator: Liz Stanfel
Supervisor: Tei Carpenter