Anna Hiss Gymnasium Courtyard

Austin, TX


  • University of Texas at Austin


  • Martinez Moore Engineers
  • BSA Life Structures
  • Garza Consulting
  • Lord Aeck Sargent



  • 2021 Project Leadership, Gold, Construction Owners Association of America
Key Points

A sustainable courtyard for one of UT’s historic buildings, the Anna Hiss Gymnasium, centers around a new sculpture by Simone Leigh.

An Oasis in the Center of Campus

The courtyard design provides an oasis for students, faculty and staff. The central walkway connects to two seating areas with a mix of café tables and lounge chairs perfect for a variety of group sizes and activities.

Setting the Stage for New Artwork

The design weaves together references to the historic architecture of the Anna Hiss Gymnasium and a contemporary nod to a world-renowned artist's sculpture, paving the way for new, engaging artwork in the space.


While the courtyard design aesthetic focuses on art and architecture, it functions and performs for sustainability and the environment. This small courtyard's landscape is designed to infiltrate a 95th Percentile storm event, the highest level of Sustainable SITES criteria.

As part of a renovation of the historic Anna Hiss Gymnasium Building, the building’s central courtyard was completely renovated to provide an intimate outdoor space for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus.

The focal point of the Anna Hiss courtyard is the Sentinel IV sculpture from the renowned artist Simone Leigh. The sculpture, situated in the center of the site along the central promenade, is surrounded by a custom garden seat wall. Two intimate outdoor plazas bookend the site and provide flexible space for small café tables, group gathering spots, or educational purposes.

A central walkway creates a strong axis to the building’s monumental stair and intersects with a sweeping garden wall that complements the arches on the facade. Together, these elements create a modern centerpoint for University of Texas at Austin’s art collection and program, Landmarks newly acquired Sentinel IV sculpture by Simone Leigh.

Through the convergence of styles, Asakura Robinson’s courtyard design continues the dialogue created by Landmarks decision to site Simone Leigh’s artwork, an artist who focuses on Black women empowerment at the heart of the historic women’s gym courtyard.

A stunning 50-foot Deodar cedar is preserved in the design, as are two Bur Oak trees. A Deodar cedar was transplanted onto the site from another part of campus. An abundance of planting areas help to infiltrate water on site, and the pavers, designed to blend with the brickwork of the historic building façade that once set UT Austin’s design standards, are permeable and more than double the required infiltration rate. The courtyard reuses elements by refinishing historic benches and integrating them into the design.

Native plants play host and food source to pollinators. Where it was possible, site elements were repurposed and reused – such as lighting and benches original to the building reducing the project’s carbon footprint. This preservation and reuse of materials helped make the site sustainable.

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