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Is There an Unknown Architect as Big as Texas?

 

Everything is bigger in Texas! You have heard it before and it is just a fact. Texas is home to nearly 26.5 million people, or 8.4% of the total U.S. population. Most of this population is concentrated around cities including Houston, Dallas, and Austin. The Lone Star State holds a major portion of the U.S. economy. Its total gross domestic product is $1.43 trillion, which is approximately 8.5% of the entire U.S. GDP. Although Texas is primarily known for its oil, it is also the leader in wind power development, and has a large aerospace and aviation industry. Fifty-two Fortune 500 companies including Exxon Mobil, AT&T, and American Airlines are headquartered in Texas.

With that kind of standing behind them, Texans are known to brag about just about everything. If they aren’t bigger and better, they will be soon. So, it becomes quite puzzling to most folks when a Texan’s work is significantly impactful, yet folks just don’t know his name. The Texan that remained so anonymous for so long is renowned architect O’Neil Ford, better known as the Texas godfather of modern architecture.

O’Neil Ford was a renowned architect of the mid-20th century in Texas and a leading architect of the American Southwest. He is considered one of the nation’s best unknown architects, and his designs merged the modernism of Europe with the indigenous qualities of early Texas architecture. In 1974 he was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Council on the Arts, the only individual to ever be given that title.

His designs include several buildings in Denton, among them the Little Chapel in the Woods, renovations at the Emily Fowler Public Library, the Denton Civic Center, Denton’s City Hall and several buildings at The Selwyn School. Because his designs form much of Denton’s identity, a Texas historical marker honoring Ford was dedicated at the Emily Fowler Library in 2009.

Other Dallas works by Ford include much of the University of Dallas campus in Irving. He designed the Braniff Memorial Tower, the Braniff Graduate Center, the Gorman Lecture Center, parts of the art village, the Haggar University Center, and the Haggerty Science Building.

Many of Ford’s works can also be found in San Antonio. These works include the renovation of La Villita, the campus of Trinity University, the campus of Saint Mary’s Hall, the University of Texas at San Antonio Main Campus, and the Tower of the Americas.

Other significant works by O’Neil Ford include buildings at Skidmore College and several facilities around the world designed for Texas Instruments. Shortly before his death, he completed the design of the building of the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville.

From the Factory Floor

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by Gerald Olesker, ADG Lighting