are urged to report errors in this brief history of the Texas
College of Architecture to Phillip Rollfing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Phillip Rollfing
One hundred years ago this June, the first graduates of Texas’ first
formal architectural education program received their degrees
from what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of
Texas, and is today Texas A&M University.
There were three of them — James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer
and J. Rodney Tabor — and all three went on to enjoy successful
careers as architects.
Thus began a legacy of achievement that over a century grew
to encompass all of the built environment disciplines, a cast
of truly remarkable educators, and more than 14,000 graduates — architects,
landscape architects, builders, planners, preservationists, special
effect wizards and scholars — even a celebrated broadcast
journalist, an award-winning Hollywood set designer, countless
artists and a U.S. Army general.
The list is as endless as the stories are unique, but they all
had one thing in common with their predecessors in the Class
of 1906 — the integrity, loyalty, leadership, selfless
service, friendliness and a commitment to excellence that is
the hallmark of this unique American institution — Texas
About this document
This document offers a glimpse into the history of Texas A&M
University programs in the built and virtual environments, tracing
their evolution through the decades. The document supplements
the original 50-year history, prepared in 1956 by former architecture
department head Ernest Langford. However, this is only a preliminary
narrative — a draft outline, prepared for the College of
Architecture’s March 31, 2006 Centennial Celebration. A
comprehensive history, currently being prepared by college archivist
and senior faculty member John Only Greer, is scheduled for publication
at a later date.
THE FOUNDATION: Our First 50 Years
From the first in Texas to the largest in the nation with more
than 14,000 graduates and 1,700 current students — that,
in a nutshell, is the story of the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s
first 100 years.
But before picking up where Ernest Langford left off in his
50-year history of the A&M architectural education program,
here’s a brief review of those first five decades.
Approximately 50 years ago, on March 27, 1956, the architecture
program at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas had
a birthday party that, aside from today’s multimedia technology
and fashion sense, was probably pretty similar to the College
of Architecture’s March 31, 2006 Centennial Celebration.
Presiding over the event was Professor Ernest Langford, who had
then served as head of the architecture department for 27 years.
From the day he entered Texas A&M as a freshman in 1909,
until the day he retired as Professor Emeritus, few individuals
have been as closely tied to Texas A&M and the architecture
program as it grew and developed in the first half of the 20th
Pausing at that milestone in 1956, Langford had a similar, albeit
more modest boast than the one above. In its first 50 years,
Texas’ first architectural education program had grown
from 10 to 317 students; from three graduates in the Class of
1906, to 65 members of the Class of 1956; and in the course of
those first five decades, it had awarded a total of 953 degrees.
That total has since grown to more than 14,000!
“A fact worth recording — and one that augers well
for the profession and for our social wellbeing,” Langford
wrote in his 50 year history of the program, “is that scores
of graduates have accepted responsibilities beyond the ordinary
business of earning a living. Some are members of city councils;
others are on planning and zoning commissions, and school boards.”
It is refreshing to note that the core values associated with
the Aggie tradition were readily evident among architecture students
in the first half of the 20th Century. The faculty was then,
and are now, in the business of empowering positive change — developing
leaders of character with the education, experience and desire
to serve the greater good.
Langford knew this, and today the College of Architecture still
takes that mission seriously.
Of course, a proper review of the A&M architecture program’s
history should start at the beginning, September 1, 1905, four
years before Ernest Langford enrolled for his freshman studies.
That was the year seniors James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer and J.
Rodney Tabor made a last-minute change to their degree plans.
That change was made possible by the new curriculum in architectural
engineering, which was developed and taught by Dr. Frederick
A wunderkind of the first magnitude, Giesecke, like Langford
and many of the program’s most successful students, was
a product of the A&M Corps of Cadets. An excellent student
and former captain in the Corps, Giesecke joined the A&M
faculty after graduating in 1886 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.
He was only 17 years old!
Within two years, at age 19, he was appointed head of A&M’s
Department of Mechanical Drawing. He completed a Mechanical Engineering
degree at A&M in 1890, and in the ensuing years, while still
on the A&M faculty, he studied architectural drawing at Cornell
University and architectural design at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology — where he earned a degree in architecture
It was upon returning to College Station that Giesecke developed
a curriculum in architectural engineering. He served as head
of the A&M architecture program until 1912 when he took a
job as professor of architecture at the University of Texas.
