University of Texas at Austin
Libraries Home | Mobile | My Account | Renew Items | Sitemap | Help |
support us
University of Texas Libraries
Celebrating the Life
Eugene George

“Learning is wherever you happen to be at the time... I learned from all kinds of places, and I’m still learning.”

George and a student at work

Eugene George has been an architectural educator for longer than he has been a practicing architect.  He taught his first course, a survey of architectural history, for fellow prisoners of war after being captured during a World War II Air Force mission in Germany.  “Learning is wherever you happen to be at the time,” he explains, “and if you’re in prison, you learn from there.  If you’re in university, you learn from there.  I learned from all kinds of places, and I’m still learning.”  Since this first experience as an educator, he has been a teacher and mentor for hundreds of architectural students, and he recounts their many accomplishments with pride.  

As an educator, George believes in hands-on experience.  In his classes, he provided such experience in the form of construction projects: at El Naranjal, the residence he and his students constructed at 207 East 44th Street in Austin, and at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, where his students were involved in creating an adobe building from the ground up.  Students have also been involved in many of his restoration, research, and documentation projects. George’s innovative approaches to architectural education gained him the Edward J. Romieniec Award from the Texas Society of Architects in 2001, and contributed to his induction into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 2004.  

El Naranjal, Austin, Texas (1982-ongoing)

Construction on El Naranjal, George’s property at 207 East 44th Street in Austin, began in 1982, with foundations that George notes were largely excavated by hand.   View the Naranjal gallery

Throughout the process of construction, George involved architecture and architectural engineering students, hoping to give them a solid understanding of the principles and techniques of construction. Each student was paid and worked flexible hours to accommodate his or her classwork.  In an interview in 2010, George noted that he strove to include everyone in the project, no matter their level of physical ability or skill.  Students who were not able to climb ladders, pour cement, and set concrete blocks were employed on other tasks, such as building the citarilla wall that surrounds the property.

George strove to include all his students in the project, no matter their level of physical ability or skill.

The architectural forms and siting of the house were the result of George’s years of familiarity with the vernacular building traditions of the Southwest.  With its thick walls and orientations to prevailing winds and shade, the house was designed to be as cool as possible in the hot Austin climate, without the use of air conditioning.  George also designed the house using harmonic proportions, another long-standing interest that spans his career.  All of the proportions of the house are derived from a ten-foot cube.

The Willis-Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas (1985-1987)

The Willis-Moody Mansion was commissioned by Narcissa Willis, wife of a wealthy Galveston cotton broker, in 1894.  The architect was W. H. Tyndall.  With its massive arches, lavish use of brick and stone, and over 100,000 square feet of space, the mansion exemplifies the Romanesque revival style popular at the time.  View the Willis-Moody Mansion gallery

The interior originally featured rooms paneled in African mahogany and cherry, walls covered in gold brocade fabric, and ceilings adorned with frescoes on plaster and canvas.  Shortly after the 1900 hurricane, William Lewis Moody, another Galveston businessman, purchased the mansion for a fraction of its original value from the Willis heirs, although the house was largely undamaged by the storm.  The Moody family lived in the mansion until 1986.

George led a team of students, conservators, artisans and engineers in the restoration of the mansion.

George and his students began restoration work on the mansion in the same year, and the project continued through 1987.  During this period, George taught part-time at the University of Texas at Austin, and led a team of students, conservators, artisans and engineers in the restoration of the mansion, which was to be converted for use as a museum.  Students were involved with the documentation and research of the project, and George also instituted a training program for artisans in historical methods of restoration and maintenance.

Magoffin House, El Paso, Texas (1977-1978)

The Magoffin House is an adobe structure dating to 1875, one of the earliest surviving buildings in El Paso and an important example of architecture on the frontier.   View the Magoffin House gallery

When George directed the historic preservation efforts on the house in the late 1970s, Octavia Glasgow, granddaughter of the Magoffins who built the house, was still living there.  Throughout the course of the restoration work, George corresponded with Glasgow and her niece, Josephine Luckner, about Glasgow’s needs and preferences for her domestic space.  Glasgow continued to live in the house until her death in 1986.

Under George's supervision, students were responsible for the research, documentation, building analysis, and restoration of the Magoffin House.  

The restoration of the Magoffin House was another example of George’s hands-on approach to education, utilizing students and former students as an educational experiment.  Under his supervision, students were responsible for the research, documentation, building analysis, and restoration.  All exterior plaster on the house was removed, and the adobe bricks and mortar were cleaned. Students analyzed the original plaster and determined that it was 83% aggregate, 15% lime, and 2% clay, so the specifications required that replacement plaster should have the same components.  According to the specifications, the intent was to match the historic exterior plaster as closely as possible using new ingredients.  Using layers of poultry netting for reinforcement in some areas, plasterers applied three coats of plaster using techniques and tools in keeping with original construction methods.  Before the last coat dried, joints were inscribed to give the plaster the look of dressed stone.

The roof of the Magoffin House was also carefully restored during this period.  Typical of construction in the region, the original roof structure was composed of large beams (vigas), with smaller laths or sticks running crosswise between the spaces (latillas). This ceiling was topped with more plaster, roofing, and an earth fill.  Because in some places the vigas were no longer structurally sound, George specified that they be replaced with new materials -- but that the new vigas be clearly marked with the date of their installation on the side closest to the roof.  In some rooms, George and his students devised a steel suspension structure to hold the historic beams in place.  A new roofing structure was added over the original viga-latilla structure to give it additional protection from the elements.