Photo Essay: Trinity’s Groundbreaking Dicke Hall

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

Dicke Hall, Trinity University – San Antonio, Texas

One of my highlights of visiting Trinity University this year is a tour of their latest facility, Dicke Hall, which had its grand opening on September 23, 2022. The three-story structure is the new home for the humanities and will be part of a three-building complex.

I love architecture and photography, so the opportunity to document the building was extra special. It may look like just another modern building. However, there were special design considerations. Trinity University is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — the only Texas campus designated as a modernist historic district and only one of three in the country. Architect O’Neil Ford designed 33 buildings on the campus, and the new Dicke Hall blends into the mid-century modern aesthetic.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

A newly paved plaza and landscaping seamlessly extend the campus northward, adding presence to a previously underutilized area.

Remarkably, the silver-gray columns may look like steel or concrete, but they’re not. They’re stained wood, using a new building technique called mass timber. This new technique allows for quicker, more eco-friendly development. Lake | Flato, one of my favorite architecture films, designed Dicke Hall. They started in San Antonio, gaining increased notoriety, and are also responsible for Austin’s new, incredible, central public library which I profiled back in 2018.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

Step inside, and you begin to appreciate the mass timber construction with the giant wood beams. It brings a natural warmth that contrasts effectively with the modern, airy design.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

The wood-dominated stairwell, in particular, sets it apart from other commercial structures — it doesn’t feel like a typical university classroom building.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

The second and third-floor hallways look similar to the ground floor, except you get a better view. The chunky wood beams still dominate since they create the skeleton of the entire building.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

I stepped inside the English department on the second floor. I briefly talked to a professor who was beaming with pride, showing me her new office. This cozy space is the study area surrounded by faculty offices.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

At Trinity, most classes are under 20 students, making this one the larger classrooms. Designed in the newest style — notice everything is on wheels — the staff can reconfigure the chairs and desks as needed.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas
Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

Here are two examples of study and lounge areas on the first floor.

The second picture highlights the size of the wood timbers used to construct the building. Instead of wood, imagine it in concrete. It would feel like a brutalist industrial place instead of a warm and inviting space.

Dicke Hall, Trinity University - San Antonio, Texas

Finally, this is the dedicated screen room for films. I attended a lecture on Dicke Hall and its groundbreaking building techniques. It capped off a wonderful experience of Trinity University’s newest educational facility.

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