Empowering the Future: Hispanic Serving Institutions’ Excellence in Higher Education Through Design

Empowering Spaces: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month through Architectural Expression and Academic Belonging at Texas Hispanic-Serving Institutions

At Overland Partners, we firmly believe that education is the key that unlocks doors to boundless opportunities. It expands horizons, bestows the gift of confidence, fuels ambition, and fosters the unwavering belief that dreams are attainable, no matter where one begins in life. In our relentless pursuit of a more equitable and inclusive society, education stands as a formidable force, leveling the playing field and illuminating the path toward a brighter future for everyone.

Our expertise and passion for designing dynamic, highly sustainable learning environments that promote wellbeing, inspire curiosity, facilitate meaningful social interactions, and elevate a sense of community is at the heart of Overland’s education practice. This ethos is represented in our work with leading public college and university systems in Texas including the University of Texas at San Antonio—San Pedro I and II; Alamo Colleges’ Northwest Vista College; Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus; The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and The University of North Texas in Dallas. These projects encompass a wide spectrum of educational initiatives, including undergraduate and graduate education, research facilities, and public service spaces, showcasing Overland’s commitment to shaping the future of higher education through innovative design.

What these colleges and universities also have in common, with more than 570 in the U.S., is their designation as Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The federal government acknowledges colleges that prioritize historically excluded student populations, known as Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) represent a specific category within MSIs, providing avenues for social mobility and opportunities to Mexican American communities.

To qualify as an HSI, an institution must have an undergraduate enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic and Latino/a students. In the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 67 percent of Hispanic students attended HSIs. As of 2021-2022, nearly 1000 accredited and emerging HSIs collectively served more than two million Hispanic undergraduates. (

Guided by the mission of fostering Hispanic success in education—from early schooling through graduate studies and into the future workforce, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is expanding its network to advance the growth of member colleges and universities to serve the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in our country ( Driving awareness and opening access to quality of postsecondary education for Hispanic students creates a sustainable cycle of opportunity that catalyzes intellectual, social, and economic mobility while also addressing the needs of business, industry, and government by fostering the development and exchange of resources, information, and expertise.

Embedded in Overland’s ethos is the commitment to unlock the embedded potential through collaborative design that honors people, communities, and our planet with contextual sensitivity to culture and place. Bringing the experience and wisdom of our clients and stakeholders into the design process not only fosters visually harmonious environments tailored to their program and site, but instills a profound sense of belonging for students, faculty and the community who experience spaces designed to their aspirations and goals and their cultural identity reflected in the architecture and surrounding spaces.

In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month and our HSI clients leading the pursuit of equitable, inclusive educational opportunities for Hispanic students, we are proud to shine the spotlight on their programs that are transforming our communities and creating a brighter future through student access and success to high-quality, post-secondary education.

University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)

UTSA’s San Pedro 1 | Photo Credit: Whiting-Turner


UTSA stands as one of approximately 20 universities in the country that are both Carnegie R1 and U.S. Hispanic-Serving Institutions. In January 2023, UTSA welcomed students to its new School of Data Science and National Cyber Security Collaboration Center, known as San Pedro I, a design-build collaboration with Whiting-Turner, Jacobs and Overland. Adjacent to San Pedro I, the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Careers (IEC) building, to be known as San Pedro II, designed by Overland with Gensler, is currently in development and will introduce additional interdisciplinary and collaborative programs in business, engineering, and sciences.

Positioned in the heart of San Antonio, UTSA’s investment in San Antonio’s urban core brings in-demand fields like Data Science and Cyber Security to the region, providing inclusive learning opportunities to students who have been unrepresented in these courses of study. Capitalizing on its strategic location near the city’s technology and government corridors, the University plays a key role in driving economic growth by facilitating seamless connections between the public sector, private businesses, community organizations, and university students, cultivating a dynamic environment conducive to learning, innovation, and professional engagement.

UTSA’s School of Data Science is housed in the $91.8 million San Pedro I. This six-story, 167,000-square-foot hub of innovation, located east of UTSA’s Downtown Campus overlooking the new San Pedro Creek Culture Park, anchors UTSA to San Antonio’s downtown core. The school offers cutting-edge degree programs and research in artificial intelligence, computer science, data analytics, and statistics. With at least 16 research centers, institutes, and labs, students are encouraged to apply data science analytics for societal and economic progress.

San Pedro I is UTSA’s first LEED-certified building, surpassing the original LEED Silver target to achieve LEED Gold and set the university’s trajectory for healthy, highly sustainable buildings. Featuring vibrant murals by local artists, collaborative spaces with views of San Antonio’s skyline, state-of-the-art labs, and maker spaces, San Pedro I is a beacon of learning, culture, and community in downtown San Antonio.

Collectively, San Pedro I & II are poised to establish a robust academic and research ecosystem. This setting not only enhances student success but also fosters growth and enhancement of business and community connections, while acting as a catalyst for progress in the city’s urban core.


Alamo Colleges District Northwest Vista College

Northwest Vista College Cedar Elm STEM Center | Photo Credit: Dror Baldinger, FAIA


Ranked among the top 25 community colleges in the country for Hispanics by Hispanic Outlook on Education Magazine, Northwest Vista College serves over 17,000 students and stands among community colleges nationally recognized for leadership in teaching, education and transformational student outcomes by organizations including the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Niche, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Magazine among others. In May 2022, Northwest Vista College brought much-needed STEM higher education to the San Antonio region with the grand opening of their new 52,550 square-foot Cedar Elm STEM Center designed by Overland. The project-based STEM learning hub encourages curiosity, creativity, and collaboration among students in fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The inspiring and inclusive design invites learners from different backgrounds, fields of study, and academic disciplines into the space and promotes a shared identity for all students, faculty and staff who are part of the Northwest Vista College and the Alamo Colleges District community. The STEM Center prioritizes transparency, with visibility and indoor/outdoor connections between classrooms, labs, collaboration spaces as well as comfortable, shaded areas to socialize – a beautiful juxtaposition between innovative, future-forward design and the natural setting among abundant mature trees, all of which were preserved and incorporated into the STEM Center’s landscape. Spaces inside and out were created to invite and inspire collaboration, creativity, and dialogue around the diverse STEM disciplines, reflecting the unique range of opportunities STEM education offers that are as vibrant and promising as the campus community of Northwest Vista College.


