Student Movement Brings About Activity Center

AUSTIN, Texas — After almost 60 years of lobbying, students at the University of Texas Austin campus have access to a new Student Activity Center serving as a social and cultural center on campus.
The 149,000-square-foot building, located in the heart of the campus, is designed to serve as the “campus living room” for the growing student body and is currently in the application process to earn the first LEED certification on campus.
The facility was designed for easy accessibility, more activity spaces, and overall sustainability based on extensive student input and design workshops, and is located geographically and functionally complementary to the existing student union.
San Antonio-based Overland Partners Architects and associate architect WTW Architects of Pittsburgh designed a contemporary building on the East Mall of the campus, the primary pedestrian point of entry to the campus.
To meet the student goal of dedicated activity spaces, the center includes a 500-seat auditorium, a black box theatre, 12 student meeting rooms, student organization offices, a student government chamber, and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom that is already booked for months, with events such as comedian Zach Braff, a 3-D Gaming tournament, and a concert by Chuck D. and Common.
In addition to group study lounges and individual study areas scattered throughout, the facility also includes an indoor food court with regional fast food favorites and a coffee bar adjacent to about 46,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor gathering space, officials from Overland said.
“I have to say that a mark of any successful building is how it makes one wonder how we managed without it,” said Juan González vice president for student affairs. “It is truly a major enhancement to not only the area but the whole campus environment.”
The facility reflects a modern take on traditional campus architecture, design firm officials said.
“The simple forms and clean lines of the SAC distinguish it, yet the limestone walls and red tile roofs unify it with the existing campus buildings,” a firm statement said.
The center’s location behind a mature oak grove and its many windows throughout the building allow for daylighting and views of the surrounding landscape, along with access to the rooftop courtyard and adjacent green roof.
A cistern collects and recycles rainwater for landscape irrigation.

Artist James Turrell is designing a skyspace installation for the SAC opening in fall 2012, and the enclosed rooftop space will have an opening in the roof surrounded by LED lights that will affect the viewer’s perception of the sky, the firm reports.