Within the next year, Trinity will develop its first Facilities Master Plan to ensure that future building projects are consistent with the vision and design principles of founding architect O’Neil Ford, the values of a Trinity education, changing campus needs, environmental sustainability, and the strategic objectives outlined in this plan. The Vice President for Finance and Administration will develop this plan in consultation with Facilities Services, Financial Services, Academic Affairs, Conference Services, and Residential Life. Faculty and students with expertise in architecture, ecology, and urban planning should also be consulted. The plan should entail major building projects and the costs associated with deferred maintenance for the next ten years. Upon completion, the plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval.
We are heirs to a historic, mid-century modern masterpiece. Our Skyline Campus is a treasure for future generations, distinctive with its significant collection of regionalist and mid-century modern buildings by renowned San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford. In the early 1950s, Trinity’s 14th president, James Laurie, and Ford empowered each other to create a vision of building a campus on the site of an abandoned rock quarry.
Establishing a historic district is central to Trinity’s Campus Master Plan. It pairs the University’s mission with its architectural legacy. Boundaries to the historic district will encompass all of the University’s buildings designed by O’Neil Ford. The Campus Master Plan reinforces the historic nature of campus and establishes criteria that will guide decisions for renovations, enhancements, space usage, and new construction in the coming decades.
The Campus Master Plan goes beyond the decision to seek designation as a national historic district. A few of the signature strategies include:
Trinity has accelerated the Campus Master plan with two purchases: City Vista Apartments and the ‘Oblate’ property west of campus. The University announced in January the purchase of the City Vista Apartment complex at the corner of Hildebrand Avenue and Devine at 655 E. Hildebrand. City Vista Apartments is a 141-unit complex with a 340-space parking garage, advancing the University's plan to add apartment-style living to its student residential housing options.
While Trinity realizes instant use in the purchase of City Vista Apartments, the University has no immediate plans for development of the “Oblate” property, purchased in March. The 9.2-acre tract of land adjacent to campus at the southwest corner of Shook Avenue and E. Kings Highway was previously owned by the Oblate Title Holding Company. The largely undeveloped property expanded Trinity’s campus to 125 acres.
Trinity University is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the only Texas campus to be designated a modernist historic district and one of just three in the country.
The National Parks Service designated the Trinity campus as a National Historic District in late May, four months after the Texas Historical Commission approved Trinity’s nomination as a Historic District. This designation is a key component of the Campus Master Plan and honors the architectural work of O’Neil Ford, who designed most of the University’s mid-century buildings.
“This distinction honors the legacy of renowned San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford and the vision he shared with Trinity President James Laurie,” says Trinity President Danny Anderson. “Our historic district calls attention to the forward-thinking, modern vision that guides Trinity University and the spirit of entrepreneurial innovation, expressed in bricks and mortar and construction techniques, that has differentiated our campus for generations of students.”
As a historic district, the University will seek to preserve the exteriors of buildings. With the exception of notable interior features, Trinity will be allowed significant latitude to renovate the interiors of the buildings within the district.
The district was proposed by a Master Plan committee that worked in partnership with the architectural group Page. Larry Speck, a senior principal at Page, says Ford's contributions to Trinity deserve national recognition.
“The stature of its architect, the consistently high quality of design work over decades, and the intact nature of much of the work now are all extraordinary distinguishing features that combine to make Trinity University a premier architectural ensemble that will now be preserved in the foreseeable future,” Speck says.
Ford designed most of Trinity’s campus buildings from the 1950s to the late 1970s using the site’s unique topography to fashion modernist red brick buildings connected by walkways and lush native landscaping. Trinity has the largest concentration of Ford-designed buildings anywhere in the world, and 26 buildings on the campus contribute to the historic district.
The Texas Historical Commission voted unanimously in January to approve the proposal by Trinity to preserve Ford’s mid-century modern buildings. The Commission then forwarded the district to the National Parks Service for final approval.