The 14 columns that span the front exterior of the Jack K. Williams Building feature alternating carved faces of a man and a woman (Carolyn Brown/Carolyn Brown Photography).
Vosper, like many geniuses, was as flawed as he was brilliant, Woodcock said. Gieseke hired Raiford Stripling, one of Vosper’s former students, to ensure his mentor showed up for work at Texas A&M every day. Achieving that success usually involved “a couple of shots of whiskey for breakfast.”
Nonetheless, the amount of work, 10 buildings on the campus of Texas A&M, that Vosper produced in just four years, all with equally meticulous attention to themes and details, was nothing short of amazing by all standards, Woodcock said.
“Ten buildings in four years is mind-blowing, and the fact that they all have such an amazing quality is just astonishing,” he said. “This was an amazing opportunity that had never happened before, and it’s unlikely to ever happen again.”
Beyond Vosper’s late-night work ethic that produced a prolific body of work in a short period of time, four other factors came together symbiotically to make the projects possible, Woodcock said. The immense amount of capital necessary to construct impressive buildings was suddenly in the university’s coffers after oil was found on the West Texas land that was set aside for higher education around the beginning of the Republic; in the midst of the Great Depression, skilled workers were eager and affordable; a shift in focus from Wellborn Road on the west side of campus, where railroad cars delivered visitors, to the newly constructed Highway 6, now Texas Avenue, where visitors increasingly began arriving by motorcar, called for a prominent new building on the campus’ east side; and finally, during a time when fields such as engineering, agriculture, veterinary medicine and chemistry were rapidly advancing, specialized educational facilities were required across the campus.
“The built environment is as important as what happens in the classrooms and the quality of the faculty, students and staff,” Woodcock said. “It all shapes the university and reflects who we are, and that’s why I’m so excited that these buildings that speak are part of that history.”
Last month, the Texas A&M University Press published, “Architecture That Speaks,” co-authored by McCoy and Woodcock following two years of research. The lavishly illustrated book relates the history of Vosper’s 10 buildings on the campus of Texas A&M. Photography was provided by Dallas photographer Carolyn Brown.