In the spring of 2015, Saint Edwards University selected Baldridge Architects to oversee the exterior restoration and interior renovation of Holy Cross Hall, one of two prominent 1903 buildings anchoring its south Austin hilltop campus. Originally built as a dormitory, Holy Cross Hall had lost much of its original luster after decades of adaptive re-use, and the university wished to create a modern office environment to bring new life and use to this iconic building. It also wished to transform the building’s basement into a lively center for training and educating faculty.
The original architects had intended the structure to be secondary in stature to the Main Building (also built in 1903). Rather than introducing a jarring modern interior, we chose to honor the existing structure. We took it as our central mission to “restore” the building to a fictitious past—one where its original architects had anticipated the iconic stature it would inherit a century later.
The complex program involved balancing the limitations of the existing building while seamlessly bringing it up to code with respect to energy efficiency, lighting, accessibility, fire suppression, emergency egress, air conditioning and structural stability.
Taking cues from our successes with the Gardner Restaurant design, we opted to create a space that would feel neither modern nor historicist, but instead timeless. Throughout, we introduced modern distillations of elements from the existing building and small “living rooms” to foster collaboration and study. We brought light into previously dark hallways through interior transom windows and an open central stair acting as a natural luminaire. The central hallways feature a long-leaf-pine wood floor recycled from the original subfloor and a strategic use of walnut accents to lend the environment a warm home-like quality.