Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project



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Institution Name: Trinity University
Original/Historic Place Name: Skyline Campus
Location on Campus: One Trinity Pl.
Date(s) of Construction:
1952-1995original construction Ford, O'Neil
Designer: O'Neil Ford
Type of Place: Building group
Style: Modern/post-WWII, Regionalist/Vernacular, Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, engineering, landscape, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
1952-1995master plan (campus)

Founded in 1869, Trinity University has occupied four campuses in three different cities: Tehuacana, Texas (1869-1902), Waxahachie, Texas (1902-1942), and San Antonio, Texas (1902-present). From 1942 to 1952 Trinity utilized the campus of the former San Antonio University, a Methodist institution that merged with Trinity. Buildings on the present campus were constructed by architect O'Neil Ford beginning in 1952.

The 107-acre site on which the campus is constructed was originally used for the commercial production of limestone. The quarry had been abandoned after World War II and at the time of the University's purchase was owned by the City of San Antonio as undeveloped property. Architect O'Neil Ford designed the buildings in harmony with the site to preserve its beauty and utilize its unique topography, which was altered only where absolutely necessary. Use of campus land was restricted to academic, student housing, and recreational purposes. No faculty or other types of individual residences were permitted. Small, informal campus roads, circuitous so as not to invite public use, and the integration of cluster rather than mass parking areas helped to retain the natural setting. Small garden areas that blend into the topography added to the campus beautification. The composition of the residence halls with their linking bridges created a remarkable landscape of informally-defined courts that suggest a variation on "the academical village" of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia.

In 1952 the university employed a radical change in architectural design and construction methods that established Trinity as a pacesetter in imaginative campus planning. Conceived by Philip N. Youtz, a New York architect, and Tom Slick, a Trinity trustee and San Antonio businessman, and developed by the Southwest Research Institute, an innovative lift-slab construction technique enabled workers to build concrete slabs at ground level and lift them into place. The actual lifting was accomplished with tension screws fastened to the top of the building's upright beams and powered with hydraulic pressure.

Trinity's administration/classroom building (later Northrup Hall) was the first major building in the country to be erected by this method. Northrup Hall was razed in 2002 and a new four-story building is under construction. Unaltered examples of the lift-slab method of construction still exist in several of the residence halls, the oldest example being Murchison Residence Hall (1952). Buildings were uniformly constructed out of locally-fired Bridgeport Pink brick and followed the pattern established by the original architects, but were amplified with a new expressiveness.


Casper, Dale E. Academic Architecture: Journal Articles on Creation, Maintenance, and Preservation, 1980-1985. Architecture Series--Bibliography: A 1568. Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, [1986].

Dillon, David. The Architecture of O'Neil Ford: Celebrating Place. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1999.

Everett, Donald E. Trinity University: A Record of One Hundred Years. San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, [1968].

George, Mary Carolyn Hollers. O'Neil Ford, Architect. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.

HHM. Trinity University Building Survey. [Austin, TX: HHM], May 30, 2003.

"Trinity University." Architectural Forum (March 1955): 130-36.


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