The 1970 tornado destroyed more than a thousand buildings in Lubbock, and a neighborhood just north of downtown suffered some of the worst damage. In response, the city government created a twelve-block civic center, undertaken with Urban Renewal funding between 1971 and 1976. The George and Helen Mahon Public Library (1973, McMurtry and Craig) is the center’s freestanding component, a one-story pavilion sheathed with travertine panels shaded by a roof slab supported on slender columns that forms a gallery around the building. Surrounded by an apron of lawn (dubious in Lubbock’s arid climate), the library is attuned to the modest Texas regional modernism associated with San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford.
The Lubbock Memorial Civic Center building (1976, The Architects Group) dominates the site. The complex’s theater, exhibition arena, banqueting hall, and conference rooms in connected buildings are grouped around an interior patio. The windowless exterior volumes and walls evoke the landscape formations and colors of the South Plains. Most of the superblock, which is isolated behind wide, multilane thoroughfares, is allotted to acres of surface parking, bluntly reproducing the terrain’s characteristics and exposing visitors to the effects of the climate.