Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024
Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trinity University Tour by The Cultural Landscape Foundation® - Part 1, Saturday, November 10, 2018

On this cold, dreary morning while Bob is out punishing himself on his 20-mile marathon training run, I am waiting in George Storch Courtyard at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with 35 other people for our tour to begin at 9:15 a.m. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I am definitely interested in learning more about Trinity University because one of our Texas Trail Roundup walks goes through the campus.

With an on-time start, Dr. Kathryn O'Rourke, associate professor of art and art history at Trinity (and with a B.A. in architecture from Wellesley College) welcomed us and gave a brief introduction on what to expect on today's tour. One thing we noticed immediately is that we were not the only tour group. Many students and their families were touring campus today. They were deciding if they wanted to attend Trinity University. Over 500 people, besides us, would be touring today! 

She then turned the talk over to Boone Powell, FAIA, an architect who worked with O'Neil Ford (and later became his partner) on planning Trinity University. 
We learned that Trinity University had actually occupied two other sites in San Antonio before it moved to this location. It is now built on the site of an old rock quarry that actually extended east. The Sunken Garden Theater, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Antonio Zoo were all part of that same rock quarry.

Dr. Kathryn O'Rourke (second from left) and
Boone Powell, architect (third from left) in
Storch Courtyard (bust of Storch in background).
Storch Memorial Building (you can see the
concrete slab was considered
very modern at the time).

Boone Powell talked to us about how Storch Library (now Storch Memorial Building) was built as one of the first Trinity University buildings. It was built to block one of the streets in the city's grid system to start making the campus a unified whole without intrusion from through traffic. The building was constructed using the Youtz-Slick lift-slab system.

The way I understood Powell's description of a lift-slab system is that the foundation was poured first. Concrete columns with lifting collars were erected next. Concrete slabs were then poured one on top of the other over the foundation. Then a lift-slab hydraulic jack was used to lift the top floor, connecting the slab to the columns with the collar device. Then the lift-slab jack would haul up the next concrete slab, connect it to the collars, and so on until all the floors were complete. 

One of the benefits of this type of construction was that many windows and balconies could be put into the buildings. On the Storch Library that meant the students had a great view of downtown from the hill. Trinity University believed that students should look (quite literally in this instance) toward the future, and their future could be working in downtown San Antonio.

Mr. Powell realized that he was taking up our tour time, so he gracefully turned the tour back over to Dr. O'Rourke and said he would add comments as we went along. We walked along the Coates Esplanade which gave us a good view of Murchison Tower. 

The Coates Esplanade at the top of the old quarry divides the upper and lower campuses. The upper campus consists of classrooms, library, chapel, and the arts, while the lower campus includes living spaces, dining hall, and sports complexes.

Murchison Tower on top of the hill.
In front of Coates University Center there are serpentine stairs leading to the lower part of the campus. The stairs were built not in a straight line, but instead curve down to the dorms. This technique is in juxtaposition to the straight, hard, angular lines of the buildings. The landscaping blends in trees and shrubs to give softer edges as well. 

Dr. O'Rourke explaining the history of Trinity
University as well as the way landscaping is used
to soften hard edges.

We did not have time to visit the lower campus today and we made our way to Parker Chapel, designed by O'Neil Ford. As we approached the chapel, Dr. O'Rourke pointed out how the area in front of the chapel was made to feel like an Italian Renaissance village. The walkway becomes uneven limestone. That was done on purpose to make people slow down and change pace before entering the chapel. 

The gigantic Murchison Bell Tower is in this plaza along with a small meditation area. Large and small areas. Big buildings versus small intimate spaces. Hectic versus quietude. I couldn't help but wonder if Murchison Bell Tower is there to get people to look upward before and after going to chapel.

Meditation area in front of the chapel.
Looking skyward at Murchison Bell Tower.
Uneven limestone pavers help to slow you down.
Beautiful wood and lead doors lead into the chapel. Once inside, there are intricately woven tapestries.