Austin Community College (ACC) Rio Grande Campus

ACC Rio Grande Campus | Photo Credit: Dror Baldinger, FAIA


Austin Community College District, a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution for the past 12 years, took a major step in realizing its vision be recognized as the preferred gateway to higher education and training, and as the catalyst for social equity, economic development, and personal enrichment ( with the renovation of their historic Rio Grande campus. A collaborative effort among architects, preservationists, engineers, and landscape designers, the century-old 1000 Building was reimagined as the flagship for ACC and a leading center of post-secondary learning in Texas. More than a historic preservation project, the team was charged with transforming the 108-year-old building to create a 21st. century campus that inspires, educates, enriches, and prepares students from diverse backgrounds for success. Through a large-scale effort, the historic structure was turned into a LEED Platinum center for higher education that enhances occupant comfort, safety, and well-being through sustainable building practices, while preserving its recognizable exterior façade and unique architectural features.

As Design Architect, Overland with Studio8 (AOR), historic preservation architects Architexas, and Hutson Gallagher, and our team of sub-consultants seamlessly integrated sustainable strategies into the restoration of the historic Rio Grande campus. Embracing a human-centered approach to sustainability, design innovation, and creating healthy spaces, the building became an inclusive, welcoming place for ACC faculty and staff to engage students from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests. Transforming two existing interior light wells into atria became critical to the reorganization and circulation of the building, as well as fostering social interaction. Capped with a translucent ETFE roof system, sunlight fills the now-conditioned atria spaces. A 169-seat Accelerator Lab and campus library create the central engine. Six high-tech science labs, classrooms for Gallaudet University’s deaf and hard-of-hearing students, study areas, and cafeteria surround this engine for an activated, mixed-use campus. Uncovering and restoring large, arched windows throughout the building offer panoramic views of Austin.

The Rio Grande Campus is home to many ACC community partnerships and programs including the University of Texas at Austin’s PACE (Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment) Program, Army Futures Command Software Factory, and Gallaudet University that allows students in the ACC American Sign Language and Interpreter Training (ASLIT) Program an opportunity to continue their education with a bachelor’s degree. Access to industry partners gives ACC students opportunities and advantages to develop skills necessary for success.

In 2022, Hispanic students accounted for 40% of ACC’s enrollment, the fasting growing population across the ACC District (  The new Rio Grande campus is poised to welcome new generations of students, strengthening connections to the community, and creating seamless, inclusive, accessible experiences for all.


University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville

UTRVG Brownsville Interdisciplinary Academic Building | Photo Credit: Adrian Llaguno


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) proudly stands as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, reflecting its deep commitment to supporting and empowering Hispanic students and the surrounding community. With its bilingual approach to education through the B3 Institute, UTRGV creates a unique and inclusive learning environment where both English and Spanish are celebrated, fostering a rich cultural exchange and equipping students with valuable language skills for a global education.

The innovative Interdisciplinary Engineering & Academic Building (EIEAB) at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville, is a strategically designed 23,000 SF facility, intended to serve multiple functions. It accommodates ten 45-seat classrooms, six 30-seat classrooms, and four Physics Teaching labs, along with a Math Computer Teaching lab, and includes a versatile multi-use room that can be adapted for classrooms or events. At the heart of the center lies a central space—a focal point for social and academic discussions. This interior hub effortlessly connects to exterior gathering spaces, creating a seamless blend of nature and academia. The center also incorporates 6,000 square feet of office space, featuring 19 faculty offices and houses the Student Academic Success unit. Positioned for accessibility from public areas, this unit is geared towards supporting students in their college journey. With a focus on functionality, the EIEAB stands as a purposeful hub for education and collaboration.

Dedicated to serving the Hispanic community and its bilingual educational approach, Overland and associate Megamorphosis, appreciate our collaboration with UTRGV to play a vital role in shaping the future of higher education in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.


University of North Texas Dallas

UNT Dallas Founders Hall | Photo Credit: Jeffrey Totaro


The City of Dallas’s first public university, achieving independent accreditation for the University of North Texas’s Dallas (UNT) campus required the accommodation of essential departments and services. Versatility was a key consideration for the newly emerging Dallas campus in 2011. Teaching space was designed for shared use by multiple professors, accommodating student services, the library, science labs, and faculty offices to coexist efficiently. Founders Hall functioned as a micro campus, ready to expand as the university’s enrollment grew. Overland addressed the challenge by creating common spaces, turning the area between new and existing buildings into a functional courtyard with lounge and meeting areas. Founders Hall was designed to adapt gracefully to changing needs. While currently serving diverse purposes, the hall embodies the university’s commitment to twenty-first-century education, blending state-of-the-art technology with timeless, traditional qualities in its classrooms. Despite the tight timeline and challenges like a late start and harsh winter, Overland successfully delivered a LEED Gold project in just 18 months. The building opened on schedule, marking UNT Dallas’s entrance into its future as a standalone university.

Now a Carnegie R1 institution and Hispanic-Serving Institution, the University of North Texas (UNT) embraces a comprehensive approach to serving Hispanic students’ educational aspirations. UNT celebrates Hispanic heritage, fosters inclusion, and provides tailored support to ensure academic success, actively promoting access to higher education. Through its welcoming and supportive atmosphere, UNT empowers Hispanic students to thrive academically and personally.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is essential to recognize the profound impact of architecture on shaping the values and experiences of educational institutions, particularly in the Hispanic community. Architecture serves as a powerful tool for expressing the core values of an institution and elevating the educational experience for students of all backgrounds. It plays a pivotal role in molding the academic journey and fostering a deep sense of belonging among students, their families, and our broader communities.

UTSA + Overland Graduate Studio Fall 2023 Semester Launches

UTSA Studio Course Continues Focus on Binational River Conservation Project as a Model for Fostering Inclusive Community Engagement and Sustainable Design  

Following a successful Spring 2023 semester and summer break, the UTSA + Overland Graduate Advanced Technical Studio is underway for Fall 2023, welcoming back 15 UTSA School of Architecture graduate students from across Texas and around the world, under the guidance of Overland architects and adjunct professors, Logan Notestine and Tristan Andrews, who are continuing to lead the students through a unique studio experience at the intersection of academia and applied practice.  

Building upon last semester’s studio course that brought UTSA’s graduate students out of the classroom and into the community to learn about the Binational River Conservation Project between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and the potential it has to catalyze adjacent projects with positive social, cultural, economic and environmental impact across the both communities, the students and instructors kicked off the Fall semester with a recent trip to Laredo where students engaged with civic leaders, conservationists, and members of the surrounding communities from Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.  Held at the historic Laredo Center for the Arts last Friday, students had the opportunity to exhibit their work completed during the spring semester, featuring eight different solutions that explore key topics identified through previous binational civic/community forums. Open to the public, student teams gained real-world experience, sharing their thinking and work to solicit feedback from the community. On Saturday morning the students helped lead a community design charette alongside Overland collaborators Able City and the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC), both based in Laredo, with the goal of bringing the community into the conversation to gain greater understanding about the challenges facing five of the historic Laredo neighborhoods from connecting to and utilizing the river on a regular basis.  Through civic and community input, the students, Overland and our friends from Able City and RGISC, listened closely to attendees and helped identify potential solutions to address and ultimately overcome the barriers and challenges preventing connection to the Rio Grande, which is the life source for over 6 million people across the region.

