Peter Rice
born  16th June 1935, Dublin, Ireland
died  25th October 1992, London, UK
buried  Berwick St John, Wiltshire, UK
era  Modern
Written by Ruby Kitching, Jane Joyce and Mark Whitby
Irish-born Peter Rice was one of the most imaginative and gifted structural engineers of the late 20th century. He was much loved by the architects with whom he collaborated, and together they achieved some of the most adventurous and technically ingenious buildings of the period.
Rice's extraordinary career was founded on his skills in geometry, analysis and computer programming, which he developed while working on his first major assignment, the roofs of the Sydney Opera House. He went on to discover a deep appreciation for materials while working on the project for which he is perhaps most-widely known, Centre Georges Pompidou.
As a graduate, he joined Ove Arup & Partners in London (founded by Ove Arup) at a time when it was relatively small, and stayed with the practice for his entire career. He became a senior partner and his work helped Arup, as it is now called, attain the impressive reputation and influence it has today. And he was given the unusual freedom to form other working partnerships, which he did with architect Renzo Piano (Piano & Rice Associates) and later with Martin Francis and Ian Ritchie in specialist engineering and architectural consultancy, Rice Francis Ritchie (RFR).
The long list of significant buildings for which his rigorous approach created poetic results includes a series of industry-challenging investigations of structural form and the possibilities of various materials — concrete at Lloyd's of London, glass at Les Serres at La Villette, ferro-cement and ductile iron at the Menil Collection Museum, and stone at the Pabellón del Futuro, Expo '92, to name a few. The structural glass cable support system he developed with RFR is now industry standard.
Rice was more than an engineering genius — he was also a humanist. Passionate, tireless and eloquent, he was fond of poetry, philosophy, mathematics, horse racing, football, France, wild flowers, wine and Talisker whiskey ... "perhaps, the James Joyce of engineering" suggested Jonathan Glancey (The Independent, 1992).
"I guess it's obvious that Peter is a national treasure ... Just to be around him makes you want to think, think as hard as you can." Frank Stella, California 1992
All items by Peter Rice  •  Everything built ... 1935 - 1992
main reference  AEI
portrait of Peter Rice  courtesy Arup

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Peter Rice
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Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Architect: Rogers & Piano
Photo: courtesy Arup
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An Arup film about Peter Rice, made in 2012 to accompany the Arup exhibition Traces of Peter Rice
film: Arup