Architecture That Speaks: S.C.P. Vosper and Ten Remarkable Buildings at Texas A&M

Architecture That Speaks: S.C.P. Vosper and Ten Remarkable Buildings at Texas A&M

Architecture That Speaks: S.C.P. Vosper and Ten Remarkable Buildings at Texas A&M

Architecture That Speaks: S.C.P. Vosper and Ten Remarkable Buildings at Texas A&M


When the A&M College of Texas opened its doors in 1876, its early buildings followed a Victorian architectural style. Classical architecture came to the campus with the Academic Building, after the 1912 fire that destroyed Old Main. Subsequent buildings generally followed this neoclassical path, but the growth of the campus in the Depression era saw the addition of an extraordinary group of buildings, sited in accordance with a master plan developed by college architect F. E. Giesecke and designed by S. C. P. Vosper, each of whom also held faculty positions in the first architecture program at a state college in Texas.

The buildings designed by Vosper are arguably the finest buildings on the campus, uniquely expressive of the agricultural and mechanical origins of the university; they delight the senses with color, sculpture, and wit. Nancy T. McCoy and David G. Woodcock, distinguished preservation architects and scholars, review the history of Texas A&M campus architecture and provide in-depth coverage of Vosper and his legacy. Illustrated by the sumptuous photography of Carolyn Brown, Architecture That Speaks concludes with observations on recent approaches toward the reuse and rehabilitation of campus heritage architecture and a view to the future, as plans evolve for further development of the campus that maintains a respect for both strategic vision and historical heritage.


The authors of this exceptional book have noted that Winston Churchill once famously said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

As a university president, I have had many occasions to reflect on the truth of Churchill’s premise. Great universities require great buildings. They need spaces that lend themselves to discourse and inquiry, to research and debate, and to quiet reflection and thoughtful attention to the reflections of others.

With illuminating words and rich images, Nancy McCoy, David Woodcock, and Carolyn Brown introduce us to the architect Samuel Charles Phelps Vosper, who with the cooperation and guidance of Frederick E. Giesecke envisioned and designed some of the most aesthetically pleasing, well-used, and deeply admired buildings on the campus of Texas A&M University— or the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, as it was then known. Starting in 1929, under the direction of Giesecke as college architect, Vosper designed ten buildings that would become the most significant structures on the campus at that time. in the decades since, these structures have, in many ways, remained closely connected to the historic heart and soul of Texas A&M University.

Anyone who has been stirred by the classic elegance of the front façade of the Jack K. Williams Administration Building, or who has admired the meticulous grace of the adornments on the interior of Cushing Library, or even who, perhaps in a moment of lapsed attention during a lecture, has stared in fascination at the geometric perfection of the stained-glass windows in Halbouty Auditorium has been impacted by the design genius of S. C. P. Vosper. As the authors make clear, Vosper, in giving shape to these iconic buildings, also gave shape to the students, faculty, staff— and, indeed, the history—of this great university. His is a heritage of beauty and utility that is well worth celebrating.

I commend this book to you, a thoughtful tribute to an architectural and aesthetic legacy that remains intimately linked with the importance of place for all Aggies, as well as the proud character and tradition of Texas A&M University.

—Michael K. Young President, Texas A&M University January 2017 . . .

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