There, until 1920, he engaged primarily in research as head of
the Division of Engineering’s Bureau of Economic Geology
In 1924, Giesecke earned his fourth degree, a Ph.D. from the
University of Illinois. Then, in 1927, he returned to Texas A&M
as head of the Department of Architecture and the official college
architect. Within a year, he was named head of the Texas Engineering
He was, without question, the first Aggie architect.
Through 1939, Giesecke designed and supervised the construction
of many campus buildings that are still standing today, including
the Academic Building, the Chemistry Building, the Williams Building,
Cushing Library and Hart and Walton halls.
Giesecke’s life was characterized by his desire to learn
by study, experimentation and observation. His daily notebook
contained an entry from an experiment he was conducting just
two hours before he died of a heart attack on June 27, 1953.
Following in Frederick Giesecke’s footsteps, as Aggies
and designers who contributed significantly to Texas architecture,
were his son-in-law, Preston Geren, Sr., Class of 1912, and his
grandson, Preston Geren, Jr., Class of 1945.
Leaders and locations
Between Giesecke and Langford, a number of distinguished scholars
and practitioners shared the helm of the fledgling department
of architecture at Texas A&M, and each left their own unique
signature on its destiny.
Fredrick E. Giesecke ...............1905-12
E.B. LaRoche .....................1918-1925
H.N. June .............................1925-27
Fredrick E. Giesecke
When founded in 1905, the architecture classes were held in
Drawing Room No. 2 of the original Old Main building. In 1909,
Ernest Langford’s freshman year, the program was taught
in Nagle Hall. In 1914, the Academic Building became home for
the architecture program and remained so for the next 49 years.
Texas A&M’s construction education program was established
in 1946 as a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Construction.
It was a five-year, 178-credit-hour option in the Department
Caudill Rowlett Scott
Of course, no history of the first 50 years of architectural
education at Texas A&M would be complete without folding
Caudill Rowlett Scott into the mix.
Of all of the architectural firms that have influenced the architectural
education and research programs at Texas A&M University in
the last 100 years — and there have been many — none
have had as profound an impact on Aggie architecture as Caudill
Founded in Austin as Caudill Rowlett in 1946 by full-time A&M
architecture professors William Wayne Caudill and John Miles
Rowlett, the firm moved to College Station in 1947 and began
a lasting relationship with the A&M architecture program.
In a short time, the firm acquired three new partners — Caudill’s
former students Wallie E. Scott, Jr., Class of 1943, and William
Peña, Class of 1942, who were later joined by Thomas A.
Bullock, Class of 1946.
In less than a decade from its inception, CRS had gained national
prominence for its pioneering work in educational facility design
and innovative approaches to architectural programming.
From the beginning, CRS developed new methods and processes,
creating an alternative paradigm for the practice of architecture.
Research, much of it performed with faculty and students at Texas
A&M, became the “fountainhead of ideas” for the
firm and a basis for informing teaching and design in the A&M
As professors, Caudill and Rowlett advocated the teaching of
practice, an idea countering the popular notion of the time that
professors should not be allowed to practice. Further bucking
tradition, CRS eagerly published their research findings, making
them available to both clients and competitors. Today, many CRS
innovations are still commonly practiced and widely taught in
the classroom, including: the building type specialist; design
by team; problem seeking; squatters’ sessions; construction
management and fast-track construction.
Despite the pressures of developing a constantly growing practice,
the architects of CRS always made time for A&M students,
involving them and faculty in research and design projects and
participating in studio reviews. Several generations of A&M
architecture alumni referred affectionately to CRS as “The
Firm.” Those talented enough to join its ranks upon completing
their degrees knew it as the “best graduate school” around.
In 1959, the firm relocated its headquarters to Houston and
continued to expand its practice. In time, CRS became known as
one of the largest, most successful firms in the country.
On April 1, 2006, when the College of Architecture kicked off
its yearlong centennial celebration, CRS was recognized for its
indelible influence on the college as the “Firm of the
Back in 1956, Professor Langford was likely beaming with pride
as he stood behind the podium at the 50-year anniversary gala,
recounting the progress of the architecture program he had stewarded
for 27 years — most of which he had witnessed first hand,
since his days as a wet-eared freshman back in 1909.
