Ratcliff's new addition offers a cohesive campus experience for students and the public
UC Berkeley’s School of Law is regarded as one of the United States' preeminent Law Schools. Founded in 1894, the school has been in its current facilities since 1951, where a series of disparate additions diminished campus identity, clarity of entry and ease of way-finding. Sited on an underutilised courtyard, the addition takes advantage of scarce land by placing two full floors below grade. At grade, a transparent, single-storey pavilion, framed by a terraced wall, sun-lit courtyards and a rooftop garden, boasts a multipurpose classroom flanked by a café and student lounge. Below grade are two levels of reading rooms, seminar rooms, offices, compact shelving, a computer lab, and main reference desk. Together, these elements anchor a vibrant social heart and academic center for the school.
“This enterprise embraces the future of legal education and ensures Berkeley Law’s continued leadership as we celebrate our centennial year,” said Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. Using the exterior materials inside unifies indoor and outdoor elements and strengthens connections with the surrounding courtyards. The new café and student lounge foster creative interaction by providing a wide variety of informal and formal learning environments. Extensive site-work throughout the Law School complex unified its existing and new elements and better connected it with the surrounding campus and urban environment creating a stronger entrance and cohesive campus experience.
In the end, the project’s reuse and expansion significantly minimised the environmental impact by avoiding unnecessary tear-downs and rebuilds. By increasing the longevity of existing facilities through key renovations, and by introducing a new structure that could address critical functional and social needs while gracefully connecting old and new, the design team forged a new presence for Berkeley Law that will endure for another half century.