School of Architecture works to raise funds for renovation project

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Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Working toward a major renovation project, the School of Architecture is in the midst of a fundraising campaign for a project, which is currently in the planning stages.

First announced in April, the project seeks to preserve Battle Hall, renovate the West Mall Office Building and construct a new addition to the school. In September, the Stillwater Foundation donated $1 million to the campaign, which hopes to raise $10-15 million.

Fritz Steiner, School of Architecture dean, and Luke Dunlap, the school’s director of development and external relations, were in Dallas on Wednesday to meet with former first lady Laura Bush to report on the progress of the project, according to Steiner.

“Battle Hall is certainly a very important resource for the School of Architecture, but it’s also a really important resource for the University,” Steiner said. “It was the first library, which is why Mrs. Bush is interested — because of its history as a library.” 

Dunlap said the project is vital to preserving historical architecture.

“It’s important to the University and the state of Texas to preserve the great architectural heritage that we have,” Dunlap said. “The other thing that it will allow us to do is create a unified School of Architecture complex within the UT campus.”

Steiner said the preservation of Battle Hall — which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is important to the University as a whole. 

Aside from enhancing the building, Steiner said the project will also address the various building codes Battle Hall currently violates in its current state, including some which could limit access in times of emergency.

“Battle Hall is one of the most important buildings in Texas; it’s over 100 years-old, and, so, it’s facing preservation issues as well as disability access issues, and it also has issues with its fire safety,” Steiner said.

Steiner said when the architecture school moved into the West Mall Office Building more than a decade ago, it was made for offices instead of classrooms.

“The space is configured for offices, not teaching,” Steiner said. “We really need to renovate that space for our teaching needs. What we really need is studios and lecture halls.”

In addition, Steiner said there are plans in place to build on an existing parking lot and loading dock. The school plans to name the new structure for alumnus John Chase.

“While we were doing all that, it was thought that doing a modest addition would be wise since there was a lot of construction going on anyway,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the project is estimated to cost about $80 million, with much of that money going toward fire safety and accessibility improvements. However, Steiner said those costs cannot be covered completely by donations.

“It’s really something that we can’t ask for from philanthropy,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the UT System Board of Regents must approve the project in its Capital Improvement Plan in order for the project to proceed with design, which he hopes will happen February. The regents must also approve the naming of the new addition.

Spanish junior Berkeley Mashburn passes by Battle Hall when she gives tours to prospective students. Mashburn said preservation of the building means a lot to her.

“It’s one of the only places I can go and remove truly from my mind everything but my studies,” Mashburn said. “Battle Hall is one of my most treasured places on campus.”