No ivory tower, the University of Texas is fully integrated into Austin’s economic and cultural life. To explore the vast main campus is to glimpse the city’s future as well as its past. Here, state-of-the-art structures sit next to fine examples of 19th-century architecture. In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered a 40-acre site set aside to establish a “university of the first class” in Austin. Some 4 decades later, the flagship of the new University of Texas system opened, with its first two buildings on that original plot, dubbed College Hill. Although there were attempts to establish master-design plans for the university from the turn of the 20th century onward, they were only carried out in bits and pieces until 1930, when money from an earlier oil strike on UT land allowed the school to begin building in earnest. Between 1930 and 1945, consulting architect Paul Cret put his mark on 19 university buildings, most showing the influence of his education at Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The entire 357-acre campus may never achieve stylistic unity, but its earliest section has grace and cohesion, making it a delight to stroll through. Self-guided walking-tour maps of the campus are available at the Visitor Center, on the second floor of Walter Webb Hall, 405 W. 25th St. (512/471-1000). It’s open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. You can also download the maps from the Visitor Center website.