A total of 19,600 oversized burnished concrete masonry units (CMUs) bring strength, beauty, and elegance to a building where the leaders of tomorrow are being educated. When someone arrives, he stands in awe of the amazing stone and then realizes it is not stone at all. The architect carefully used insets and projections coupled with chamfers to develop the appearance of a natural cut-stone building.

The Dennis F. Michaelis Academic Center is a three-story, 93,000-square-foot building designed on a 131-foot radius. The masonry team approached this job very much like a cut stone project by creating shop drawings in the planning phase. The drawings ensured that all 103 unique shapes were accounted for and manufactured to the exact required dimensions.

Precise attention to detail was necessary, as the pieces were ordered and delivered as needed to limit congestion on the busy McLennan Community College campus. Limited space didn't allow material delivery in bulk.

The custom block was used as a veneer application for columns, exterior, interior, window sills, accent bands, and wherever the architect wanted to convey strength. The craftsmen faced many challenges because most of the project was on a radius. Since the building is constructed with a structural steel frame, the bending of the lintels that supported the masonry became a problem. As the steel supplier bent the angles to the 131-foot radius, the angles warped. It was very difficult for the general contractor to set and weld the angles at the correct elevation so the masonry and block would course out. The masonry contractor worked closely with the general contractor to ensure the warped angles would not interrupt the construction of the building's façade.

Another challenge of the radius: Magnificent 100-year-old oak trees could not be damaged. To maintain as many of the trees as possible, the building was designed around them, taking on the curved mass that is evident and which had been the leading design element when laying out the building. Any trees that had to be cut down were recycled into benches which are now used as furniture inside the building.