School of Architecture

Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner. 

Photo Credit: Marsha Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. This interview has been condensed.

The Daily Texan: You are one of the longest-serving deans on campus, having been in the position since 2001. What are the most interesting changes you have seen in the work done in the school and the types of students who matriculate?

Frederick Steiner: We get very bright young people. They are very smart, motivated and hard-working. I think the thing that has changed the most in the past couple of years is that they have become more idealistic. Before the recession, jobs were plentiful, so every student had several offers. During the recession, the students became more entrepreneurial... their idea of architecture expanded. A lot more became interested in public interest design. They also began to blur the edges of design. A lot of them are now interested in gaming and graphic design. 

DT: What are the major projects that are going on in the School of Architecture? 

Steiner: The biggest thing we are working on is the renovation of Battle Hall. Battle Hall is our initial library on campus, which is over 100 years old and needs restoration. And the library is not handicap accessible. So one of the three parts of the project is to connect us to buildings that will help our handicap access... and fire safety. We will convert the West Mall Office Building into much-needed studios and classroom spaces. We’ve also ramped up our research areas like green building design. The third part of the project is a modest addition for John Chase who was one of the first African-American students at the University. The three parts of the project involve preservation, infrastructure improvement and classroom and research space issues.

DT: What kind of work do your graduates do?

Steiner: Most architecture majors end up working at private firms. Planning majors mostly work at public agencies. Landscape architecture is kind of in between. Interior design did well during the recession because buildings may not be built, but they still have to redo interiors. They are mostly in the private sector. The growth area has been the nonprofit sector. More people have gone to work for public health or nonprofit housing agencies or watershed associations. 

DT: Since you started as dean, have you seen any changes in the numbers of students enrolled in the school’s programs?

Steiner: It’s been really constant. The undergraduate enrollment is pretty constant all the way back to the ‘70s. The graduate’ enrollment has increased through time. The number of graduate application in architecture spike during the recession, then came back down a little bit and now just went up by 100 more applicants this year. Our intake is about the same. We stay around 700 students.

DT: How important do you find fundraising to be to the School of Architecture?

Steiner: Absolutely essential. 

DT: And do you find it’s become more essential since you started?

Steiner: Yes. The Capital Campaign was a huge success. Battle Hall is a $70 million project. President Powers has said that [we] need to come up with between $10 and 15 million.

DT: How soon does the school expect to reach that goal?

Steiner: I get discouraged a little bit because people are generous but sometimes not as generous as we would like them to be. [Laura] Bush has been incredibly helpful [as our honorary chair]. She really loves libraries, so that’s her connection. She is really hands-on, and has been giving us really specific suggestions. 

DT: Is there anything else you’d like students to know about the School of Architecture?

Steiner: It’s a terrific school. The one other challenge we face is keeping up with technology. If we want to stay as a leader, we need to invest more technology. My fear is that we have fallen behind where we should be with technology. If the biggest budget challenge is Battle Hall restoration, technology is probably the second big one, followed by faculty salaries and graduate student stipends for recruitment.

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.”

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Ninety years after he was president of the University, the memory of William Seneca Sutton lingers in the hall on campus that bears his name, tucked away between the Harry Ransom Center and West Mall. But one relic of Sutton Hall has disappeared through the years.

A bronze bust of Sutton was once displayed on the main floor of the building, depicting the baldhead and handlebar mustache of the man who served as president of the University in 1923.

“We just have no idea what happened to it,” Sutton’s great-granddaughter Sally Hoffman said. “The family just wants to know where it is. We don’t want to keep it, just to know where it is located.”

Hoffman, who works on campus as an administrative associate for Project Management and Construction Services, has been trying to track down the bust for the past two years. She has reached out to various offices and departments at the University but has been unsuccessful in her search.

The bust was originally housed in Sutton Hall until a 1980 renovation. That year, the College of Education was moved out of the building and replaced by the School of Architecture.

For more than 30 years since the renovation there has been no record of the bust, Hoffman said.

Sutton began teaching at the University in 1897, according to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. In 1898, he established summer semesters at UT. Sutton then became the first dean of the School of Education in 1909.

He also briefly served a one-year term as president during the 1923-1924 academic school year.