Overland is proud of our continued partnership with UTSA faculty and staff to bring innovative, high quality learning experiences to students across diverse disciplines from architecture, planning and design to the data sciences, cyber security and beyond. The UTSA + Overland Graduate Advanced Technical Studio sets a new precedent for what a firm-led academic studio can be and allows us the privilege of walking with the next generation of architecture professionals to share, teach and influence the values of inclusive engagement and important considerations and complexities of smart, responsive design on the places and lives of the people and communities we serve through sustainable architecture, master planning, and urban design. We look forward to sharing more from the UTSA + Overland Studio throughout the semester.

Special thanks to Overland Senior Architect, Barbara Warren, and the team at Able City and The Rio Grande International Study Center for helping coordinate this event, and to all the stakeholders and community members that took the time to engage with the student’s last weekend! 

Learn more about the Binational River Conservation Project here.

Written by Overland Partners. All photos are copyrighted and owned by Overland Partners.

Inside A’23: Overland’s Allison Lerma & Sabrina Ortiz Spotlight AIA Convention Brilliance

National AIA Convention 2023 Immerses and Inspires Overlands’ Young Professionals with Experiences and Resources to Design a Better World!

Last week, Overland Partners’ own Allison Lerma, AIA, NCARB, Senior Architect and Sabrina Ortiz, Designer II, set their projects aside to participate in A’23, the AIA National Convention held in San Francisco. Centered around the theme “America By Design®,” this year’s convention brought together over 13,000 professionals from across the United States and around the world at the Moscone Center, the nation’s First LEED Platinum Convention Center. The conference featured a wide range of engaging events, including daily keynotes, roundtable discussions, an expansive expo hall, as well as studio and project field tours. Reflecting on their experience, Allison and Sabrina have shared their key insights and takeaways from this exciting conference.

  • The national convention for architects exceeded Allison’s and Sabrina’s expectations with its impressive scale, meaningful discussions, renowned speakers, diverse exhibits, and amazing studio and project tours. Highlights included enriching interactive opportunities with fellow architects, thought-provoking roundtable discussions on equity, diversity, and inclusion, tours of architectural studios and innovative projects that address climate change and the housing crisis.


  • This year, the keynote speaker at the convention included a captivating presentation by Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who began her tenure at the age of 37. She faced numerous formidable challenges during her time in office, including a live-streamed domestic terror attack on the Muslim community, a volcanic eruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Ardern’s leadership, rooted in her values of people-centricity, kindness, and what she refers to as “pragmatic idealism,” led New Zealand to achieve one of the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates among developed nations, saving countless lives. Her inspiring story highlighted the importance of embracing vulnerability while maintaining resilience and strength. These powerful messages were also echoed by AIA National, as the organization made history with women holding leadership positions in the organization for the first time ever.


  • The Women’s Leadership Luncheon emerged as an incredibly inspiring event during the convention with invaluable advice shared by women leaders. One key piece of wisdom emphasized the importance of building a network of champions, a notion that highlights the significance of cultivating relationships with individuals who believe in and support one’s aspirations. Additionally, the luncheon underscored the significance of finding one’s tribe, a supportive community that fosters personal and professional growth. Moreover, the role of a good leader was highlighted as being committed to securing the future, demonstrating the essential responsibility to mentor and empower the next generation. These messages left a lasting impression, encouraging Allison and Sabrina to approach their work with enthusiasm, collaboration, and a sense of purpose.


  • An overarching message of this year’s convention was the imperative of Equity + Justice. Attendees were deeply engaged in discussions and presentations that focused on the critical need to foster inclusivity, equality, and social justice within the field. The convention provided a platform to address systemic barriers, promote diversity in all its forms, and amplify the voices of underrepresented groups. They learned that a mere two percent of architects in the U.S. are Black (NCARB 2023.) This means that out of approximately 121,603 licensed architects practicing in the country, only 2,492 identify as Black. This concerning statistic highlights the need for greater diversity and inclusivity within the field of architecture.


  • The convention brought attention to critical challenges, particularly the urgent housing crisis, which disproportionately affects individuals experiencing homelessness and is a pervasive issue across metropolitan areas in the U.S. During their visit, they had the opportunity to explore 1064 Mission Street, the city’s largest supportive housing development. This pioneering project utilized a combination of site-built and factory-built modular housing, with the goal of setting a national example. It integrates numerous elements designed to support San Francisco’s most vulnerable and chronically homeless community members in attaining housing stability, improving their health outcomes, and fostering greater independence in their lives.


  • Climate change and sustainability took center stage during the convention, with a strong emphasis on these critical aspects of design. A noteworthy topic was the involvement in policy-making that directly impacts the climate, presenting attendees with a fresh and proactive approach to tackling this global issue. The convention served as a platform for exchanging ideas and fostering a collective commitment to creating a more sustainable and resilient future.


  • The list of experiences was further enhanced by field tours of various studios and projects. Internationally acclaimed studios such as SOM, Foster+Partners, and the Autodesk Technology Center showcased the next frontier of architectural design, leaving a lasting impression on attendees. They also were able to learn more about Enscape’s new energy modeling program.


  • In addition, Allison and Sabrina had the privilege of visiting the newly completed Caymus-Suisun Winery. The tour offered a unique insight into the design strategies employed to create a warm and inviting hospitality environment while simultaneously addressing the distinct climatic challenges presented by the beautiful Suisun Valley. The focus was on crafting a winery that not only provides a delightful experience for visitors but also becomes a vibrant community destination in harmony with its surroundings.


  • Lastly, the convention explored strategies to address significant issues that have a profound impact on both society and the profession. One crucial approach is to focus on exposure and education about architecture to underrepresented groups at an early age, starting in elementary school and providing ongoing support and mentorship through college and into the workforce, particularly for marginalized communities. Advocacy and policy work play a vital role in addressing challenges such as climate change as well as diversity and inclusion, and it is the responsibility of all professionals to actively engage in these efforts. By promoting education, diversity, and policy involvement, architects can contribute to positive change and make a lasting impact on both the industry and society as a whole.


“It was my second time going, but the last time I went, I was still a student. Experiencing it as a professional added a whole new level of perspective that I really enjoyed! “

Sabrina Ortiz Luna

“It was my first time going and I found it very rewarding on multiple levels.”

Allison Lerma


Learn more about the National American Institute of Architects!

Get to know Overland Partners!

Check out more from the AIA ’23 Conference!

Investing in A More Sustainable Future – Overland Celebrates Earth Day 2023 With Human-Centered Architectural Designs That Put the Earth First

Happy Earth Day!

