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Littlefield home
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12 gorgeous buildings to explore on the UT campus

New ways of seeing the school’s rich artistic and architectural legacy

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Littlefield home
| @temple_plaza

The University of Texas at Austin has a famously beautiful campus, so to pick 12 of the university’s most beautiful buildings is merely to sample what is really a deep pool of world-class architecture, one that reflects the contemporary design trends and the needs of the university since it was founded in 1883.

(Note: If you love architectural details the way I love architectural details, check out @temple_plaza for photos galore.)

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Littlefield Home

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This picture-book Victorian home was built in 1893 for UT benefactor Major George Littlefield and his family and was left to the university in 1935 after the death of George’s wife, Alice. The story isn’t always pretty though—as Edmund Gordon, founding chair of UT’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, points out in his Racial Geography Tour of campus. A 2012 Daily Texan column, “Building from the University’s racist past,” reminds us that Littlefield was “a Mississippi slave owner and Confederate major who attempted to rewrite the University’s textbooks from a ‘confederate perspective.’” 

Mary E. Gearing Hall

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A winner from architect Paul Cret, who designed the campus’s master plan. Completed in 1933 as part of the “women’s campus,” Gearing Hall has been the location of the home economics department, later renamed the School of Human Ecology, ever since. A shady, covered patio on the south side gives this building an appropriately domestic feel and provides a great view of the UT Tower through the stunning, wrought-iron courtyard gates. 

Texas Memorial Museum

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This Art Deco jewel box of a building was also designed by the ever-tasteful Paul Cret. Fun fact #1: In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in Texas campaigning and set off the dynamite for the groundbreaking of the museum. Fun fact #2: The museum’s Great Hall houses a pterosaur skeleton with a wingspan of 36 feet. 

Dorothy L. Gebauer Building

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Gebauer opened in 1904 and holds the title of oldest academic building on campus. From 1932 to 1952, it was home to the journalism school where distinguished alumni Liz Carpenter, Walter Cronkite, and Liz Smith honed their writing skills as members of The Daily Texan staff.

UT Tower (Main Building)

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When Beaux-Arts-educated architect Paul Cret submitted his master plan for the campus in 1933, his design for the tower was literally and thematically at the center of it all. And now, the tower is easily UT’s most iconic building. Fun fact: Five ancient writing systems are represented on the sides of the tower: Egyptian hieroglyphics plus the Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets.

LBJ Presidential Library

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Designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and completed in 1971, the LBJ Library is a modernist fortress on the east edge of campus. Enormous in scale, with its monumental, wind-swept terrace, epic staircase, and gorgeous skin of travertine, this is a presidential library with no shortage of drama. Fun facts: LBJ’s presidential limousine is on display in the lobby, and the museum has a 7/8th-scale replica of the Oval Office.

Gregory Gymnasium

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Florentine Renaissance Revival? I’m just taking a guess here. But I love the pink iron gates, the Juliet balconies, the herringbone brickwork, and the gorgeous iron trusses. And you know what? The squirrels seem to love it too. Some of the best squirrel watching is available on the shaded picnic tables out front. (What? You say that you can’t get enough of the UT squirrels? Check out @squirrels.of.ut on Instagram.)

Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

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Driving a Fiat at night by Memorial Stadium while listening to Nino Rota is the closest Austinites will get to living La Dolce Vita without traveling to Rome. Our very own “Colosseum,” though not beautiful from every angle, has a gargantuan scale, both inside and out, that is difficult to believe, even when it’s right in front of you.

The Perry-Castañeda Library

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Brutal is beautiful, right? Especially when you approach these two monoliths from the massive, elevated pedestrian bridge that crosses 21st Street. The courtyard in front of the Perry-Castañeda Library is a great place for grackle watching, and the University Teaching Center has an outdoor escalator.

Ellsworth Kelly's ‘Austin’

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Located on the grounds of the Blanton Museum, Austin is the only building that renowned American painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly designed. He gifted the design to the Blanton in 2015 and, after funding and construction, it officially opened in February 2018. Although it feels quite a bit like a chapel, Kelly did not intend Austin to be religious.

Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall/The University of Texas System

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This neoclassical bright spot at Seventh and Lavaca street, a bit south of campus, was originally built as the seventh U.S. Post Office location in Austin. In 1965, the federal government gave the building to the University of Texas System, and it was named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. The entire block is currently being redeveloped, but CTJ Hall still stands and will be renovated as part of the project. Although the UT Systems administrative offices have moved out of the building, the inscription on the entablature still reads “The University of Texas.”

