In 1972 the Rice Design Alliance (RDA) was organized by a small group of academicians and civic-minded community members under the leadership of David A. Crane, then dean of the Rice School of Architecture. Since its founding 37 years ago, RDA has grown to more than 2,300 members and has emerged as the preeminent public forum in Houston for critique, programming, and discussion of design and the built environment.
RDA has brought to Houston leading designers, critics, theorists, and planners through its educational programs and quarterly publication, Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, which has been published continuously since 1982.
RDA’s program offerings continue to evolve and grow. The annual fall and spring lecture series, residential architecture tours, and presentations by architects has increased to include two or three forums on topics of civic importance, city architecture study tours, and the Sally Walsh Lecture with the Architecture Center Houston Foundation. RDA also offers four issues of Cite a year, a charrette to tackle an urban problem, a grant program, and design competitions. RDA has organized four national competitions, two of which have resulted in significant civic improvements for downtown Houston (Sesquicentennial Park, 1985) and Hermann Park (Heart of the Park, 1992).
In 2008, RDA, AIA Houston, and the Architecture Center Houston Foundation sponsored the 99K House Competition for an affordable, sustainable house that attracted 182 entries from 29 states and 16 countries. The winning design has been built on a donated lot in Houston’s Fifth Ward, a working-class neighborhood, and will serve as a prototype for affordable house design. An RDA charrette in the same year called for a bridge to unite segments of Memorial Park and resulted in a plan that the Memorial Park Conservancy has begun to build.
Primary support for programs and Cite comes from the annual RDA gala fundraising event and from corporate and individual memberships, open to the public at contribution levels from $15 to $1,500. Additional support comes from grants awarded by public funding agencies and private foundations, including the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment Inc., the Susan Vaughn Foundation, the Texas Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year RDA raised more than $1.3 million and established an endowment.