“The department was a struggling infant in the early days,” Langford
once recalled. “We graduated only three or four men a year.
At the time of my retirement we had more than 300 architecture
majors and graduated about 50 a year.”
Professor Langford had dedicated himself to inspiring others
to their highest achievements. His interest in his students,
his understanding of their needs, and his sharing of their aspirations
was clearly demonstrated by the successes those students enjoyed.
An editorial appearing in the Bryan-College Station Eagle after
Langford’s death in Sept. 14, 1981 read:
“Few men who measure their accomplishments against their
dreams as life nears its end can be truly satisfied with the
final tally. Count Ernest Langford as worthy of that privilege.”
“During his lifetime,” the editorial concluded, “Langford
not only watched as his dream became reality, he worked to insure
its success. He brought a dedication and zeal to every task he
undertook, and the entire community benefited from it. He was,
in a very real sense, the builder of a community and a positive
influence on generations of men. That is a legacy worthy of both
respect and imitation.”
THE GREAT GENERATION: 1956-65
The beginning of the Texas A&M architecture program’s
sixth decade marked the transformation of the Department of Architecture
to the Division of Architecture. Though still housed in the College
of Engineering, the curriculum now encompassed landscape architecture,
which migrated from the agriculture division with Professor Fred
Klatt, Jr. in 1957. A year later, the Master of Landscape Architecture
program was established.
Reagan W. George, Class of 1958, recalled those heady post-war
days when Professor Edward Romieniec’s “T-Bird with
the porthole” was the envy of every student:
“We drooled and talked big about what kind of car we would
have when we were rich. We never touched it, we would only get
as close as possible — but so that no breath would fog
it. It was there, behind the Academic Building parked in the
drive right next to the building. On display so we all saw it
as we entered the building and as we returned from the mess hall
in the evening. It was tempting. How we ignored the opportunity
to pull a prank, I’ll never know.”
On a more serious note, Reagan wrote in his college-days essay, “These
Things I Remember”:
“The Profs — Jack Lemmon, Dik Voorman, Ted Holloman,
Bob Anderson and Ed Romieniec. The leading cast — but strongly
supported by Melvin Rotsch, Joe Donaldson, and Jack Godwin. Note
this collection of mostly wizards! It was what every architecture
student in America wished for. They just didn’t know it.”
Heading the division of architecture in this, the sixth decade
Langford ...........through 1956
Charles R. Colbert ..............1956-57
Theo R. Holleman ...............1957-62
Edward Rominiec ................1962-73
Toward the end of the decade, after almost 50 years, the architecture
program moved from its headquarters in the Academic Building,
into new digs — what is today known as Buildings B and
C of the Langford Architecture Center.
It was also during this 10-year stretch from 1955 to 1965, that
the architecture program at Texas A&M really gelled — reaching
a “critical mass” later realized by the extraordinary
professional accomplishments of students from that era.
View quicktime: Raymond
Gomez, Class of 1964
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DECADE OF GROWTH & SERVICE: 1966-75
But it all came together in the decade of 1966 to 1975. Just
a few years prior, in 1963, the Agricultural and Mechanical College
of Texas became Texas A&M University and women were officially
admitted — on a limited basis. By 1971, A&M caught
up with the feminist movement, and women gained equal footing
with the men.
1969 was a landmark year. The Architecture Division broke ranks
with Engineering and the College of Architecture and Environmental
Design was formed. This move precipitated a great deal of change
and overseeing it all was the first dean, Edward J. Romieniec.
Under Romieniec’s able stewardship, the college became
home to five departments:
1. Environmental Design,
3. Building Construction,
4. Landscape Architecture, and
5. Urban and Regional Planning.
Within these departments, seven degrees were offered:
• Bachelor of Environmental Design;
Master of Architecture;
Bachelor of Science in Building Construction;
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture;
Master of Landscape Architecture;
• Master of Urban and Regional Planning; and
• Doctor of Environmental Design.
Edward J. Romieniec
Romieniec is often mentioned — often fondly, but always
respectfully — time and again in the reminiscences of former
students and faculty. His legacy remains very much alive in today’s
design studios and course curricula.
