McKinney York Architects

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William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center South Courtyard

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The south courtyard renovation at UT Austin’s Student Activity Center is a micro-reclamation of both human and ecological habitations. Years of heavy use and minimal maintenance resulted in a neglected space suffering from compacted soils, poor drainage, abandoned water features, tree canopy conflicts, little biodiversity, and a lack of usable spaces. The project analyzed spatial and temporal use patterns to define areas of intensive student activity. Reorganized circulation zones focus pedestrian traffic and frame discreet student areas. These student areas form outdoor rooms that are raised above grade to improve drainage, soil and tree root health. The outdoor rooms are dispersed amongst lush native plantings representing different microclimates, adding new habitat to the campus and heightening the diversity of sensory experiences. The result is a revitalized micro-climate with a new sense of place – one that harmonizes the needs of both students and the environment to form a sustainable whole.

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