2011 CH+D Award for Commercial Design

Mark Cavagnero
Mark Cavagnero Associates, San Francisco
Durant Hall, University of California, Berkeley

When charged with restoring UC Berkeley’s stately 100-year-old Durant Hall and giving it a new life as the administrative offices of the College of Letters and Sciences, architect Mark Cavagnero was intent on finding a balance. He wanted the restoration to feel contemporary yet respectful of the landmark building.

Original stone columns and light fixtures are illuminated by new skylights.

The challenges started at the front door. Formerly the home of the university’s East Asian library, the Neoclassical
entrance opened up directly into a staircase that failed to meet the required building code. Rather than installing wheelchair ramps that would interfere with the original architectural details, Cavagnero excavated a large plaza in front and turned a basement window into a new door, making the entry accessible and graphic yet discreet and dignified. The dark interiors were a fine home for dusty hardbacks but they were no place for the deans of humanities, so the dungeon-like lower level was brightened with white glass, stone, tile and Carrara marble, and divided into bright offices and meeting rooms. “They don’t call it the basement anymore; they call it the ground floor. So that’s a huge compliment,” says Cavagnero.

Cavagnero carved out a universally accessible plaza in front of the building.

Upstairs in the grand hall, new and restored elements come together harmoniously. Original stone columns face off against frosted white glass partitions, and oversize, turn-of-the-century, suspended light fixtures dangle gracefully from new translucent ceiling panels that let light enter from the floor above. “At the end of the day, you try to find the right balance so there’s enough of both worlds that they both feel whole,” says Cavagnero.

Modern offices and meeting rooms are partitioned by glass.

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