Skip to Main Content
Harry Ransom Center homepage

News Release — September 3, 1999

Ransom Center to Undergo Major Reconstruction: Three Architects Shortlisted for Design

The Ransom Center announced today that it is preparing for a major reconstruction that will transform its first and second floors into public spaces devoted to exhibition and scholarship. The 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 quadruple the space available for exhibition and study.

"Reconstruction of the first two floors will immeasurably enhance the rich variety of opportunities the Center offers to learn and advance the study of the humanities," remarked Director Thomas F. 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."

The Center's reconstruction coincides with the building of three new arts facilities 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 arts institutions, stands to bring to the city a cultural revival unprecedented in its history. With the new Ransom Center and Blanton, which will be located in close proximity, The University is a major contributor to this effort and certain to be one of its leading beneficiaries.

"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 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."

The Reconstructed Ransom Center

With internationally renowned manuscript and photography holdings and one of the strongest art collections in central Texas, 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 such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Miguel Covarrubias, Rufino Tamayo, and Eric Gill.

  • A New Event Hall 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 creators; 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 technologiesÑfrom 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 drawings and albums to large photographs, 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.

Funding for the Ransom Center's Reconstruction

To date, the Ransom Center has raised over $5 million for its reconstruction with a goal of $6.4 million. Support has come from individuals and foundations across Texas and beyond with major gifts from the Marlene Nathan Meyerson and Family Foundation of Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Hoblitzelle Foundation of Dallas; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Prothro of Wichita Falls; the N.C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation of Orange, Texas; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tate of Houston; and The University of Texas at Austin.

Architect Selection for the Ransom Center's Reconstruction

In March, the Ransom Center began an extensive search for an architect to design its dramatic reconstruction. After reviewing proposals submitted in response to Requests for Qualifications, the Architect Selection Committee narrowed its search to three candidates.

The three short-listed firms are: Booziotis & Company Architects, Dallas; Lake/Flato, San Antonio; and Overland Partners, San Antonio.

Booziotis & Company is serving as Project Architect for the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art's new building (Herzog & de Meuron Architekten AG is the Design Architect). They are known for their renovation and interior architecture work, having completed renovations of The University's Sutton Hall and Goldsmith Hall.

Lake/Flato has considerable experience working for museums in Texas. They designed the H-E-B Science Treehouse at the Witte Museum in San Antonio and were responsible for Cowden Wing at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Recently, Lake/Flato was hired to design the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's first expansion in twenty years.

Overland Partners designed the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, a new wing of the San Antonio Museum of Art. They also developed a master plan for major renovations to the San Antonio Museum. If you've been to the Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Center, designed by Overland, you're familiar with their work.

The three candidates visited the Ransom Center in August for interviews with the Architect Selection Committee. Each firm gave a presentation to the committee, discussing past related projects and their perspectives on the Center's renovation. Based on the interview process, the Architect Selection Committee will report their recommendations to University President Larry Faulkner who will then submit a final selection to the University Chancellor for approval.

An announcement of the firm chosen to design the renovation is scheduled for September, 1999. Reconstruction itself is slated to begin in 2001.

Press Room Press Releases


Alyssa Morris
Communications & Marketing Manager