“Ed Romieniec’s inspiration and career-long drive
to demolish the formal barriers between academia and practice
was one of his more beneficial contributions to architectural
education,” wrote Weston Harper, who served as head of
the Department of Architecture from 1969-1973.
In 1985, Romieniec received the Texas Society of Architects’ Award
for Excellence in Architectural Education — the first such
award to be presented and an award that today bears his name.
One might say Romieniec was the reason the award was created.
He served as a member of the A&M faculty from 1956 until
1960, and again from 1963 until his retirement in 1988. Prior
being named dean in 1968, he served as head of the Division of
Architecture. In 1967, Romieniec was commissioned by the governor
to study the needs and patterns of architectural education in
Texas. The results of his study and his recommendations were
published in 1990 and became the basis for significant changes
in architectural education throughout the state. He died in 1996,
at the age of 75.
“Ed staffed the early college faculty by bringing in young
practitioners and arranging for them to work on an advanced degree
while they were teaching the ‘working’ dimensions
of architecture,” recalled Harper, the former department
head. “I was one of them,” he added.
“Ed was indeed a riddle wrapped in an enigma,” recalled
George J. Mann, a former Romieniec student who currently serves
as the Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professor of Health Facilities
Design at Texas A&M. “He was generous, irreverent,
visionary, intuitive and perceptive. He had a keen sense of design,
was irascible, and he kept us all off of balance most of the
“He also gave people a second chance,” Mann continued. “He
treated us like unique and special individuals. He did not push
me to be someone else. He did push me to become the person I
Romieniec stepped down form the dean’s post and began
teaching fulltime in 1973. For the next six years, Dr. Raymond
Reed, took the helm of the growing college.
During this period of dramatic transformation at Texas A&M,
the country was experiencing a heightened social consciousness.
For some students, that meant involvement in the community beyond
the classroom and studio — that “other education,” which
has become an integral part of the Texas A&M student experience.
View quicktime: Marvin Daniels, Class of 1971
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A DECADE OF CHANGE: 1976-85
The transformation that began in the college’s seventh
decade continued in the eighth, as did the building program.
In 1977, Langford Building A was constructed for the princely
sum of $7 million. The building was designed by former student
Jack R. Yardley, Class of 1958, and was built by HKS in Dallas — a
firm that was founded by Harwood K. Smith, Class of 1935 and
Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Architecture.
The growth in the college’s academic programs continued.
In 1977, the Department of Building Construction established
a Master’s degree program in Building Construction.
Also, in 1977, the Technical Reference Center — an architectural
reference library — was established at the college.
In 1981, a Master in Construction Management was introduced.
In 1982, the Historic Resources Imaging Lab — which is
today, the Center for Heritage Preservation — was established.
In 1983, the Department of Building Construction changed its
name to the Department of Construction Science.
In 1985, a Master of Land Development degree was first offered.
Also in 1985, the Department of Environmental Design changed
its name to the Department of Architecture.
In addition to Dr. Raymond Reed, who held the dean’s post
until 1979, his successor, Charles Hix, guided the college and
its rapidly evolving programs through 1985.
Throughout this transformative period, landscape architecture
student George Seagrave ’80, noted that the college managed
to maintain a personal feel that encouraged a new generation
to appreciate the special qualities of a Texas A&M education.
View quicktime: George Seagrave, Class of 1980
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VIZ AND VISION: 1986-95
The founder of A&M’s architectural education program,
Dr. Fredrick Giesecke, understood the value of research. He passed
away, after all, in the middle of an experiment. If Giesecke
planted the research seed in A&M’s fledgling architecture
program, over the decades countless others, like Ernest Langford,
Bill Caudill and Edward Romieniec, nurtured it.
However, the quest for new knowledge at the College of Architecture
reached fruition in its ninth decade — 1985-1995 — with
burgeoning emphasis on graduate programs and research. Though
often remembered as a contentious period, this decade laid the
groundwork for a college where new knowledge could be created,
and most importantly, translated into the classroom, the studio
and professional practice.
J. Thomas Regan, who at this writing has been dean of the college
since 1998, said, “one of the organizing principles of
the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University is the
influence of research on teaching.”
