Founded in 1881 and opening its doors two years later, the University of Texas is filled with history and curiosities. Although the university is nothing if not modern in its educational efforts, the architecture that has popped up throughout its Austin campus is as varied as it is beautiful. Here is a brief architectural tour of the University of Texas at Austin.
The Blanton Museum of Art is one of the most prominent university art museums in the United States. Founded in 1963, the museum holds the largest public collection in Central Texas, consisting of two building complexes filled with modern and contemporary art, Latin American art, prints and drawings from Europe and more. The museum’s architecture itself is visually appealing, and in 2012, it was voted by the readers of TheAustin Chronicle as the best museum in the city. Entry costs $9 for adults and $5 for students; children under 12 go free.
Nestled inside Battle Hall is the Architecture and Planning Library, a nationally recognized architectural research center on campus. Containing more than 20,000 volumes of rare, unique and contextually significant publications, it is considered one of the collections of distinction of the University of Texas Libraries. Besides its contents, the library is noteworthy for its grandiose appearance. To access the library, visitors walk up a spiral staircase before finding themselves in an airy reading room with wood rafter beams criss-crossing the ceilings to buttress the walls. Lit mostly by natural light, the deep mahogany of the wooden decorative access gleams in a way that makes visitors feel instantly welcome.
Right smack in front of the iconic UT tower is the Littlefield Fountain. This World War I memorial is a monument designed by Italian-born sculptor Pompeo Coppini. The fountain has been in operation since 1933 and was named after university regent and benefactor George W Littlefield, whose donation paid for its design and construction. Expect to see students sticking their feet in on hot summer days and many graduation photos being taken in front of this picturesque piece. Also, if they accidentally leave the fountain on during a frozen winter evening, the result is a beautiful formation of ice crystals that you won’t want to miss.
The Harry Ransom Center is an archive, library and museum that specializes in literary and cultural artefacts from the USA and Europe. Used by students and the public, it houses 36 million literary manuscripts, one million rare books, five million photographs and more than 100,000 works of art, including the very first photograph ever taken and a Gutenberg Bible. The exterior of the building is an impressive fortress that hints at a well-kept secret within the walls.
Goldsmith Hall serves as one of the primary buildings for students in the School of Architecture. The building is noteworthy in its own right, but tucked away on the backside is a little, balanced courtyard that is reminiscent of Neoclassical architecture. With stone paths that are corralled by palm trees planted equidistant from one another, you can’t help but get the feeling that each step is taking you closer to your grand entrance.
Since opening in 1924, the University of Texas football stadium has been expanded several times. Today it can hold 100,000 people, and in 2018 it hosted a school record by hosting 103,507 spectators for a game against the University of Southern California. Outside of the playing field, the stadium is known for its state-of-the-art gym and is continuously filled with students, and not just on game day, as the facility functions as another place to hold classes.
One of the main architectural attractions on campus is the University of Texas Tower. Designed by French architect Paul Cret, the 307-foot (94-metre) tower was completed in 1937 with the initial purpose of housing the university’s book stacks. Patrons searched a card catalogue for the books they needed and requested their selections from the front desk. From there, orders were sent up to the Tower librarian, who often wore roller skates to navigate the rows of book shelves, and then sent down the books via a dumb waiter. As student enrolment and the library’s archives grew, the wait time to check out a book rose to more than 30 minutes. The school then moved its collection to various open-stack libraries as the Main Building now houses administrative services and the tower represents a symbol of academic excellence. At the top of the tower is the state’s largest carillon, which contains 56 bells that chime daily. The tower can also be lit up in orange and white, the school’s colors, for various celebrations or observances.