More than three decades ago, Overland pioneered sustainable design with a project that established a benchmark for natural resource conservation. In the early 1990s, the concept of sustainable architecture was just gaining traction with the establishment of the U.S. Green Building Council in 1993. Still years from LEED standards and advocacy for architecture that considered the impact of the built environment on people, places and climate, a paradigm shift was happening in the heart of Texas. Former First Lady of the United States, Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson, directed Overland Partners to design a building that appeared as if “God put it there,” setting the wheels in motion for a framework to guide and steward design in harmony with the natural world and all who experience it. This organic and life-giving approach to architecture positioned the project, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, at the forefront of the emerging green building movement, and established Overland as firm committed to creating places that care for the earth, promote well-being, and lead to measurable human transformation. The project showed how Overland’s ethos of stewardship and practical, sustainable measures, like rainwater capture, can yield long-term benefits. With innovative thinking and the inspiration to raise the sustainability bar, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which began as a modest, local project, became the largest rainwater harvesting site in North America. In fact, it was a prototype for today’s LEED rating system. It was also one of the early American Institute of Architect’s Committee on the Environment (COTE )Top Ten Green Buildings (2000) and led to the development of the Sustainable SITES® Initiative in 2006.


Since then, Overland has prioritized education, innovation, and collaboration to advance leadership in sustainable and resilient design with nearly 100 LEED certified buildings and current projects pursuing leading-edge certifications including Living Building, Living Community, WELL, and SITES. In honor of Earth Day, we will showcase a selection of our latest projects that exemplify the very best in sustainable design

Austin Community College, Rio Grande Campus, Austin, TX

By preserving and renovating a 108-year-old building through the reuse of its existing structure, a multi-disciplinary team of architects and engineers not only conserved resources but maintained its historic and cultural significance. The result is a 150,000 SF building that supports 21st century learning while conserving water and energy at ACC Rio Grande. Such efforts earned the project a LEED Platinum rating from USGBC and a 4-star rating from Austin Energy Green Building. The building is expected to deliver energy savings of 20 percent over the current city building codes. Innovative sustainable solutions employed across the 3.25-acre campus include:

  • Utilizing the City of Austin’s recycled water line (purple pipe), saving as much as 200,000 gallons a year, more than 85 % water savings.
  • Landscaping that utilizes no potable water for irrigation, 100% reduction.
  • New materials incorporated recycled and regional content.
  • Material selections promote a healthier interior environment, including low-emitting paints, adhesives, coatings, sealants, flooring, and ceiling and wall systems.
  • Premium efficiency MERV 13 filtration delivers cleaner air to all regular occupied spaces, perhaps a crucial piece moving forward in a COVID-19 world.
  • Demolition and construction waste management diverted over 87% from landfill, equal to 3,378 tons of material.
  • Maintaining the downtown campus provides a central location close to public transportation, a variety of diverse services, and utilizes existing city infrastructure.
  • Two deteriorating interior courtyards that previously served as light wells for illuminating interior spaces have been reimagined as interior atria, capped with Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pillows, providing natural light, and creating flexible social and gathering spaces for year-round use.
  • All mature trees were preserved.

The newly renovated campus of ACC’s flagship school is now well-equipped to provide affordable, enriching, post-secondary education to students in a sustainable, accessible learning environment as it continues to serve the greater Austin community.


Northwest Vista College’s Cedar Elm STEM Center, San Antonio, TX  

As an innovative, project-based learning hub, the new 52,550 SF Cedar Elm STEM Center encourages curiosity, creativity, and collaboration among students in fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The inspiring and inclusive design invites learners from different backgrounds, fields of study, and academic disciplines into the space and promotes a shared identity for all students, faculty and staff who are part of the Northwest Vista College and the Alamo Colleges District community. The challenge was to site the building where no mature trees would be destroyed, while taking advantage of prevailing breezes.

  • This state-of-the-art learning center is comprised of two-wings and three-levels, with an open-air “porch” at the first level, while the second and third levels adjoin at the intersection of these wings. Situated for prevailing breezes to optimize unconditioned space, all existing trees were preserved on the site including Heritage Oaks.
  • The STEM Center offers a beautiful juxtaposition between cutting-edge, future-forward design and the natural setting in which it is nestled, with abundant mature trees, all of which were preserved and incorporated into the landscape.
  • A variety of protected outdoor spaces leverage the existing tree canopy and provide ample spaces for immersion in nature.


Stanly Ranch – Auberge Resorts Collection, Napa, CA

One of Overland’s most recent hospitality projects, Stanly Ranch – Auberge Resorts Collection, was designed for environmental responsiveness and responsibility to Napa Valley’s climate and natural resources. A 21st century sustainable resort and spa, Stanly Ranch exemplifies resiliency and the coexistence of the built environment with the natural landscape. While wine and wellness are at the heart of the 712-acre ranch that sits among rolling hills and pristine vineyards, the design approach has incorporated sustainable features to conserve water and energy with the goal of becoming a net zero project—an important part of their story. Their holistic approach to sustainability includes:

  • All cottages and the roofs of larger structures are designed for future installation of solar panels to help offset the power needs of the resort.
  • Embodying the principles of regenerative design, an enormous fleet of Tesla batteries will capture and store this solar power, creating resiliency.
  • The developers invested in water efficiency for Stanly Ranch as well as the greater community by working with city officials to bring municipally supplied, reclaimed water across the Napa River to serve all the property’s irrigation needs and allow neighbors the opportunity to do the same.
  • Overland employed WELL™ standards to the project, a leading tool to advance health and wellness in buildings globally, administered by The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™). Together with the property’s ecological strategies, the WELL™ registered resort supports the overarching goal of elevating the health and wellness of visitors and staff.

Since its debut in the spring of 2022, Stanly Ranch has received swift acclaim from tourists and locals alike for its contemporary design, scenic hike and bike trails, 135 guest rooms across 78 individual modern cottages, and exceptional spa. The resort sits lightly on the land, meticulously deconstructed to pay tribute to its agrarian roots while implementing advanced water and energy saving technologies for a resilient future.


Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Sarasota, FL

What is slated to become the nation’s first Net Positive Botanical Garden Community, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby) has begun a $42 million, three-phase master planned garden complex that is expanding its mission of botany, horticulture, education, historical preservation, and the environment on its current 15-acre site. Phase I of the Master Plan is innovating for a greener future, one where architecture blends into the landscape, creates its own energy, and respects and is informed by its ecological context to inspire others and serve as a model of truly sustainable, resilient design.

As the most biodiverse botanical garden in the world per acre, Selby’s structures will strive for net-positive energy, be free of toxic chemicals, and lower the energy footprint many times below the generic commercial structure.