Here at the dawn of a new millennium, design schools that emphasize
research are rare. And though the college suffered some growing
pains in the 80s and 90s, the processes did strengthen its reputation
as a research center.
Here are just a few of the fruits harvested from that effort:
In 1986, a two Ph.D. degrees were established: a Ph.D. in Architecture
and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Science.
In 1988, the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center and the Visualization
Laboratory were established.
One year later, in 1989, the Master of Science in Visualization
Sciences program was established and a Master of Science in Architecture
In 1991, three more research units were established at the College
The CRS Center for Leadership and Management in the Design and
The Psychophysiology Laboratory; and
The Center for Housing and Urban Development.
In 1994, the Center for Health Systems & Design moved from
the College of Medicine to the College of Architecture.
College-wide research units, such as these, continue to significantly
influence the professions and industries of the built and virtual
environment, as well as the college, through the discovery and
application of new knowledge.
Additionally in that decade:
In 1992, a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science was offered
and the Master of
Architecture Career Change program was initiated.
Also in 1992, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning
merged into the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban
Among these new programs was one in particular that captured
the imagination of some of the college’s most imaginative
students — as well as the attention of Hollywood’s
leading special effects studios and the electronic gaming industry — that
was the new Master of Science in Visualization Science, or “Viz” for
The Visualization Sciences program was created in 1989 in response
to clear indications that digital visualization was going to
play a highly important role in digital communication. The program
prepares students for a range of long-term careers in visualization
and helps them develop the focused expertise and broad foundation
knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field. The program's
core curriculum offers a basic grasp of the artistic, scientific,
cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline. Beyond
this broad training, the program requires students to develop
a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a
research thesis in this focus area.
Navigating the college through yet another transformative decade
Donald Sweeny ...................1985
................1988 - 92
John Only Greer
..................1992 - 97
View quicktime: Tim McLaughlin, Class of 1994
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THE NEXT GENERATION:1995-2006:
Throughout the last ten years, the College of Architecture has
continued to hone its teaching, research and service mission
with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary work and professional
collaboration with industry partners.
Bringing direction to the college at then dawn of a new millennium
were and are deans:
..................1992 – 97
Ward Wells ........................1997 – 98
J. Thomas Regan
........1998 to present
The college has also identified three signature programs to
benefit from Texas A&M President Robert Gate’s ongoing
faculty reinvestment initiative: architecture-for-health, sustainability
With approximately 1,700 students currently majoring in its
programs, the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University
is the largest school of its kind in the United States. It offers
a comprehensive catalog of prominently ranked graduate and undergraduate
programs in the design, planning, construction, development and
The three departments in the college — architecture, construction
science, and landscape architecture and urban planning — are
each fully accredited at the highest possible level and together
offer 12 degree programs including doctorates in Architecture
and Urban and Regional Sciences. Additionally the college sustains
five formally organized research centers and laboratories dedicated
to improving the knowledge base of the professions it serves
and supporting five graduate certification programs.
The college is distinctive in that it offers a truly interdisciplinary
curriculum, recognizing that no single professional track or
narrow specialization can adequately prepare tomorrow’s
building and planning professionals.
Though quite diverse, the disciplines within the college have
one predominant commonality — the transformation of the
Because the creativity and sensitivity with which each discipline
is practiced has a profound influence on the quality of life
in society, the college challenges students to weave aesthetics,
safety, function, financial feasibility, sustainability, and
environmental responsibility into the creative process.
As part of a university community that values excellence in
teaching, our instructors work to ensure that students are well
prepared by course work that includes fundamentals as well as
the more innovative concepts, spawned by research and scholarly
The college also belongs to and serves the professional communities
of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, land
development, construction science, and visualization sciences.
It is dedicated to generating significant knowledge and insight
and to producing a long line of qualified aspirants for the jobs
In spring 2006 commencement was be held for the College of Architecture’s
100th graduating class. Evident in the college’s Class
of 2006 is the century of leadership, selfless service, integrity,
and commitment to excellence that is their legacy and the hallmark
of the College of Architecture programs. They are destined to
become leaders of character with the education, experience and
desire to serve the greater good. And, as demonstrated in this
brief history — they stand tall, on the shoulders of giants.