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Visions of Alternate Futures

October 29, 2018

You might have heard that UTSA is in the midst of developing the next iteration of the Campus Master Plan. The most recent plan was completed in 2014, and the introduction to that version outlines the reason the University periodically conducts this exercise:

The purpose of this master plan is to provide direction for the future physical development of UTSA so that the university can best serve all its students, faculty and community stakeholders. UTSA’s future direction must not only reflect the values, aspirations and traditions of the university community, it must also reflect the expectations and needs of the surrounding community and region.

This master plan serves as a common vision and a blueprint for progress, providing direction and a sense of place for our academic community.

Looking ahead, a master plan can offer a sense of optimism by suggesting that all future campus development would be thoughtfully conceived. New buildings would be in harmony with the existing buildings, the landsite, and the surrounding community, and would serve the needs of a variety of constituent populations. By undertaking this planning project, the hope is that the University would avoid making lasting decisions willy-nilly, resulting in a campus that is a hodgepodge of shortsighted ideas in the form of buildings.

Looking back, studying master plans from UTSA’s past offers views of what our predecessors valued and what they believed the future would hold. It is fascinating to read these past plans to see which ideas did or did not come to fruition. It feels like catching glimpses of alternate realities. One of my favorite documents to show visitors to the archives is the 1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future, which features a dramatic bridge to a proposed “East Academic Campus” that was never built.

1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future cover page1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future land use plan map

1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future back cover page

UTSA: General Information and University History Collection, UA 1.01

In a recent conversation, my Special Collections colleague, Milton Babbitt, reminded me of the existence of the first Comprehensive Planning Guide, which was prepared in 1971 by Ford, Powell & Carson, Architects and Bartlett Cocke & Associates., Inc., the campus architecture firms. Mr. Babbitt worked for Ford, Powell & Carson and was responsible for site development of the UTSA campus.

1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide cover page1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide academic buildings1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide paseo rendering

1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide plaza rendering

UTSA: General Information and University History Collection, UA 1.01

The second image is especially compelling, since it shows what campus would look like if the later academic buildings were designed to match the first four core buildings, radiating outward.

Standing here in 2018, on the cusp of our 50th anniversary year (2019), I can only wonder what campus will look like in 2030, 2044, and especially in 2069, which will be the 100th anniversary of the University.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Julianna Barrera-Gomez permalink
    November 1, 2018 8:10 am

    Fascinating that the 1993 plan called for ponds/lakes and streams on campus. That and the dramatic bridge would have made main campus look very different!

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