Texas Tech University

From Architect to Watercolorist

Allison Patton

April 13, 2023

Bill Adling has left his mark on the Texas Tech University campus, be it in stone or in water.

In 1964, Bill Adling wasn't quite sure where he wanted to attend college. The rest of his friends had enrolled at Texas A&M University, but he knew that wasn't where he was meant to be. It took just one flip through a Texas Technological College catalog to be intrigued by the architecture program, and it was decided: He was going to Texas Tech.

Flint Avenue Parking Garage

But the first two years of the architecture program threw him into unfamiliar territory. 

“I was totally green,” Adling said. “The first two years of architecture school, you take the same classes as art majors.”

At his high school in Cisco, Texas, art was not a subject Bill had ever been exposed to.

“We didn't have drafting, or anything like that,” he said. “So, I'm here at Texas Tech, taking art classes with students who are majoring in art. I started at ground zero.” 

But Adling was up for the challenge.

“I surprised myself,” he said. “I held my own, and I passed all my art classes. In fact, I did pretty well in them.”

Adling had discovered a talent for art he never knew he had, a talent that would eventually lead to an enduring passion for something you might not expect from an architect: watercolor.

Food Science
Food Science (March 1976)

In his free time, Adling enjoys painting greeting cards for friends and family and has even shown his watercolor paintings at galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

“It's something I really enjoy doing,” he said. “It's kind of a release.” 

As a part-time architect in the Operations Division, Adling is now using his talent as an artist to benefit Texas Tech.

“I love the Texas Tech campus,” he said. “I love the organization of the campus and the Spanish Renaissance style.”

And it is this love for the iconic campus style that led to Adling's current role creating and evaluating design standards for new construction projects.

A few of his notable projects include what was then known as the Food Science Tower, but is now part of the College of Human Sciences; the Texas Tech University School of Law Library addition; the Flint Avenue Parking Garage; the Visitors Center addition at West Hall; the Stangel/Murdough dining hall renovation; the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center; the Bayer Plant Science Building; and the National Ranching Heritage Center north addition. 

Food Science
Food Science (October 1976)

Perhaps the most memorable project for Adling was the renovation of the President's Office, located in the Administration Building, in 1996 for President Donald Harrigan. 

“It had an elegant Spanish Renaissance interior with nice columns,” Adling said. “Over the years, they had covered all of that up.”

During the renovation, Adling removed the drywall to reveal beautiful wooden beams in the ceilings and intricate hand-carved columns. An artisan was brought in to patch and recarve the columns where damage had occurred, and alcoves were created to emphasize these previously hidden gems. 

From designs carved in stone, to designs made with water, Adling has contributed to the beauty and history of the campus in ways that will endure into the next century and beyond. 

Bill Adling's Watercolors