Interior Design: Studio 8 Architects
Structural Engineers: Datum Gojer Engineers
Mep Engineers: HMG & Associates
Civil Engineers: Davcar Engineering
Landscape Architects: Hood Design
Contractor: SpawGlass Contractors
Text description provided by the architects. A result of sixty years of student lobbying, the Student Activity Center at the University of Texas at Austin is fundamentally a place built for and by the student body. The SAC challenges the traditional campus paradigm of a building performing a single dedicated function.
With an incredibly diverse program, the SAC is a student union that functions like a micro-campus and features a 5,000-SF ballroom, a 500-seat auditorium, a black box theater, 12 student conference/meeting rooms, student organization offices, a student government chamber, dining areas, dance and theater rehearsal spaces, and flexible meeting spaces.
The need for additional dedicated Liberal Arts space emerged during the planning process; thus two additional floors of research labs and office spaces for the College of Liberal Arts were incorporated into the overall design and are connected to the adjacent Liberal Arts Building via a sky bridge.
Addressing the lack of middle-scale outdoor spaces on campus, the project integrates over 46,000 SF of landscaped courtyards fitted with electrical outlets and wireless internet, creating places for dining, studying, and gathering outdoors nearly year round in the moderate Central Texas climate. The Color Inside, a “Skyspace” by world-renowned artist James Turrell, is located on the rooftop terrace and provides students a space for quiet reflection throughout the day.
Integrating low-tech, high-impact solutions, the SAC is a new interpretation of timeless building traditions and a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional campus architecture. The simple forms and clean lines distinguish it, yet the limestone walls and red tile roof unite it with the existing campus buildings and master plan. Tucked behind a mature oak grove, the building features abundant glazing that, along with its narrow footprint, maximizes daylighting and provides a visual connection to the surrounding landscape.
The building incorporates openings along opposite facades to harness natural ventilation. Above-grade cisterns collect rainwater for landscape irrigation and distribute water throughout the site to make any rain event a “celebration.” The project also maximizes the use of outdoor space by exhausting relief air to condition balconies and terraces, improving user comfort during the hottest and coldest months. The combined strategies led to LEED Gold certification. However, SAC’s most sustainable aspect is that is used by 15,000 students daily and has transformed a portion of UT-Austin’s East Mall into the “campus living-room.”