New Umphrey Law Center Wins Award For Construction Company

  • News Photo 1436
    The Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center is set on a four and one-half acre site overlooking the Brazos River. (Tim Hursley photo)
  • News Photo 1437
    The main entry to the law center from University Parks Drive is marked along the way by the memorial lampposts that are found elsewhere on the Baylor campus.
June 20, 2003

by Alan Hunt

WCI Texas (formerly Waco Construction Inc.) has won an Outstanding Construction Award from the Texas Building Branch of Associated General Contractors of America for the company's work on the new Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center at Baylor University.

Founded in 1918, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is a national non-profit trade association of more than 33,000 firms, including 7,500 of America's leading general contracting companies.

"Congratulations go to our great friends at WCI who have built a true masterpiece, and to our admired friends at SmithGroup (a Washington, D.C.-based architectural firm) who put the 'magic' in the project through superb architectural design and artistry," said Law School Dean Brad Toben. "All these folks, along with our own faculty Law Center Project Committee, made up a really splendid team."

Measuring 128,000 square feet, the Umphrey Law Center is more than double the size of the Law School's former home, Morrison Constitution Hall. Offering imposing views overlooking the Brazos River, the new three-story facility opened for classes in August 2001 and was dedicated on April 6, 2002.

In its description of the Umphrey Law Center to the AGC judges, WCI focused on the dominant features of the building interior: the W. James Kronzer Appellate Courtroom and Classroom, with its 24-foot-tall coffered ceiling and radius stepped seating area; the numerous reading rooms in the library, highlighted by the large reading room with its two-story bay windows; the teaching courtrooms; and the building's 16-foot-wide corridors.

Makore (or African cherry wood) trim and slate flooring are used extensively throughout the building.

"Virtually every wall in every room of the building had makore trim on the walls," the company pointed out. "In some cases the entire walls were makore block paneling, and all spaces had makore casework. The millwork installation throughout the building required a 20-man crew for a duration of seven months to complete."

On the exterior, the Umphrey Law Center presents two impressive "public" fronts. The Brazos River walk currently runs along the river bank from Cameron Park to the boundary between Fort Fisher and the law center. The City of Waco is planning to extend the walk alongside the law center and down to the Ferrell Center. With this in mind, SmithGroup designed the law center with two imposing frontal aspects -- one facing University Parks Drive and the other facing the Brazos River and the planned river walk extension.

Toben said its "compelling design, towering height and the sheer girth and size of the facility have drawn much pleased and enthusiastic comment."

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