Baylor University Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center

Waco, United States
The story of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, starts far before the sketches, renderings or countless nights of ideating. In 2011, while working on the McLane Stadium, we identified the plot of land that would be used for the welcome center. Over a decade later, it serves as the new front door to the university.

The intent behind Baylor to do right by its students was embedded into every step of the design process for the Hurd Welcome Center. Baylor had a vision for the welcome center that embodied the very essence of Baylor’s campus in one grand building design. The core of Baylor’s vision is baked into the very ethos of our firm — bringing people together in a space reflective of its community.  

Visible from the highly traveled I-35, the welcome center serves as the front door to the university — the first marker visitors, students and faculty see upon arrival. Baylor wanted a space that would make a lasting first impression upon anyone who stepped through its doors. Named after late Baylor Regent, alumnus and CEO of Oracle, Mark Hurd, and his wife, current Regent Paula Hurd, the landmark building provides a space for the Baylor family — past, present and future — to gather and strengthen relationships. 

With traditional Baylor campus styling and clad in glass and red “Baylor Brick” with touches of modern architecture, the welcome center seamlessly assimilates with existing campus  milieu, while standing out as a beacon for prospective and current students, staff and alumni.




Baylor is keen on its rich history of long-standing traditions. These traditions unify the campus under common themes of belonging to something much larger than yourself. One such tradition is becoming part of the Baylor Line. 

Before the start of classes, incoming freshmen at Baylor participate in the Baylor Line Camp, one of the most storied traditions on campus. During Line Camp, the students are taken to Independence, Texas — the original home of Baylor University. 

The original Baylor campus is no longer standing, but four stone  columns still remain. Visiting these columns and becoming part of the Baylor Line, part of something larger than yourself, solidifies your connection with the more than 180,000 living alumni. Finding inspiration from the myriad traditions at Baylor, we sought to design a space that encapsulated the Baylor experience through a state-of-the-art venue.  

We integrated an inlaid brass stripe in the center of the white marble-patterned floor in the Grand Hall as a tribute to the Baylor Line Camp. The show stopping centerpieces of the Grand Hall are four 96-foot-tall light columns paying homage to the remaining four columns from Baylor’s original home. 

The engagement of the senses is all part of the experience. We imagined the progression of the visitor from all angles — the walk from the parking lot to the beautiful and inspirational Carlton Hall, a meeting with university staff, and a picturesque view of campus from the auditorium.

Andrea Bays

Populous Principal

The four columns, Reflect, Connect, Aspire and Amplify, contain experiential elements allowing users to interact with, learn from and become immersed in the experiences of each column. Lit 24/7, the columns can be seen from I-35 and other points on campus.

Populous’ brand activation team collaborated with AV consultant Electrosonic, digital design studio RLMG, and fabricator Xibitz to bring the detailed experience of these four columns to life. The four floor-to-ceiling columns each have reflective colored glass in Baylor green that follows the angle of the architectural structure. Each column features a brass icon on its exterior, with an artistic expression of what the experience will entail. 

Baylor asked us for a space that would stand as a front door to the university and reflect its ethos to all who interact with it. We used our longstanding relationship and a deep wealth of expertise of Baylors unique culture to create a space that doesn’t just tell a story, but embodies the story itself. The welcome center was designed with such intentionality that it not only tells the Baylor story, but will become part of it in the years to come.  

Disciplines Used

  • Architecture


    Utilizing traditional Baylor styling and clad in glass and red “Baylor Brick” with touches of modern architecture, the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center seamlessly assimilates with existing campus properties, while standing out as a beacon for prospective and current students, staff, and alumni.

    The building is comprised of a 23,000-square-foot, 70-foot-tall Carlton Hall flanked by wings. The branches , a specifically designed major feature in Carlton Hall and within the McLane Family Alumni Center, pay homage to the live oak trees throughout Baylor’s campus and reflect students’ passage through the university experience.

    The exterior of the east and west buildings feature red brick and cast stone with punched openings in a stylized version of stained glass, reflective of several campus chapels (and tinted to combat the Texas heat). The expansive glass entryway on the north side of the Grand Hall on University Parks Drive ties this innovative new facility to the historic core of campus by giving passersby a peek at the four illuminated columns that speak to the core and ethos of Baylor: distribute light.

    The first floor of the west branch off the main entrance of Carlton Hall houses back-of-house operations and office space, as well as the 13,650-square-foot, 880-person capacity ballroom, which can be used as one large space or divided into four flexible breakout spaces. It can be configured for lectures, conferences, parties, receptions and other events.

