Mark Cavagnero Associates Renovates UC Berkeley’s Durant Hall
by Nicholas Tamarin | Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | 5 Comments
John Galen Howard, the founder of the University of California, Berekely’s architecture program, designed Durant Hall in 1911 as part of his role as supervising architect of the school’s master plan, his best known work. Originally home to the Boalt Law School and most recently the East Asian Library, the four-story granite building is now the administrative offices for the College of Letters and Sciences, the university’s largest college, thanks to a remarkable new renovation by San Francisco-based architecture firm Mark Cavagnero Associates that preserves the landmark building’s architectural legacy while incorporating structural improvements, contemporary material upgrades, and improved accessibility.
For starters, the design team was faced with elevated north and south entrances that were only accessible via stone stairs so they decided to a new entry plaza to provide universal accessibility. Cut into the sloped site at the building’s western façade, the plaza connects surrounding pedestrian walkways to the building’s former basement, creating a seamless, ramp-free entry. A modern, steel-framed glass door was inserted into an existing window opening and a new cast-concrete apron was added to the exposed building foundation in order to minimize interruption of the historic façade while delineating the new work. Inside, this entry level houses the Graduate Research Center and student and faculty conference rooms and connects to the upper floors via a new elevator that provides full accessibility without disturbing the building’s original roofline. Transparent and opaque glass, bright walls, and modern furnishings and lighting grace the entrance.
The more historic first and second levels were adapted to accommodate administrative offices and meeting spaces. Existing elements including marble stairs, wood doors and windows, cast bronze light fixtures and balustrades, and a plaster ribbed-vault ceiling were painstakingly restored. The second level, once home to a grand reading room and library stacks, now boasts a high, coffered ceiling crowned with a skylight that infuses the space with abundant natural light. Glass panels inserted behind the historic columns delineate private offices for the college’s deans without compromising the room’s original volume, whose large central space now serves as a lobby, event space, and display area. The third level, once the building’s attic, was completely renovated to accommodate additional open office areas and meeting spaces, increasing the building to 18,000 square feet.
The renovation also included the complete replacement of outdated building systems with energy-efficient technologies. The new code-compliant systems were fully integrated into the existing structure without sacrificing its historic integrity. And since it was designed in accordance with UC Berkeley’s Green Building Practices, the project is also expecting to land a LEED Silver certification.
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