Battle Hall celebrates centennial with lecture, guided tour

Andrew Messamore

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