    The second floor of the Hurd Welcome Center is home to the new McLane Family Alumni Center, additional flexible meeting rooms and other offices.

    The Fudge Family Auditorium, which cantilevers over the south entrance, features 250 fixed Baylor-green seats. A floor-to-ceiling screen can be used for presentations and lifts to reveal a beautiful panoramic view of campus.

  • Interior Design

    Interior Design

    Keeping with the theme of illumination, Populous designed Carlton Hall to be light and bright, using warm materials that felt comfortable yet elevated, such as a white marble-patterned floor in a large format to emphasize the grandness of the space.

    An inlaid golden brass stripe in the center of the floor from entry to entry represents the Baylor Line starting prospective students on their Baylor journeys while also welcoming alumni home to their alma mater. Flexible groupings of lounge seating areas provide a place for socializing and relaxing.

    The ballroom in the west branch of Carlton Hall is entered through ebony stained oak doors with leather wrapped pulls, and the finishes include an architectural wood ceiling and warm brass sconces.

    Behind the ballroom sits Varsity Coffee & Soda, which has a unique offering as the sole brewer of Peet’s Coffee within 100 miles of Waco. It will also feature Dr. Pepper-infused specialty drinks, paying homage to Waco as the birthplace of the beverage. With this space, Populous leaned into the City of Waco for inspiration — the walls feature reclaimed wood, a wallcovering printed with a vintage photograph of the Old Corner Drugstore in black and white and a 3D brass map of Downtown Waco suspends from the ceiling directly above the service counter.

    Opposite, the first floor’s east branch houses the Cheng Welcome Desk and meeting rooms. Designed with a more residential feel in mind, these spaces feature upholstered Baylor-green banquettes, decorative sconces in a warm gold metal finish and dark material accents through placement of wood and carpeting. These welcome areas can also serve as communal gathering spaces, offering additional places for faculty and students to work, hold meetings or connect over a cup of Peet’s coffee.

    The east wing is also home to the spirit shop. This space was particularly important to the late Mark Hurd, who dreamed of having a space in the Welcome Center where prospective families and alumni could easily secure their Baylor Bears gear on visits to the university.

    The McLane Family Alumni Center on the second floor of the welcome center was designed in stark contrast to the light, bright Carlton Hall it overlooks through large plate glass windows. Elegant and comfortable, the McLane Family Alumni Center’s living room features a dark wood ceiling, almost as if it’s a treehouse in the branches of the Hurd Welcome Center — another hint at the campus live oaks. A tiled fireplace, upholstered lounge seating and brass accents add to the warmth of the space, as do layers of light, implemented through chandeliers and sconces. This space also has a balcony with a view of McLane Stadium, offices and meeting spaces which can be used by alumni and families, as available.

  • Brand Activation

    Brand Activation

    When walking through the front doors of Carlton Hall, you’re met with four 96-foot-tall light columns placed strategically along the path of the prospective student to the reception niches.

    Populous’ brand activation group developed the concept of the technology inside the light columns and art directed all on-screen imagery. The team collaborated with AV consultant Electrosonic, digital design studio RLMG, and fabricator Xibitz to bring the detailed experience of these four columns to life.

    These columns each house a design theme — reflect, connect, aspire or amplify — that visitors can interact with. The lower portion of the columns are clad with reflective colored glass that follows the angle of the architectural column structure. Each column features a brass icon on its exterior, with an artistic expression of what the experience will entail.

Facts & Figures

  • Gross Square Footage


  • Construction Cost


  • Grand Hall Square Footage


  • McLane Family Alumni Center Square Footage


  • Total Meeting Space Square Footage


  • Ballroom Square Footage


9 items.
  • Sherri Privitera Senior Principal, Senior Architect Kansas City
  • Jeff Spear Principal, Senior Architect Kansas City
  • Andrea Bays Principal, Interior Design Director – Dallas Dallas
  • Kobi Bradley Senior Principal, Senior Landscape Architect Kansas City
  • Brooke Craig Associate Principal, Architect Kansas City
  • Sean Mongey Associate Principal, Senior Architect Kansas City
  • Gaby Hundley Associate, Interior Designer Dallas
  • Rachel Fox Evans Landscape Architect Kansas City
  • Nick Caprario Senior Associate, Senior Product Designer Kansas City

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