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University of Texas at Dallas

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1961 established. 800 Campbell Rd.

Established in 1961 as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest by Texas Instruments (TI), then in need of qualified engineers, the school was bequeathed in 1969 to the State of Texas by TI founders Eugene McDermott, Cecil Green, and Erik Jonsson. The master plan by The Oglesby Group ordered buildings along a broad, north–south open space, with perimeter roads for other classroom buildings, parking, sports fields, and eventually residential facilities. After acquiring the site in 1962, the first building (Founders Building; O’Neil Ford) opened for classes in 1964. Through the 1970s, the buildings, constructed of pre-cast concrete and tilt-wall method, might graciously be called Brutalist. The McDermott Library (1975, The Oglesby Group) is the standout among a bland group. Its horizontal lines and offset planes of concrete are animated with deep brise-soleil and flat piers, adding depth and shadow in the strong Texas sun.

Margaret McDermott, widow of founder Eugene McDermott, sought to bring the campus’s physical environment up to par with the university’s academic achievements. Peter Walker was engaged to conceive a new master plan (2010, PWP Landscape Architecture) to integrate buildings and grounds of different eras. Walker used existing streams to provide a new identity, starting where the Campbell Road entrance becomes a sinuous boulevard through a forest of native trees and vegetation along a stream. The core of his scheme transformed the old central lawn into a dynamic axis of rectangular water pools framed by rows of magnolias, a concept inspired by the gardens at Versailles by André le Nôtre, but detailed in minimalist, modern lines. To offset the lack of the necessary architectural focus at the north end of the water parterres, a delicate, white steel trellis (2010, Werner Sobek), 25-feet in height and 150-feet square, shades the north end of the plaza and provides a gathering place and focus for the campus.

New buildings adjacent to the plaza are open, transparent, and welcoming in contrast to the beige concrete of the 1970s buildings. The Visitor Center and University Bookstore (2011, PageSoutherlandPage) has a glass cylinder entrance shaded by five levels of horizontal steel louvers. The three-story glazed facade of the Student Services Building (2011, Perkins+Will) is shaded by an extension of its steel frame that supports horizontal and vertical louvers. Across the plaza, the large Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building (2013, Studios Architecture and VAI Architects) is almost a campus within the campus, a symbolic bridge between arts and technology as the university broadens its curriculum from its high-technology origins. The long side facing the plaza is a continuous pedestrian commons, a dynamic mix of staircases, bleacher seating, bridges, and balconies to encourage student and faculty interaction. Mark Lamster, architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News (1 January 2014), called the building “an ingenious, unruly lark.” San Francisco–based Studios Architecture designed the Google headquarters and other tech giants in California.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "University of Texas at Dallas", [Richardson, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 189-189.

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