By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
"It is hard to overstate the significance of this loss to our community," said Fritz Steiner, current dean of the UT School of Architecture. "Hal was an extraordinary architect and scholar and visionary leader, as well as a loving and generous person. His imprint on our school and Texas will endure."
John Harold Box was born in 1929 in Commerce, where his father was on the faculty of East Texas State Teachers College. Precociously smart, the young "Hal" Box completed a five-year architecture degree at UT when he was 20 and spent a brief period as an apprentice to leading Texas regional modernist O'Neil Ford, an experience Box would later credit as profoundly inspirational.
After a stint in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps as an aircraft designer, Box began his professional practice in Dallas, where he co-founded the firm of Pratt, Box and Henderson Architect in 1958. The firm's projects included the master plan for the State Fair of Texas, as well as buildings at numerous college campuses around the country.
In 1971 he was recruited to be the first dean of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design at UT-Arlington. At the time, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was the largest urban area in the United States without an architecture school. In 1976, Box was appointed dean at UT-Austin, a position he held for 16 years, followed by six years as a professor until his retirement in 1998. Box was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. In April, UT named Box a dean emeritus.
During his tenure as dean, Box upped the national profile of the architecture program significantly and raised a $6 million endowment for the critically underfunded school.
An advocate of New Urbanism, Box coined what became known as the "five-minute Popsicle rule'' — that an ideal urban neighborhood is one in which a child can go to the store to buy a Popsicle and get safely back home within five minutes.