Welcome to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas—home to the Hilltoppers, Topper the Goat, and some seriously world-class architecture!Read More
The overlooked architectural gems of St. Edward’s University
World-class work by renowned figures from far away and close to home
Planted upon the hilltop and holding court with its soaring limestone tower, the Main Building at St. Edward’s University has been, quite literally, the South Austin skyline for well over a century. Gothic Revival never seems to go out of style, so with some recent tasteful renovations, the Main Building remains crisp and welcoming. When you visit, do not miss the candy-apple red doors with stained glass windows on the north facade.
Johnson, LeMans, and Hunt Residential Halls
These new residence and dining halls, by Chilean architect and Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Alejandro Aravena, opened to students in 2009. This compound was Aravena’s first project outside of Chile, and it is a marvel of both color and space. Red and clear glass panels add some hyperreal color to the upper stories of the inner courtyard, while the cavernous street-level common space below provides a shady retreat from the hilltop sun.
Doyle Hall’s 2009 addition by the architecture firm, Specht Architects of Austin and New York City, ingeniously creates a new courtyard space by connecting Doyle Hall with another pre-existing St. Edward’s building, Premont Hall. Working in layers, an exterior brise soleil curtain provides a glimpse of the bright-red, textured hallway behind it. Once you are inside the building, more colors and hide-and-seek spaces continue to lure you in.
Holy Cross Hall
Like its big sister, the Main Building, Holy Cross Hall is a lovely Gothic Revival building from 1903 and lies at the historic center of the St. Edward’s campus. And Austin’s own Baldridge Architects finessed a wonderful interior and exterior renovation in 2015. To use their own words, they created “small living rooms” throughout the building to make inviting nooks for individual study moments and small study groups.
Trustee Hall, the first new building of the 21st century on the campus, was “entrusted” to Andersson-Wise, another brilliant Austin-based architecture firm. Hypnotic details abound. Note the cast-in-place concrete south façade with its deconstructed gothic arch and Juliet balcony—or the vertiginously situated statue of St. Edward, literally overlooking the chapel to the north.
Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel
Once again, St. Edward’s knows how to pick the local talent. In the case of renovating the chapel, it chose Austin’s very own Pollen Architects. Aside from the structural renovation, new ecclesiastical furniture was commissioned, including a crucifix with the Christ corpus carved by local Austin sculptor Rebecca Cantos-Bush and a new altar and tabernacle by Austin-based Macek Furniture Company.
Fleck Hall: School of Human Development and Education
Fleck Hall was originally constructed as several buildings used to house war surplus and later connected to make one big science building in the 1950s. lts days were numbered until Andersson-Wise Architects (see Trustee Hall, above) stepped in and suggested refurbishment rather than demolition. The architects added a third floor, a glass wall, and inviting outdoor spaces, and now Fleck is home to the school of education—and an exercise in sustainability.
Another successful renovation of an existing campus building was completed in 2013 by Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Massachusetts, this time at the Munday Library and Learning Commons. Plenty of glass allows natural daylight to enter into the library for students; at night, the glass walls become windows for passersby to glimpse the student activity inside.
UFCU Alumni Gym
The St. Edward’s Alumni Gym originally opened in May 1950 and needed some updates. In 2014, Austin-based Mell Lawrence Architects completed a picture-perfect renovation, adding clerestory windows for natural light to enter the gymnasium and wooden walls to match the gym’s original wooden floor. They also added a welcoming concrete entry porch with views of the lovely green landscape. Mell Lawrence Architects earned an AIA Austin 2017 Design Award for this project.
The Fondren Building, originally called The Natatorium, was constructed in 1895 to house a swimming pool fed from below by artesian well water. Fun fact: The Natatorium was the first such indoor facility west of the Mississippi River. The building’s rough exterior walls are load-bearing and were built of coursed rubble limestone with segmental arches on three facades. The Fondren Building currently houses the campus bookstore.
John Brooks Williams Natural Sciences Center–North
The Natural Sciences Center is made up of two separate buildings, both designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects of Santa Monica, California. The exterior of Carter Auditorium, a part of the center, is pictured here. Although Moore Ruble Yudell is a California firm, one of its founding members (and one of the principals involved in that state’s Sea Ranch community), Charles Moore, was the O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and resided in Austin.
Recreation and Athletics Center
The Recreation and Athletics Center was treated to the most recent campus renovation and will open back up to students in spring 2020. Specht Architects (see Doyle Hall, above) added a new glass-walled yoga studio and a cool rectilinear outdoor wall with surfaces perfect for perching and people-watching.