Entrance to Parker Chapel.
Fantastic tapestries throughout.
Inside Parker Chapel which has a
beloved, famous pipe organ.
Looking toward the back of the chapel.
Lovely windows looking out over a courtyard garden.
Unique leaded glass windows.
A small meditation chapel.
Beautiful arches in hallway alongside the chapel.
This hallway looks out over the courtyard garden
and fountain.
Courtyard garden and fountain.
After Parker Chapel, the landscape architect (I'm sorry but I didn't get his name) took over to tell us about the upper part of the campus. Miller Fountain became the center of the upper campus. All buildings, pathways, and spaces flow around the circle of the fountain. He told us about the campus tradition of dunking students in the fountain on their birthday. It's amazing the things you learn on tours!
Miller Fountain.
Miller Fountain.
In the photo below, you can see how berms were created to add more interest by using elevation. Again, there is the theme of circles and ovals to soften the angular edges of buildings. 

Landscaping is intentionally rounded.
Modern times make us redesign original landscapes due to fire codes. Below, the path used to be much narrower with more plantings and trees. However, many students attend classes in all the buildings here. The fire department needs to be able to bring in emergency vehicles in case of a fire. Therefore, trees were transplanted into some of the new berms and a wide path created. Again, you can see the oval-shaped brick path in the middle of the wider space. 

This used to be a much narrower path with large
trees providing shade.
Our tour group learning about the rooftop garden
and bio-swale.
Center for the Sciences and Innovation--
Cowles Hall
Part of the studies at Center for the Sciences and Innovation is research into rooftop gardens. In Texas, the studies are trying to find plants that can survive wind, and heat with no shade. The rooftop has not one, but four irrigation lines that can be used in research. Recycling the water is an important conservation measure which is accomplished by collecting the water that comes out of the roof scuppers into a storage tank below the scuppers. 

Rooftop garden on one of these buildings.
Scuppers are the roof drains and here
the water goes into a collection tank.
Water settles in the collection tank and pollutants are filtered out. Then the water is pumped back up to the roof.

Because of all the big buildings not allowing water to seep back into the ground naturally, and because of all the water run-off from the roofs with some of San Antonio's big rainstorms, a bio-swale was created in front of this building. There is a ditch-like area where water can stand until it is dispersed outward. 

Some of the trees that were transplanted did not survive but they did not go to waste. The trees were cut into planks and used as parts of furniture in the Center for the Sciences and Innovation--Cowles Hall. I went in to see what I could find of the re-used trees. Without going more than 30 steps into the building, I found the following:

A bench recycled from a dead tree.
A beautiful slab of wood creates this long table.
All the new landscaping put in when the path was widened to fire code standards consists of indigenous plants. Those plants equal less water and easier maintenance. In this part of campus, there is less landscaping done and plants are allowed to grow out over part of the sidewalk to soften the hard concrete edges of the sidewalks.

Notice plants growing out over the sidewalk.
With that, our 1-1/2 hour tour was over. Our guide told us to walk along the other side of Cowles Hall to see the outdoor classroom. There are limestone benches facing a slate wall. Students can collaborate and discuss, and they can use chalk on the slate to make drawings or make notes. It's all part of changing it up and getting those neurons in the brain firing to make new pathways and come up with new ideas (innovation).

Outdoor classroom complete with slate
Bring your own chalk.
On the way back to the car, I snapped one more pic of Murchison Bell Tower. You can see the stairs inside it.

Murchison Bell Tower
I headed back home. At 2:45 p.m., I have a tour of one-acre CHRISpark. Since this blog is long and the hour is late, I will make this day a two-part blog.

To be continued...


  1. Hello My lovely little travel bug.
    Very impressive indeed. It is so nice to see maintained campuses and areas intelligently laid out and built.
    Nice photographs by the way.
    Blessings and admiration from Geoff in Johannesburg South Africa.

  2. Very well presented. I always look forward to what you are up to


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