Phase I of the of the three-phase Master Plan includes:

  • The Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF)—a new 27,700 sq. ft. building that will house parking, a gift shop and a garden-level restaurant featuring organic produce and herbs grown on the building’s rooftop garden.
  • An advanced, one-acre solar field array will provide more than 105 percent of the power needs of the new buildings, with the excess power feeding the existing historic structures on campus and reducing their carbon footprint, and helping the organization become net-positive.
  • The LEAF also includes a stormwater filtration system that will collect and cleanse stormwater onsite to help protect the Sarasota Bay ecosystem, which will clean and reuse more than a million gallons of water a year.
  • A new Plant Research Center will house an herbarium, laboratory, and spirits collection, as well as a research library that will preserve the collection of irreplaceable rare books and botanical illustrations, some dating from the 1700s.
  • It is the third Emerging Living Community to seek certification by the International Living Future Institute.

Binational River Conservation Project – Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, MX

A community lead conservation effort between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, the Binational River Conservation Project aims to strengthen the historic relationship between two nations around a unified vision of a 6.2-mile stretch of the Rio Grande River for a project that champions river restoration, economy revitalization, while celebrating a shared heritage and culture. The first of its kind, the plan aims to create an international prototype for border communities around the world as a cultural destination and model for cooperation, conservation, and community.  Project goals include:

  • Remediate sewage to secure clean, safe drinking water for nearly six million people who depend on the Rio Grande as their primary water source.
  • Improve habitats for native plants and animals, especially species of greatest conservation need, such as migrating butterflies, birds, and other wild pollinators. Key initiatives include invasive species management, native species reforestation, and monarch butterfly waystations.
  • Mitigate flooding and protect riverbank integrity through erosion control while reversing soil degradation.
  • Leverage nature to enhance border security in partnership with local and state law enforcement and national border security agencies. Improve line-of-sight for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Attract visitors through new recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities. Promote artistic, historical, and social activities that a new greenspace provides, while offering enriching and captivating experiences.

While creating a Binational River Park between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo is a bold and ambitious project, and one that will require a significant financial commitment; the resulting growth in human, social, economic, and natural capital will far exceed the initial investment.


Overland was founded with a strong dedication to crafting sustainable spaces, advocating for the responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources, and creating well-loved places with positive impact. Recognized as an authority in sustainable design with over 65% of staff registered as LEED Accredited professionals and among the top five companies in the world for Living Futures Accredited professionals, Overland continues to boldly lead the way in high-performing, human-centered architecture, master planning and urban design. Learn more about Overland’s intentional approach to cultivating relationships between people and their surroundings at


Check out more of projects here at Overland by clicking here. 

Overland Appoints New President and Leadership Team for Bold Future of Firm

Overland Board Chairman Madison Smith (right) and outgoing CEO Rick Archer, FAIA, (left) appoint Principal Adam Bush, AIA (center) to President with eye towards firm’s future growth. ©Overland Partners, Inc.

Overland Board Chairman Madison Smith (right) and outgoing CEO Rick Archer, FAIA, (left) appoint Principal Adam Bush, AIA (center) to President with eye towards firm’s future growth. ©Overland Partners, Inc. 

Overland Partners, a Texas-based architecture and urban design firm known for award-winning design work in Texas as well as the United States and abroad, has appointed Adam Bush, AIA, as their new President. Bush, who recently celebrated 16 years with the firm serving as Principal and Director of Overland’s Education practice, will lead Overland into the future, transitioning from a founder-led firm of four individuals that began in 1987 to a group of over 90 employees in San Antonio, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and New York with an eye towards future growth.

“We are aligning our business structure with our core values of including new and relevant viewpoints and voices into the practice of architecture,” said Madison Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Bush takes over the reins from founding principal and notable architect Rick Archer, FAIA, who served as Overland’s CEO for the last seven years. Archer will continue to practice architecture with the firm and pursue opportunities related to lecturing, publishing, and thought leadership in areas of the built environment and a focus on education, sustainability, social equity, and design that inspires human flourishing.

Bush will continue his practice as an architect while leading the firm. He brings a depth of knowledge to complex building projects and collaborates closely with clients, construction partners and consultant teams to deliver highly sustainable, transformational projects of positive impact. Some of his most recognized work includes Patton Hall at the University of Texas at Austin; the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business & Innovation at Baylor University; transformation of the new Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus; the new University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) School of Data Science as well as UTSA’s Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Careers School currently underway in downtown San Antonio. He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and holds a Bachelor of Architecture.

In addition to Bush being named President, the firm has announced the following individuals have been appointed to the senior leadership team:

James Lancaster, Vice President of Studio Operations

Michael Monceaux, Vice President of Architectural Services

Sebastian Ortiz, Vice President of Business Operations

Erika Picard, Vice President of Marketing & Brand

Bush said this is an exciting next chapter for Overland, with a multi-generational ownership structure that empowers young employees to become future leaders while honoring the founding principals who laid a strong foundation for the firm over the last three decades, and who continue to be a vital part of the firm’s future.

“Our new leaders are a vital part of the continuum and legacy of the firm,” said Bush. “We are celebrating a bright future for our creative community at Overland, as well as for the clients we serve,” he said.

Sensitive to environmental and aesthetic contexts, Overland is known for integrating technology, materials, art, and craft to create well-loved places that bring people together. An Architect Top 50 Firm, Overland has received more than 200 international and national design awards and has been widely published at home and abroad.

Overland Architect Jake Hyde Brings Energy to Design Practice

Overland Architect Jake Hyde Brings Energy to Design Practice, Firm Programs and Teaching UTSA Architecture Students

Resiliency Resounds in His Career and University Coursework

Everything architect Jakob Hyde, RA, WELL AP, does is humancentric. As a young designer, he strives to make architecture approachable, bringing together inspiring design with functionality. Such practice involves a high degree of empathy, not to mention creativity and deep dives into problem solving. But that is where Jakob, “Jake,” excels—researching, understanding, and ultimately creating a project that brings out the best in the people who live and work in the structures he designs.

From an early age, Jake knew he wanted to be an architect.

“I’ve always been obsessed with space, how it feels, and how people interact with the built environment,”

he said. While contemplating the world around him as he grew up, he took that inherent interest to technical school outside of Boston and studied architectural drafting, where he learned the principles of good construction drawing. By the time he reached college, he had a proficient software foundation for all that architecture school had in store.


While attending Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he was enrolled for five years across bachelor and master’s degree programs, he was immersed in the fast-paced energy of Boston. “I was thrust into an urban environment, and I quickly learned that it opened up a new window for me to study the ebb and flow of the city, the interaction of people with the built environment, and each other,” Jake said. The highlight of his university experience was the vibrant studio culture with open and collaborative dialogue that was part of each project. “I am a narrative thinker, so transforming robust words into graphics and diagrams is a natural process for me, and one that I was able to refine during my college experience,” he said. That same culture allowed him to test ideas in new ways and understand the collective impact of working as an individual, and as a member of a team.