A year after he died of a heart condition, the education building was named Sutton Hall in 1930 in honor of the former dean.

“It means a lot,” Hoffman said. “[The bust] has personal value. He was a smart and wonderful man. He raised such a good family and did so much for the University, I just wonder where it went.”

Leslie Lyon-House, spokeswoman for the College of Fine Arts, said the building and facilities services of specific departments would likely keep track of art moved during renovations, although there is not a central office or department tasked with keeping records of University owned statuaries.

Without a centralized unit, it’s difficult to assess whether other relics or artwork have been lost. Representatives from the College of Education and School of Architecture said they currently have no record of the bust and are unaware of any University entity that would have tracked it’s location.

Since 2008, UT’s public art program Landmarks has maintained works commission and purchased for display in new buidling projects. The program is continuously bringing art to campus and maintaining the work but is not tasked with the care of older pieces, said Landmarks spokeswoman
Anastasia Colombo.

“We don’t have anything to do with the other works in the University collection, and quite honestly, I’m not entirely sure who at the University does,” Columbo said. 

Hoffman said in her search she has contacted more than a dozen offices, including the Sutton Hall building manager, the Harry Ransom Center, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Briscoe Center for American History and the School of Architecture.

“I don’t think it was a mean-spirited thing to put it where ever it is,” Hoffman said. “Maybe it wasn’t documented or they didn’t have a way to document it.”

Though her search has come up empty so far, Hoffman said the various offices on campus have been willing to help search through documentation and archives for information on the bust’s location.

“They’ve been excellent, wanting to help, wanting to find it for me,” Hoffman said. “They usually look into it. Sometimes a building manager might let me spend a day or two looking around at different spots. I’ll make a few calls then wait for a little while and see if I hear back from folks then I’ll start it back up again or get other suggestions.”

Hoffman began the search hoping to find the bust for her mother, Lucy Baumgardner.

“I was only four or five when [Sutton] passed but I can still remember how fun he was— just the little bits and pieces,” Baumgardner said. “I didn’t realize what he did at the University at the time but it sure seemed like he enjoyed what he did. Everyone seemed to love him. I knew all of his friends, the old-time professors.”

Baumgardner said the bronze bust showed Sutton’s head slightly tilted and captured his essence, with a baldhead and strong nose.

Sutton often wore a black top hat and carried around a gold pocket watch, which had his name inscribed, Baumgardner said.

The bust wasn’t displayed in Sutton Hall when it was dedicated in 1930, but Baumgardner said she remembers seeing it as a student at UT in the fall of 1943. Many members of her family attended the University as well, including her parents, her children and her grandchildren, including Hoffman’s twin sons.

Baumgardner said she hopes to find the missing bust because of her daughter’s dedication to finding the missing family icon.

“Poor Sally, it’s just her one mission in life to find the bust,” Baumgardner said. “Things get misplaced. It’s just one of those things. Sally would probably be able to fly if we found it. I would be absolutely thrilled to death, but Sally has really made this her mission, and it would make her so happy.”

Because the search through campus still hasn’t been successful in finding the bust, Hoffman said her family was ready to reach out to the public for help finding Sutton’s bust.

“We were going to offer a reward if anybody could just locate it, not to give it to us, just to locate it,” Hoffman said. “I’m feeling hopeful that somebody will find it. Hopefully that will come to fruition, but it hasn’t been found yet. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork, a beautiful sculpture, and it would add charm and class to any room it was in. I’m really hopeful that just the right person will see it and give us a call.”

A recent student survey ranks UT’s School of Architecture number two in the nation for student satisfaction.

The survey was conducted by Design Intelligence, an architecture and design industry publication. Design Intelligence associate editor Austin Cramer said the ranking was calculated with responses from students and professionals at undergraduate and master levels.

“The ranking is unique because the report is tailored to leaders of firms, so they can use the information to know where students are coming from that will be prepared,” Cramer said.

Other schools ranked in the top five include Harvard, Rice, Cornell and Syracuse. Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner said the school's ranking is a result of excellent teaching and advancing research.

“I am proud that our ranking was the top of any public university,” Frederick said. “ Only Harvard was higher. Of the other top five ranked schools, the other three are private universities. Without the same levels of resources, our faculty and staff work doubly hard to keep students satisfied.”