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Lady Bird once said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope”—a thought that syncs perfectly with the wildflower center’s mission to inspire the conservation of native plants and promote sustainable landscapes. That said, the sandstone building complex is super-sweet and full of drama-worthy spaces (Pretend you’re Hamlet and deliver your soliloquy from the Observation Tower—or channel your inner Ophelia and wander through the haunting arcades of the aqueduct). The center is about a 10-mile drive south of downtown Austin.

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Littlefield Home

This picture-book Victorian home was built in 1893 for UT benefactor Major George Littlefield and his family and was left to the university in 1935 after the death of George’s wife, Alice. The story isn’t always pretty though—as Edmund Gordon, founding chair of UT’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, points out in his Racial Geography Tour of campus. A 2012 Daily Texan column, “Building from the University’s racist past,” reminds us that Littlefield was “a Mississippi slave owner and Confederate major who attempted to rewrite the University’s textbooks from a ‘confederate perspective.’” 

Mary E. Gearing Hall

A winner from architect Paul Cret, who designed the campus’s master plan. Completed in 1933 as part of the “women’s campus,” Gearing Hall has been the location of the home economics department, later renamed the School of Human Ecology, ever since. A shady, covered patio on the south side gives this building an appropriately domestic feel and provides a great view of the UT Tower through the stunning, wrought-iron courtyard gates. 

Texas Memorial Museum

This Art Deco jewel box of a building was also designed by the ever-tasteful Paul Cret. Fun fact #1: In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in Texas campaigning and set off the dynamite for the groundbreaking of the museum. Fun fact #2: The museum’s Great Hall houses a pterosaur skeleton with a wingspan of 36 feet. 

Dorothy L. Gebauer Building

Gebauer opened in 1904 and holds the title of oldest academic building on campus. From 1932 to 1952, it was home to the journalism school where distinguished alumni Liz Carpenter, Walter Cronkite, and Liz Smith honed their writing skills as members of The Daily Texan staff.

UT Tower (Main Building)

When Beaux-Arts-educated architect Paul Cret submitted his master plan for the campus in 1933, his design for the tower was literally and thematically at the center of it all. And now, the tower is easily UT’s most iconic building. Fun fact: Five ancient writing systems are represented on the sides of the tower: Egyptian hieroglyphics plus the Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets.

LBJ Presidential Library

Designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and completed in 1971, the LBJ Library is a modernist fortress on the east edge of campus. Enormous in scale, with its monumental, wind-swept terrace, epic staircase, and gorgeous skin of travertine, this is a presidential library with no shortage of drama. Fun facts: LBJ’s presidential limousine is on display in the lobby, and the museum has a 7/8th-scale replica of the Oval Office.

Gregory Gymnasium

Florentine Renaissance Revival? I’m just taking a guess here. But I love the pink iron gates, the Juliet balconies, the herringbone brickwork, and the gorgeous iron trusses. And you know what? The squirrels seem to love it too. Some of the best squirrel watching is available on the shaded picnic tables out front. (What? You say that you can’t get enough of the UT squirrels? Check out @squirrels.of.ut on Instagram.)

Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

Driving a Fiat at night by Memorial Stadium while listening to Nino Rota is the closest Austinites will get to living La Dolce Vita without traveling to Rome. Our very own “Colosseum,” though not beautiful from every angle, has a gargantuan scale, both inside and out, that is difficult to believe, even when it’s right in front of you.

The Perry-Castañeda Library

Brutal is beautiful, right? Especially when you approach these two monoliths from the massive, elevated pedestrian bridge that crosses 21st Street. The courtyard in front of the Perry-Castañeda Library is a great place for grackle watching, and the University Teaching Center has an outdoor escalator.

Ellsworth Kelly's ‘Austin’

Located on the grounds of the Blanton Museum, Austin is the only building that renowned American painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly designed. He gifted the design to the Blanton in 2015 and, after funding and construction, it officially opened in February 2018. Although it feels quite a bit like a chapel, Kelly did not intend Austin to be religious.

Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall/The University of Texas System

This neoclassical bright spot at Seventh and Lavaca street, a bit south of campus, was originally built as the seventh U.S. Post Office location in Austin. In 1965, the federal government gave the building to the University of Texas System, and it was named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. The entire block is currently being redeveloped, but CTJ Hall still stands and will be renovated as part of the project. Although the UT Systems administrative offices have moved out of the building, the inscription on the entablature still reads “The University of Texas.”

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird once said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope”—a thought that syncs perfectly with the wildflower center’s mission to inspire the conservation of native plants and promote sustainable landscapes. That said, the sandstone building complex is super-sweet and full of drama-worthy spaces (Pretend you’re Hamlet and deliver your soliloquy from the Observation Tower—or channel your inner Ophelia and wander through the haunting arcades of the aqueduct). The center is about a 10-mile drive south of downtown Austin.