“Working in teams can offer a multitude of perspectives on design, which many times is the best way to create impactful architecture,” he said.

The collaborative atmosphere he enjoyed at the university, coupled with a strong sense of community, are what attracted him to Overland three years ago. Currently on the design team that works with large universities, Jake said he appreciates the approach Overland employs to unlock the embedded potential of people and places, known as The Human Handprint™.  A human-centered design methodology pioneered by Overland, the firm uses the Human Handprint to guide clients through the design process and bring an intentional approach to connecting each client’s unique mission, vision and values to holistic sustainability and positive human impact. Personally, Jake strives to make architecture approachable, where beautiful design, sustainability and usability converge.

While working as a registered architect in a busy practice and coordinating the firm’s Lunch & Learn programs, what else could the 26-year-old put on his plate? A teaching gig. Jake is a new instructor at the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture this semester, teaching Design 3 to second year architecture students. With a robust syllabus that includes some traditional assignments such as field sketching and modeling, the focus of Jake’s class is environmental resiliency.

The class has been tasked with designing a new community for residents living in San Antonio ten years from now, where increasingly extreme weather patterns yield unpredictable clean water and energy supplies. The studio posits that new structures will be needed to house these displaced populations, and will demand a holistic approach to both durable, long-lasting sustainability.

“We want today’s students to ponder a new model for how Texans should live in this new era of complex climate change, with ecological consciousness and resiliency in mind,” Jake said.


One of the most valuable lessons he tries to instill in his students is the understanding that the strongest and best ideas make use of careful, constant, and rigorous attention. “Not unlike editing a story, students are learning it takes many iterations to achieve something that provides value. And even then, it’s never finished,” said Jake.

While working with eighteen students over sixteen weeks, Jake not only hopes to expose pragmatic applications of architecture to the class, but also foster a closer connection to the design community at large. “I hope to use this opportunity to not only cultivate skill and design development, but to try and bridge the gap between the academy and practice,” he said. “Those two worlds can sometimes be disparate things. In doing what we do – as architects – you need a constant and continuous connection to both. I feel teaching can make you a better architect, and practicing makes you a better teacher – ‘iron-sharpens-iron’ that way.”

With his affable personality, creativity, practical design knowledge, and a deep appreciation for what collaboration can do, Jake hopes to shepherd a new generation of architects – or, as he puts it “at least these eighteen” to inspire thinking about collaborative problem-solving and the power of design to elevate communities. Optimistic about his students and the semester, Jake is looking for opportunities to bring Overland staff into each of his project reviews. “We have a really talented, creative community here at Overland whose feedback is pretty invaluable to me on a daily basis,” he says. “I’d be a fool not to employ that in a crit room, too.”

National Trails Day is June 4—Explore Nearby Parks for a Day of Discovery, Education and Stewardship

Rendering © Overland Partners

Zion and Other National Parks Expected to Expand as Outdoor Experiences Soar After COVID-19

Lace up your hiking shoes, grab your water bottle and head to your favorite park! Tomorrow, Saturday, June 4, marks the 30th anniversary of National Trails Day, an event created by the American Hiking Society to promote discovery, education and stewardship at nearby parks. As Saturday approaches, Friends of Government Canyon will host hiking and native plant events in San Antonio, and Texas Parks & Wildlife has several parks featuring special events to commemorate the day.

Since COVID restrictions were lifted in 2021, visits to national parks have surged, increasing by 10 to nearly 30 percent (, demonstrating the desire we have to connect with the natural world and each other through shared outdoor experiences. While communities and counties seek to explore and enjoy these special natural spaces, the need to expand the scope of our National Parks has become evident. One such example is Zion National Park, Utah’s first national park, and number ten of the most visited national parks in the U.S. (, hosting five million visitors a year. With nearly 150,00 acres and diverse terrain—red rock desert, towering forests and spectacular vistas—outdoor enthusiasts clamor to visit Zion.

The west entrance to Zion, in the town of Springdale, provides the gateway for 80 percent of the visitors to the park. Its stunning plateau prairie landscape hosts a lodge that tucks overnight visitors into a private retreat. Expansive views, sandstone peaks, starlit skies and a roaming heard of bison on a 300-acre preserve are part of the attraction.

Overland was engaged to create The East Gateway—an alternate point to the park that is designed to take pressure off the west entrance and rethink how to create an authentic gateway experience to a National Park that is memorable and prioritizes conservation. The East Gateway will include a new Visitor Center, café, restrooms and full-service National Park lodge, and be a launch point to the vast trail system within the park.

Gateway Entrance | Rendering © Overland Partners

As visitors near the east entrance, they will encounter Applecross Station, where a roundabout will slow and organize vehicular traffic, and offer ample tree-shaded parking. Shuttle service will transport guests to the nearby Visitor Center, centrally located to the hub of activity at Applecross.

Overland, known for connecting architecture to the surrounding landscape, is incorporating materials into the designs that reflect the natural colors and textures found throughout Zion’s east gateway. Locally quarried sandy sandstone, beetle-killed wood, and weathered steel compose the building envelopes. The pale yellows and sage green colors of native grasses around the buildings are accentuated with brightly colored flowering native plants in the courtyards. The geologic formations of the site, the hills and the canyon, define the visitor center site and are the backdrop for the architecture.

Introducing visitors to Zion National Park, the purpose of Apple Cross Station is to be a starting off point to educate visitors about the historical, cultural and environmental significance of the place and make the most of the time in the park. A covered gateway leads to outdoor information stations with maps, trail descriptions and details for visitors planning their excursions. The exterior of the center blends beautifully into the landscape with its stone finish from the nearby Zion Mountain Ranch Quarry. Awe-inspiring views and peaceful places to sit both inside and outdoors encourage visitors to linger while waiting for shuttles. Apple Cross Station’s Visitor Center and surrounding buildings offer protection from the elements while relying mostly on passive strategies, only supplemented by very efficient mechanical systems. Sustainability informed the entire project, from the site plan and building materials, to the water and energy conservation strategies.

Outdoor amenities include spaces designed to provide options for thermal comfort appropriate for all seasons. Deep shaded porches and tree covered places provide cooler spots to enjoy during the summer while siting structures to capture prevailing breezes offer natural ventilation and cooling. Sunny areas are exposed in the winter, allowing visitors a place to enjoy the warm sunshine, and a communal outdoor fire pit will be enjoyed during cold nights. A water channel will run through the Visitor Center site and will transport clean water from a treatment plant to the agricultural fields to irrigate crops that will be consumed at the on-site restaurant.

Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the Café, a free-standing restaurant offering patio dining and a menu curated to local harvests from the organic gardens and greenhouses. An inviting courtyard with an herb-infused water filling station, orchards, natural gardens and walking paths connect to trailheads. The nearby restrooms building boasts a green roof that aids in natural insulation and adds to the outward aesthetic.

The new East Gateway connects visitors to the land and culture, creating experiences that celebrate the natural beauty and ecology of the park. Overland’s sensitive approach to protect the valued natural assets of East Zion starting with the visitor amenities and eventually lodging, will be carried throughout the design and construction process. A grand lodge, planned for the future, will be tucked into the surrounding cliffs with views into the park.

This project is fully funded; anticipated construction is slated to begin Fall 2022.

Hemisfair Dedicates Elm Tree to Overland on Arbor Day Recognizing Firm’s Vision, Leadership and Service

Anne Krause, Executive Director, Hemisfair Conservancy recognizes Overland with tree dedication and tribute. Image Copyright Overland Partners

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” — Nelson Henderson

This majestic elm tree is dedicated to Overland Partners Architects who saw promise in this park. Just like this elm, Overland’s vision began as a seed of an idea planted in the heart of the San Antonio community – Hemisfair. Watered with creativity and resolve, cared for by Overland, civic leaders and a band of passionate citizens with a shared vision of urban revitalization, new life continues to spring from their efforts.

Our elm recognizes Overland’s leadership, dedication, and countless hours of volunteer service to re-envision the San Antonio community and unlock its enormous embedded potential.

Hemisfair Conservancy recognizes Overland with tree dedication and tribute. Image Copyright Overland Partners

In 2005 when the Overland team, led by Madison Smith and Rick Archer, began reimagining the area, the first step was to address the challenges Hemisfair had suffered over the years from the lack of an effective master plan. They created a concept in the hope of prompting community conversations about what Hemisfair should become. As word of the concept spread, a stream of business and community leaders visited Overland’s offices to see the concept, and the conversation gained interest and momentum. Among them was then-Mayor Phil Hardberger, who set up a taskforce to explore Hemisfair’s redevelopment.

Hemisfair was included in a 2007 bond package that earmarked $3.2 million for general upkeep, part of which was used for the restoration of two historic homes and the surrounding grounds: Eager House and Carriage House, serving as the cornerstone in Hemisfair’s redevelopment. Carriage House was completed in 2012, the same year the long-awaited master plan was approved.

In August 2009, newly elected Mayor Julián Castro and the San Antonio City Council established the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp., aka HPARC, a 501(c)3 nonprofit local government corporation governed by an 11-member board comprised of local leaders and two city executive staff members. The working board of highly skilled volunteers brought a diversity of talent from architecture and design, fine art, history, finance, marketing, and development. Overland’s Madison Smith chaired the initial board (2009 – 2013) and recalls the passionate energy and significant contributions each board member made. “We had no staff for two years,” said Smith, “so we were the staff. Everyone chipped in and we got things moving forward and done.” “Our conversations were lively, deep and meaningful. We engaged our neighbors city-wide and built real alignment while forging a strong partnership with the city,” Smith recalls.

Overland Principals Tim Blonkvist (left) and Madison Smith (right) stand with Hemisfair Conservancy CEO, Andres Andujar (center) in front of the elm tree dedicated to Overland. Image Copyright Overland Partners

The board built upon the fond memories and experiences of HemisFair ’68 and recast it in a contemporary light, connecting the past and future. They created a robust community engagement plan that showcased a vibrant, active urban park district that reintroduced people to downtown. The resulting vision was and still is to develop one of the world’s great public spaces. Private development stimulated by public investment is the economic driver.

The board’s first hire in 2011 was Andres Andujar, who was an active board member through the end of 2010, with a strong background in design and urban development. His vast experience in large civic projects included the Denver airport expansion, and the creation of the River North District and the redevelopment of Houston Street in San Antonio. “Overland’s critical role was creating a vision to kindle a conversation as to how to reimagine Hemisfair,” said Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation. “I see my role as carrying that vision forward.”

With Andujar at the helm, Hemisfair’s Master Plan of an urban district is centered around two parks – Yanaguana Garden and Civic Park – and weaves in residences, businesses and dining spots. Yanaguana Garden opened in 2015 with 4.1 acres of lush landscaping, towering arbors, plentiful shaded seating, adaptive play equipment, a sand play area and a splash pad. To call it a success is an understatement: The garden has hosted more than 3.5 million visitors – and 84 percent of them are local residents.

Civic Park at Hemisfair, a nine-acre signature green space, is currently under construction and phase 1 is expected to open in 2023. It will feature a large public plaza and courtyards, an event lawn and stage, and a connecting promenade that links to areas beyond the park. Water flowing through fountains, channels and pools, will tell the story of San Antonio’s deep historical connection to the river. The park will offer enriching and captivating experiences, drawing people together and strengthening our community.

The total economic impact of constructing Hemisfair is estimated at $880 million in new economic activity, and more than 4,000 jobs over a 10-year construction phase. When completed, Hemisfair will have an annual impact of $400 million for the San Antonio economy. The park’s impact extends well beyond parks and greenspaces to mixed use development, public/private partnerships and historic preservation.

“Every great city has a great downtown, and every great downtown has a great civic place. For San Antonio, that’s Hemisfair.” – Madison Smith

Overland Partners staff at the Hemisfair Conservancy tree dedication and tribute. Image Copyright Overland Partners


Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” Celebrates Life and Sanctity at Blanton Museum of Art

© Overland Partners Architects

The Late, Great American Artist Would Have Turned 98 on May 31st, 2021 

The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas, and sometimes they align to allow a once-in-a-lifetime project to be realized. Such is the case with Ellsworth Kelly’s Austinthe last great masterpiece by celebrated American artist Ellsworth Kelly at the University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of ArtThproject came to fruition through a series of discussions among two friends, both UT Austin graduates and both well into their respective careers – architect Rick Archer, Overland Partners’ principal on the project, and art historian, gallerist and agent for premier contemporary artists, Hiram Butler. 

During a trip to New York in the spring of 2012Butler visited with Kelly and Jack Shear, Kelly’s partner for more than 30 years and president of the Ellsworth Kelly FoundationThey discussed a design for a chapel Kelly had imagined over 20 years before. Butler asked Kelly if he would be willing to donate the design to an institution who would be build it? Kelly agreed with caveats – the structure would be publicly accessible and for a non-religious organization.  Butler reached out to Archer, with the proposition that the chapel be built in Texas. The Butler-Overland team had experience collaborating with artists on architectural projects. They had recently worked with artist James Turrell to bring The Color Insidea permanent Skyspace installation, to the top floor of UT Austin’s William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center, also designed by Overland Partners.  When Butler and Archer approached then UT President Bill Powers about bringing the chapel to campushe immediately recognized the genius of the workArcher recalled Powers saying, “It is quite possible that 50 years from now no one will remember what I accomplished at this university except bring this master work of contemporary art to Austin.”  