Frederick said that there is a gap between UT and other schools' budgets because of fewer endowments. He said he hopes to increase fundraising so that the school may provide guest speakers, equipment and programs to increase student satisfaction and increase the overall quality of the architecture school.

According to the Design Intelligence survey, 98 percent of UT architecture students feel prepared for their profession upon graduation and 87 percent rank the overall quality of the program as excellent.

Architecture graudate student Morgan Parker said her personal satisfaction comes from UT’s facilities and its amiable environment.

“The student and faculty are like a family and we spend so much time together,” Parker said. ”We value each others opinions and the discourse we have and that’s the reason why UT is so great."

Parker said she has visited other top architecture programs and believed UT’s facilities were more advanced.

The report containing the survey results is done annually by Design Intelligence with different sections of surveys catered to architectural and design deans, students, employers and professionals.

Follow Luqman Adeniyi on Twitter @StopnLuqman.

It's grate!

A young woman walks towards the entrance of the School of Architecture on Tuesday afternoon.

Junior Communications and Sciences disorder major, Samantha Sheppard, admires the junk mail sculptures that are displayed on tables in the School of Architecture.

Photo Credit: Shila Farahani | Daily Texan Staff

More than 1,000 sculptures made out of credit cards, brochures, tops of Bluebell Ice Cream containers and paper towel rolls are displayed on a table in Goldsmith Hall.

Architecture professor emeritus Richard Swallow began cutting, folding and creating sculptures in January 2011 as a way to occupy his time after the loss of his wife. Swallow said he spent around a year completing the sculpture project, working on about three sculptures per day. He said people encouraged him to put the sculptures on display, and the exhibit launched in the School of Architecture gallery April 4. It will remain there until April 28.

“My wife passed away in December 2010, and I started to cut up credit cards that we had gathered for about 50 years,” he said. “My fingers started folding them and making little sculptural pieces, and I just kept doing this.”

Swallow didn’t stop at credit cards. He proceeded to conform his daily junk mail into elaborate designs to add to the collection.

“It kept me occupied for a year, and some of my colleagues said, you ought to exhibit those,” he said.

The project expanded until Swallow had created more than 1,000 unique sculptures, which he said are all distinct and individually designed.

“My goal was to make every single one of them different, and I think I accomplished that,” he said. “Each one of them has some thought behind it, but they weren’t preconceived. It was more spontaneous.”

The gallery is split between Swallow’s work and the drawings of a former colleague in the School of Architecture, John Blood.

“Richard was my instructor a long time ago,” Blood said. “The sculptures [he did] are pretty fabulous. The gallery is a nice combination of work that we’ve done.”

For Swallow, an interest in architecture molded at an early age, and being a professor wasn’t a field he thought he’d enter, he said.

“I wanted just the opposite. I wanted to be an architect, and I dreamed of designing everything as a teenager,” he said. “It started with automobiles and grew into buildings.”

Upon graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, he went on to graduate school at MIT but said the New England area didn’t offer much opportunity for building.

“I was looking for greener pastures,” he said, “and Austin turned out to be perfect.”

School of Architecture lecturer Allison Gaskins said Swallow’s unique approach to the project reflects his gifts and approach to life.

“Richard is of a generation of architects who know how to make things,” she said. “He does a lot of that through his hands, through drawing or sculpting, and for me the exhibit is a clear depiction of how he is and how he thinks.”

Swallow said the project served as a way to release his emotions during a tough time in his life.

“It turned into a way to fill up my time, and I’ve referred to it as my relief from grief project,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going to go now, but it was fun.”

Beside the displays Swallow crafted is a table, several bags of junk mail and a few pairs of scissors, inviting others to cultivate their own imaginations using Swallow’s unique idea.

The efforts of Professor Larry Speck and his colleagues have contributed to the School of Architecture undergraduate program ranking second nationally for 2012, according to professional journal DesignIntelligence. Nonetheless, Dean Frederick Steiner voices concerns whether decreased funding will jeopardize the prestigious ranking.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

Competitive tuition and faculty accomplishments within the School of Architecture were likely factors in the school’s undergraduate program being ranked second in the nation for 2012. Budget cuts could threaten to bring that ranking down in the future, architecture dean Frederick Steiner said.

