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News Release — November 18, 1999

Ransom Center Selects Lake/Flato as Design Architects for Major Building Reconstruction

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has named the architectural firm Lake/Flato to design a major reconstruction of the Center's first and second floor public spaces. The San Antonio-based firm is nationally known for its design work and has been awarded over 50 regional and national Architecture Design Awards.

Lake/Flato was chosen by the Ransom Center's Architect Selection Committee from a short-list of three finalists. According to Center Director Thomas F. Staley, the committee was "very impressed with Lake/Flato's experience renovating other cultural institutions." Notably, Lake/Flato designed renovations of the Visitors Center at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin and the Cowden Gallery at the San Antonio Museum of Art. "The creativity they showed in these projects is striking," said Staley. "Lake/Flato took difficult pre-existing design problems and transformed them into beautiful and fitting spaces. We're looking forward to their applying that same vision to the Ransom Center's reconstruction."

According to David Lake, lead designer for the project, "our challenge is to develop a way to display the Center's phenomenal collections. We hope to help the Center become known as a spirited, visible place." When reconstruction is complete, the Ransom Center's ground level will include spacious galleries dedicated to displaying the Center's world-renowned collections and a theater for readings, film, and dramatic performance. Upstairs, scholars and students from around the world will conduct research in a stately reading room and share their discoveries at lectures and talks held in new seminar and study rooms. In all, reconstruction will more than triple the space available for exhibition and study. Currently, initial schematics will be completed in the spring of 2000 with construction set to begin in 2001.

"Reconstruction of the first two floors will immeasurably enhance the rich variety of opportunities our audience will have to learn and advance the study of the humanities," noted Staley. "I'm deeply pleased about how the new facilities will improve public access to our collections. For the first time in my memory, we will be able to hold exhibitions of national importance under our own roof."


Known throughout Texas as one of the Southwest's leading young architecture firms, Lake/Flato has begun to garner national accolades and attention. Established in 1984, the firm has completed projects throughout the western United States. From ranch houses to banks, museums to schools, Lake/Flato's designs respond to the environment through an understanding of the region's materials, crafts, climate, and architectural and cultural history. The firm's 50-plus design awards include the American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1992 and 1997.

Both David Lake and Ted Flato, the firm's principals, worked with the father of Texas architecture, O'Neil Ford, and formed a partnership based on their "love of similar architecture and divergent--but complementary--problem solving." Vernacular modernism, the genre practiced by Ford and passed on to his pupils, is characterized by simple, solid structures with easily discerned forms and clear functions.

The lineage of this style is evident in Lake/Flato's work. In 1994 they designed a new 12,000 square foot branch library for the city of San Antonio. Borrowing from the rural building forms common to the area, the library neatly melds into its oak tree lined residential neighborhood and features local limestone and high vaulted roofs with clerestory windows. Three years later, the firm designed the 15,000 square foot H-E-B Science Treehouse, a stand-alone building that is on the grounds of San Antonio's natural history museum. The Science Treehouse adapts the brick and stone materials of neighboring buildings while integrating eclectic details from the W.P.A. projects in the Park.

Lake/Flato recently completed a design to restore the Texas State Cemetery's Visitors' Center in Austin. The design reduces the architecture to simple walls which elegantly enclose the naturally beautiful site, a rural landscape of native grasses and wildflowers that will be restored to keep the spirit of other rural Texas cemeteries. Currently the firm is working on a 48,000 square foot combined renovation and new construction of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and Natural History.

The New Ransom Center

With internationally acclaimed manuscript and photography holdings and the largest art collection in Austin, the new Ransom Center will be a magnet of activity, attention, and excitement drawing students, scholars, and the public together to share and explore the thoughts and ideas that make up the humanities.

When completed, the reconstructed Ransom Center will feature:

  • A New Main Lobby where the Gutenberg Bible and the world's first photograph will be permanently displayed.
  • A New Main Gallery showcasing exhibitions that provide panoramic views of important literary and cultural movements, explore the intricacies of a writer's life, and chart the sweeping achievements of a career. With this gallery, the Ransom Center's collections will for the first time be displayed in a world-class museum setting.
  • A New Gallery of Photography devoted entirely to exhibitions on the history and art of photography. Exhibits will focus on such topics as early photographic experiments, the record of daily life made by Western photographers, or the artistic vision of a single photographer or movement.
  • A New Gallery of Art featuring major works by renowned artists as diverse as Frida Kahlo, Jean Cocteau, Robert Rauschenberg, and Eric Gill.
  • A New Theater designed as a multi-use space where larger audiences than ever will enjoy programs such as notable authors reading from their newest works; researchers revealing their latest discoveries; playwrights introducing their most recent dramas; films presented by their producers; and important photographers and artists sharing their vision.
  • A New Reading Room where readers will conduct in-depth research or simply examine the personal record of the creative mind, aided by the latest technologie--from online searches to digital imaging. Other new features will include vastly improved access, comfortable work spaces, and an expanded reference area.
  • A New Photography and Art Study Room where viewers will utilize state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for studying a wide-range of visual artifacts, from tiny photographs and albums to oversized posters, paintings, and sculpture.
  • New Seminar Rooms where students of all ages will gather to learn from the collections in a setting that encourages discussion and exchange.

Austin's Museum Building Boom

The Center's reconstruction coincides with the building of three new museums in Austin, the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, the Austin Museum of Art, and the Texas State History Museum.

Austin, the second fastest-growing city in the United States, is known for its high-tech economy, live music, and flourishing film industry. The Center's reconstruction, and the construction of three new museums, stands to bring to the Texas capital a cultural revival unprecedented in its history. With the new Ransom Center and Blanton Museum, which will be located in close proximity, The University is a major contributor to this effort.

"The renovation of the Ransom Center and the construction of the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art herald a new era for the arts at The University of Texas and for the city of Austin," said University of Texas President Larry R. Faulkner. "With state-of-art galleries at the Ransom Center, visitors will have an unprecedented opportunity to see some of the world's most fascinating treasures. This expansion will enhance our ability to share and explore the humanities with students, scholars, and the public."

Funding for the Ransom Center's Reconstruction

To date, the Ransom Center has raised over $5 million for reconstruction. The cost of the construction is estimated to be $5 million with an additional $1.4 million needed for outfitting the new public spaces. Support has come from individuals and foundations across Texas and beyond with major gifts from the Hoblitzelle Foundation of Dallas; the Marlene Nathan Meyerson and Family Foundation of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Prothro of Wichita Falls, Texas; the N.C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation of Orange, Texas; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tate of Houston; with additional funds from The University of Texas at Austin.

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