On a typical morning of Leaders Breakfast, attendees listen to an individual at the podium accepting the Leadership Award of Excellence. The honors are usually bestowed upon someone described as a trailblazer who has paved a way within the design community. But this year, IIDA Leaders Breakfast Houston has decided not to give the award to an individual, but to an organization that is a recognizable force within their community. The IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter has selected the Rice Design Alliance (RDA) as this year’s recipient. Chosen for their community outreach in advancing architecture, urban design, and the built environment throughout the Houston region, the chapter’s values on education and the future of the design community align with RDA’s values; the chapter cites RDA’s diverse membership involvement for anyone interested in design and their educational programming as the main reason for receiving the honor.
RDA was formed in 1972 by a small group of academicians, Rice School of Architecture alumni and civic-minded citizens under the leadership of David Crane, FAIA. Since then, RDA has emerged as the preeminent public forum in Houston for conversation and programming of design and the built environment. Its membership has grown in the thousands and includes those in the design communities, as well as those who have a personal interest in architecture and urban planning. The association embraces diverse people, professions, and points of view within their organization.
RDA is a forerunner in sponsoring lectures, symposiums, architecture tours, grant competitions, and national design competitions, to name a few. With education being the cornerstone of RDA, their civic forums are a vehicle for examining issues that affect Houstonians and the city. These discussions allow the public to gather information about current issues and to join the dialogue with experts. Along with their rich programming, their 33-year-old publication, Cite: The Architecture + Design Review is one of their most recognizable contributions to the community. The publication has been the only consistent voice of architectural criticism in Houston and one of the few sources for thoughtful, well-researched analysis in architecture, design, and infrastructure.
Keeping up with the importance of education and the future of Houston, RDA formed rdAGENTS, RDA’s young professional group. Each August, the rdAGENTS host an all-day design charette where architects and designers propose solutions to community issues. On a somewhat smaller scale, the design charettes sponsored by dAGENTS also bring lasting improvements to public spaces and provide opportunities for collaboration.
With the same educational values as RDA, the Texas Oklahoma Chapter understands the importance of educating and involving the youth of the cities. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast organizations to do so, the chapter delivers all profits from the Breakfast to the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund. So far the chapter has raised over $125,000 from Leaders Breakfast profits to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships worth $4,000 each and one study abroad scholarship also worth $4,000. To date, the fund has awarded students in the interior design field over 32 scholarships totaling $100,000. The Texas Oklahoma Chapter also pays for students to attend their annual Student Conference and celebrated its fifteenth one this year.
This year, the chapter introduced a Special Initiatives Grant to support faculty and students by providing funding resources in three categories: research, educational experience, and educational tools. Up to $3,000 will be awarded from this grant.