UT’s ranking, compiled by DesignIntelligence, a journal that produces the only national rankings for accredited bachelor’s and master’s architecture programs in the United States, was second only to Cornell University.

“Students definitely look to rankings, so it’s better to be ranked high,” Steiner said. “I actually believe at the undergraduate level, we’re the best in the country. I think we’re stronger than Cornell who is ranked ahead of us. We are certainly the top public university in the nation at the undergraduate level.”

DesignIntelligence did not respond to requests to disclose their ranking system on Monday, but Steiner said cost was a significant factor. Of the top 10 universities, UT was the least expensive in 2010 for in-state tuition at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, according to information compiled by the School of Architecture.

“We are by far and away the cheapest, most inexpensive school,” Steiner said. “What keeps me up at night is if we will be able to continue to keep that ranking when obviously our budget is not increasing.”

Steiner said the School of Architecture has filled faculty vacancies with lower ranking titles than their outgoing predecessors to save $52,000 in the past year. He said support from the university president and provost have helped navigate through budget cuts, but he said he knows maintaining the quality of the program with less money is unsustainable.

As Steiner and other administrators dealt with the logistics of funding, he said the fantastic work during 2011 by faculty contributed to the school’s 2012 ranking, which rose from seventh place last year.

“Larry Speck won the Topaz medallion which is the highest honor for an architectural educator,” Steiner said. “The faculty also won quite a few awards and published several books that year, so we were quite productive.”

DesignIntelligence added architecture professor Larry Speck and associate professor Hope Hasbrouck to its list of “top 25 most admired educators of 2012.” These designations, released in conjunction with program rankings, are achieved through recommendation from architecture students and academics, which makes the accomplishment more rewarding, Speck said.

“It’s the sort of thing you can’t campaign for or apply for, which is great,” Speck said. “I love it when you don’t apply and people say ‘Yeah, that’s someone I admire.’”

Architecture graduate student Nelly Fuentes expressed her admiration for Hasbrouck.

“She’ll be the last one to brag about herself, but her wealth of knowledge and experience in the profession is quite impressive,” Fuentes said. “As a professor she is invested and insightful, particularly with regards to the making of place and representing landscape.”

Architecture senior James Spence said he took a class with Speck freshman year and said talented instructors like him had to have benefited UT’s ranking.

“UT’s strengths are the sure-fire reasons the school was ranked No. 2 in the nation,” Spence said. “Most of these strengths come from our staff. Not only are our professors very well versed in their respective fields of architecture, but they are deeply involved with the progress of their students.”

Professor of architecture Lawrence Speck speaks about the architectural significance of Battle Hall at Jessen Auditorium, Friday night. Following the lecture, faculty and students were invited to view original blue prints of Battle Hall and tour the building, celebrating its centennial.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

During the celebration of Battle Hall’s centennial anniversary, architecture professor Lawrence Speck said architecture has become too reliant on imagery, forgetting its roots in the visceral and corporal experience of a building.

Battle Hall, which was designed by Cass Gilbert for UT and finished in 1911, is one of the 150 favorite buildings in American architecture, according to the American Institute of Architects. As part of a celebration of the 100th anniversary of its creation, which was sponsored by the Texas Exes, the School of Architecture and University of Texas Libraries, Battle Hall opened its doors to students and faculty Friday evening.

Speck kicked the celebration off with a lecture where he weaved comments on the state of architecture together with stories of his own family’s experiences of Battle Hall.

“Good buildings make an incredible difference in the world, and I’m tired of looking at buildings as just a style,” Speck said. “Architecture is an experience that changes peoples lives, and Battle Hall is a building that has shaped us, UT and our community.”

After the lecture, interested guests took part in a guided tour of Battle Hall to see original blueprints of the building recently retrieved from New York City by the Texas Heritage Society, said Jim Nicar, director of campus relations for Texas Exes.

“We’ve been working on this for around two years now,” Nicar said. “Almost all 45 of these works had been in the New-York Historical Society, and this is the first time the archives have been housed in their own building.”

Alumni and others who had been impacted by the building also returned to Battle Hall on Friday evening to celebrate its centennial, including Eloise Ellis, who served as librarian at Battle Hall from 1982 to 1995.

