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AUSTIN-The green light is on for the Blanton Museum of Art, an $83.5-million project on the University of Texas at Austin campus, now that a committee of regents has a design to which it’s taken a shine. The project was delayed after the committee turned a cold shoulder to a more modern offering.

A University of Texas System board of regents committee this week OK’d a design by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects of Boston. The design incorporates the campus’s signature Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with red tile roofs and limestone facades. The full board is expected to approve the design in November and dirt should fly next year with an opening in late 2004 or early 2005. Previously poised for one $58.5-million building, the new design adds another structure for administration and classrooms that will tack $25 million onto the cost.

The first phase is the two-story, 100,000-sf museum, which will house galleries for the Blanton’s 14,000 works, a cafe, bookstore and sculpture garden. The other building, at 35,000 sf, will include a 299-seat auditorium on the first floor and lecture halls and classrooms on the second floor. It also will hold the museum’s executive offices. A contractor has not been chosen.

The buildings will face each other across a plaza straddling what is now Speedway where it meets Martin Luther King Boulevard on the south edge of the UT campus. The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum, which opened this year, is across Martin Luther King from the Blanton site and the Texas Capitol is several blocks due south.

Larry Faulkner, UT’s president, and Jessie Otto Hite, museum director, said the design helps establish the museum as a bridge between the university and the Austin community.A previous design of a modern, one-story building by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron drew sharp criticism from some regents and the firm quit the project. Kallmann McKinnell & Wood was selected last year.

So far, the museum has raised $30 million in private gifts for the gallery building and the university has committed to completing its financing. Fund raising will continue for the administration building. Considered one of the top university art museums in the country, the Blanton has displayed parts of its collection at other UT buildings.

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