John Harold (Hal) Box, dean emeritus of the School of Architecture, died on May 8 at the age of 81 following a lengthy illness.
Box, who led the School of Architecture from 1976-1992, was recently bestowed with the title of dean emeritus and was honored for his hard work and dedication to the School of Architecture on April 8 at a reception re-naming the Goldsmith Courtyard the “Eden and Hal Box Courtyard.”
“It is hard to overstate the significance of this loss to our community,” said Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture. “Hal was an extraordinarily talented architect and scholar, visionary leader, and loving and generous person. His imprint on the school and on Texas will endure.”
Born in Commerce, Texas, on Aug. 18, 1929, Box received his early training in architecture at the university, where he graduated at the age of 20 with a five-year degree in architecture. As a student at the university, he served as an apprentice to O’Neil Ford.
Following graduation, Box served in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps in aircraft structural design and subsequently served as the project architect for Broad and Nelson Architects of Dallas.
In 1958 he formed the architectural and design firm Pratt, Box and Henderson Architects in Dallas.
Box’s career in architectural education began in 1970 when Dallas-Fort Worth was the largest urban area in the United States without an architecture school. He was asked by University of Texas at Arlington administrators to start an architecture school there. He took a leave of absence from his firm and became chairman of the new Department of Architecture. When the new school was approved two years later, he was named its first dean.
In 1976, The University of Texas at Austin offered Box the architecture deanship and he accepted on several conditions. At the time, the school was severely under-funded and required dramatic new initiatives, new facilities, a library specifically for architecture, a larger budget for faculty and staff, and a dean’s salary similar to those in engineering and law. All of his conditions were eventually fulfilled, creating an architecture school that became a leader among public universities and one that, in the past several years, has been the only public university to rank in the top 10 in the nation in its graduate and undergraduate programs.
In 1988, Box began to study and document the 16th century open-air churches of Mexico. Each summer through 1994 he led a group of volunteers to Mexico to undertake archival research, photographic documentation and the preparation of measured drawings of open air churches and other civic spaces in the states of Morelos, Mexico, Michoacan and Hidalgo.
Over the years, Box won several design competitions, including national, state and local design awards, and received numerous professional honors.
He was inducted into the College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects in 1971, and received the Llewellyn W. Pitts Award from the Texas Society of Architects in 1998. The Hal Box Endowed Chair in Urbanism was established at the university in 1999 and the Texas Exes Alumni Association bestowed on Box its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, in 2003.
Memorial services are planned for Friday, May 13 at 2 p.m. at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth St. in Austin.