“It was a wonderful place to be — a delightful job,” Ellis said. “My favorite thing was the stairwell. It was all stone, but there are places where the stone has worn away over the years from people walking on it. I passionately love the school. I live on through it.”

Students also visited, especially those interested in UT’s history and the field of architecture.

“Being students, we have a lot of interest in UT’s history and the second-oldest library on campus,” said architecture freshman Alex Dallas. “It helps you appreciate how much the University has grown.”

Others, like Speck, urged students and staff not to view Battle Hall as just a building but rather as an experience that changes lives.

“Today, we’ve reached a milestone for our University,” said Travis Willmann, communications officer for UT Libraries. “This building has had a history with presidents, the band and the architecture school over the past 100 years. This building has impacted so many students on campus, and when they think of UT, they will think of Battle Hall.” 

Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011 as: Battle Hall reaches 100th anniversary

The Austin Police Department released the name of a UT student who was killed in a hit-and-run on Sunday night.

Adam Conrad Grote, 22, was a student in the School of Architecture. He was due to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

“Everyone at the School of Architecture is saddened and stunned to learn of this tragic news,” said Frederick Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture in a statement released today. “Adam Grote is remembered by his professors and classmates as an amiable young man and a talented and hardworking student.”

Grote was hit at about 3:15 a.m. while walking on the shoulder of the southbound Interstate Highway 35 frontage road just south of East Riverside Drive. The car then fled the scene, according to police. Grote was pronounced dead on the scene.

“The loss will be deeply felt by everyone in the School of Architecture community,” Steiner said in today’s statement. 

Christy Moore, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, thanks members of City Council on Thursday afternoon for unanimously approving a motion to name part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve after her late husband, Dr. Kent Butler. Dr. Butler was associate dean of the School of Architecture and Program Director for U.T.’s graduate program in Community and Regional Planning, as well as a prominent environmental advocate in Central Texas.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

In honor of late UT associate professor Kent Butler, Austin City Council members have renamed a section of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in an effort to keep his memory alive.

Council members announced the official Kent Butler Ecological Reserve during the regular council meeting at city hall Thursday.

Butler began teaching in the School of Architecture in 1978 and later became associate dean for research operations and program director of the graduate program in Community and Regional Planning. He also dedicated much of his time to environmental issues and helped establish the preserve, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer groundwater management district and the environmental department for the Lower Colorado River Authority.

“One reason they’re naming [the preserve] after him is because he played a crucial role in its creation,” said Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture. “He took a leave for about two years to work on a plan that made the preserve a reality.

He was an environmental planner and he was a real pioneer in the field, so this was integral to his interest.”

The reserve also contains a protected area for the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered species of bird which nests exclusively in Texas, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Though Butler was originally a business student at the University of Pennsylvania, he went on to earn three degrees in water research management and used that experience to influence environmental planning students at UT. He participated in many water and nature conservation projects and worked with the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act and plans to create an urban rainwater system.

Butler died of injuries sustained from a fall while on a hike in Yosemite National Park in May. According to published obituaries, the fall occurred when Butler moved on a trail to let other hikers pass by.

“[After his death], we were thinking about ways to commemorate him through scholarships, but our daughter Emily wanted to see a natural preserve named after him,” said Butler’s wife, Christy Moore, senior mechanical engineering lecturer. “We all stopped because it was both daunting and perfect for him. I hope these honors bestowed on Kent inspire us to be environmentalists and citizens.”

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who knew Butler, reached out to the family and offered to pay tribute to Butler’s years of service to the community.

“It became clear very quickly to find a beautiful piece of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and name it after Kent,” said Matt Curtis, spokesman for the mayor. “The Butler reserve both represents his dedication to the Edwards Aquifer, which lies beneath the preserve, and the canyonland preserve he helped create.”

Butler’s family said they appreciated the support from the Austin public and the city council.

“This [honor] has been awe-inspiring,” Butler’s stepson Nick Kinkaid said. “The response from the community has been really positive during this time and we can really see the effect Kent had on the community.”

The UT School of Architecture will hold a symposium in Butler’s honor from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Jessen Auditorium in Homer Rainey Hall.

Printed on Friday, September 23, 2011 as: "Reserve named in memory of late associate professor who dedicated two years to project."