Fritz Steiner

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.”

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."

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Two UT employees will serve another term as officers and board members on a five-county organization that manages sustainable growth in Texas. Fritz Steiner, the dean of the School of Architecture, and director of sustainability Jim Walker have both been part of Envision Central Texas for at least eight years. “Both [men] are mainstays of leadership,” said executive director Sally Campbell. “Fritz brings a broad perspective from his travels all over the world, and Jim is great at understanding stake holders and covering all perspectives.” The board brings together citizens as well as environmental and business leaders to work toward achieving sustainable growth. The federal program Partnership for Sustainable Communities awarded the board a $3.7 million grant to address critical infrastructure needs with limited resources. “We bring public and private sector to the table,” Campbell said. “Our strength is to bring an issue to the table, look at it long term, and have it grow in ways we’d love it to, including transportation, land use, environment, social equity and economic vitality. We want Central Texas to continue to be a high quality place to work, live and play.”