The institutions which the Middle Age has bequeathed to us are of greater and more imperishable value even than its cathedrals.
— Hastings Rashdall, “Wisdom’s Workshop: The Rise of the Modern University”
Otter: Point of parliamentary procedure!
Hoover: Don’t screw around, they’re serious this time!
Otter: Take it easy, I’m pre-law.
Boon: I thought you were pre-med.
Otter: What’s the difference?
— National Lampoon’s Animal House
At first glance, the university — the buildings and people that make the institution — comes to us as a thoroughly modern phenomenon. However, universities have developed over hundreds of years with roots reaching back into the Middle Ages. The fact that we continue to establish new universities and expand those we have is proof the model is not yet outdated — even in our growing digital world.
The word “university” is derived from the Latin phrase universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly translates to “community of teachers and scholars.” The sense of collegiate community and educational collaboration found on a university campus is arguably one of the reasons the model has strengthened over time. Moreover, it is through architecture that this realized community is fostered and nourished. Some of the first buildings to make up university campuses were the assets of dissolved monasteries and religious institutions — places centered on community.
In this issue of Texas Architect, we examine four architectural projects designed to foster community and collaboration on university campuses across the state: a modern renovation inspiring “creative collision” at St. Edward’s University in Austin; UT Austin Cockrell School of Engineering’s new Engineering Education and Research Center, “a machine for the creation of community”; a fabrication building at Prairie View A&M arranged with parallel bars for equipment and collaboration; and the Alumni Center at UT Dallas, which aspires to bring the past and present together.