Rebirth for Berkeley

Monday 07 Mar 2011

Major renovation of historic Durant Hall by Mark Cavagnero Associates

Designed by John Galen Howard and completed in 1911, Durant Hall stands at the heart of the UC Berkeley campus. The original home of Boalt Law School, this four-storey granite building most recently served as the East Asian Library before its current conversion into the administrative offices for the College of Letters and Sciences. Incorporating structural improvements, contemporary material upgrades, and improved accessibility, the renovation transforms Durant Hall into a contemporary setting befitting the deans and administrators of the university's largest college, while also preserving the historic landmark building's architectural legacy.

Faced with elevated north and south entrances that are only accessible via stone stairs, the design team's solution was to provide universal accessibility through the introduction of an elegant new entry plaza. Cut into the sloped site at the building's western façade, the new plaza connects the surrounding pedestrian walkways to the building's former basement, creating a seamless, ramp-free entry. In order to minimise interruption of the historic façade while clearly delineating the new work, a modern, steel-framed glass door was sensitively inserted into an existing window opening, and a new cast-concrete apron added to the exposed building foundation. 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 create a refined, dynamic entrance.

The first and second levels are more historic in character and have been carefully adapted to accommodate administrative offices and meeting spaces. Existing historic elements such as marble stairs, wood doors and windows, cast bronze light fixtures and balustrades, and a plaster ribbed-vault ceiling have been painstakingly restored. The third level, once the building's attic, has been completely renovated and finished to accommodate additional open office areas and meeting spaces, increasing the building to 18,000 sq ft. The project was completed in 2010. 

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