© Overland Partners Architects

So began the feverish quest in 2013 to assemble the team to procure funds and build the space, always aware of Kelly’s age, which at the time the project began was 89Archer said it was a full-on race, with AndreBober, Director of UT’s Landmarks Public Art Program, initiating the project; Simone Wicha, Director of the Blanton Museum of Art and Veronica Roberts, Blanton Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, adeptly coordinating the project and procuring the funds to insure the project was realized and Tom Butler with Linbeck Construction providing preconstruction services.  Archer enlisted fellow Overland architect and Skyspace collaborator, James Lancaster as a critical leader of the project.  Together, they collaborated with a team of buildersengineers and artisans that could meet the exacting standards presented by both the artist and project. On several occasions, Archer, Butler, and Linbeck’s Tom Butler (no relation to Hiram) travelled to Kelly’s Studio in Spencertown New York with Blanton leadership. “We executed drawings and worked all hours of the night to obtain his signature on each and every aesthetic decision,” Archer continued. “We all knew that if the documents did not have his signature, the work would not be an authentic Kelly,” he said. 

Once the approvals and funding were in place, a deep collaboration was fostered between Overland Partners, design-builder Linbeck Group, LLC, global engineers ARUP, custom fabrication specialists Carlson Baker Arts, world-renowned stained glass artists Franz Mayer of Munich, and the Blanton Museum staff. Together, team members forged partnerships and pushed boundaries to bring Kelly’s artistic vision to life, while building a museumquality structure.  

© Overland Partners Architects

Archer anticipated the powerful impact the work would have on the university, the city, and those who visited it, but not how the project, especially time with Kelly, would shape his personal view of the world. “I liken this project to working with Lady Bird Johnson (LBJ Wildflower Center1995 ) and artist James Turrell (The Color InsideUT’s William Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center2013) – as you collaborate with them, you get a glimpse of how they think and what they value, and it opens up a whole different level of understanding of the world around you,” said Archer.  

Every aesthetic element of Austin was reviewed by Kelly, who had never been involved in designing or constructing a building before, let alone one for public use that had to meet code requirements and the university’s design standards. Overland’s team collaborated with Kelly on every detail of the design, including the height and exterior material of the structure, entry doors, building proportions, building systems, and smaller points, such as fire alarms and exit signs.  Originally, the entry doors were rendered in hefty steel, but as the design took form during conversations in his home and studioKelly said, “I’d like the doors to be made of something that feels and looks more like this,” resting his hands on the ancient oak table where they were diningA Texas Live Oak that had been removed from the campus and stored off-site was the perfect solutionPieces of lumber from the tree were handselected and repurposed into the main entry doorsa full circle nod to Kelly’s respect of the natural world. 

“Our team was there to advocate the artist’s vision without interjecting our aesthetic views of the design,” Archer said.

Indeed, complex design challenges required creative solutions. Bringing together the best minds in design, engineering and construction to work alongside Kelly, countless decisions had to be reviewed and deliberated.  The exterior material of the chapel is an example. Kelly originally envisioned the exterior to be smooth plaster, but Overland expressed concern that it would not do well in Texas’ extreme sun and heat, and suggested impervious stone instead. After reviewing diagrams of how the chapel would look made of stone, Kelly expressed discomfort with the grid pattern that was presented. Archer then suggested a more random pattern with size and placement determined by a computer algorithm. “Kelly liked the idea of artistic decisions being made by chance and had a history of throwing dice to determine color and pattern on earlier works.  He loved the computer proposition,” Archer said.  

© Overland Partners Architects

The 14 black and white reliefs representing Stations of the Crossdrawn 25 years earlier, were originally conceived to be fabricated of painted steel. Kelly had a very specific ideas of the black and white tones he wanted to achieve, specifically the very pure white. Archer suggested stone for the panels, and Kelly agreed, assuming the exact hues could be located. Through Overland’s international network of relationships, they were able to source black marble from Belgium that Kelly approved and connect with a quarry in Carrara, Italy that had been closed for more than 200 years to procure the same white marble used for Michelangelo’s PietàArcher was inspired by the abstract connection and meaning the stone held having been used by one of the great Masters to represent Jesus of Nazareth, while Kelly was unconcerned about its origins and more interested in its aesthetic qualities. “He did not ascribe meaning to his work, per se.  He did not want people to see him, but to see the art,” said Archer.  

What resulted are simple yebold panels, that when viewedreflect the luminous windows but seem to absorb the image of the viewer, evoking a deeporganic connection between them and the work“Pure form and color with spatial unity ultimately defined Kelly’s work,” said Archer. 

Overland leaned into both craft and technology to formulate inventive ways to work with Kelly during the preconstruction phase, given his residence in rural New York. This included hundreds of computergenerated renderings, 3D models, and mock-ups that were exacting in scale, proportion, joinery, and other details in order to convey the artist’s precise visualization of the building.   

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (Interior, facing west), artist-designed building with installation of colored glass windows, black and white marble panels, and redwood totem, 60 x 73 x 26 ft. 4 in., © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, photo courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

While Kelly spent much of his life working on spectrums of color, this was the first project for him to use colored glassOverland worked with the team from Franz Mayer who provided copious samples of different colored glass to Kelly’s studio.  The studio reconfigured a large overhead door where samples were installed for Kelly to test and study colors. In the final installation, Kelly wanted each window to be flush on interior and exterior walls. Each stained-glass window ultimately was made of three different colors of glass laminated together to achieve the perfect shade Kelly sought. “Franz Mayer perfected the colorand Linbeck assembled and installed each window with no edge detail, executing with perfection this essential component of the design,” said Archer. 

“For the site selection, we presented maps, aerials, and orientation scenarios around the Blanton campusKelly reviewed all of the options and drew a star with a smiley face on the spot where Austin now sits,” said Archer.  

Titled Austinthe 2,715 square foot chapel honors the artist’s tradition of naming specific works for the locations to which they are destined. After five years of meticulous design and construction, it opened February 18, 2018, Three years after Kelly’s death.  Austihas quickly become an icon. Its rainbow-inspired stained-glass windows create streams of color that change throughout the day, while 14 large-scale black and white marble panels, and signature soaring redwood totem, channel joy and reflection, an enduring legacy of Kelly and a gift of wonder to the world.  

Austin has become a center of life on campus, where visitors enjoy a respite, students fall in love, contemplate the world, and where residents and tourists come to enjoy a reflective, sacred experience,” said Archer. “It is exactly how Ellsworth envisioned it,” he said.