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Summer 1998
Royce Revived
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One positive legacy of the 1994 earth quake: UCLA’s Royce Hall is a better building than it ever was

by By Michael Webb

Familiar buildings are like close friends: You enjoy their company but take them for granted until disaster strikes. Royce Hall has been UCLA’s signature building since the campus opened in 1929, a part of every Bruin’s life even though most of us hurried in for a class or a performance without paying much attention to the architecture.

Then, on the morning of January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake came within three seconds of shaking down Royce’s regal twin towers. There was a palpable sense of shock as barriers went up around the scarred and cracked facade. And yet, “the disaster was a blessing in disguise,” says campus architect Charles “Duke” Oakley. “A seismic upgrade was 20 years overdue. The building had to be torn apart for repairs and to insert a new structural system, so we took the opportunity to rejuvenate every part of it.”

Today, the edifice that Chancellor Albert Carnesale calls an “"icon and a treasure” is drawing more plaudits than at any time since it was new. It is, in fact, a joyful experience to see how well it looks and sounds. At the reopening benefit in early April, every seat was taken for a program that would have given any building's acoustics a thorough workout. John Lithgow rallied the audience to a great cheer and Carol Burnett ‘54 yodeled her jungle mating cry. James Galway played his flute, and Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Don Henley jammed. So clear were the sounds, with and without amplification, that you felt you were on stage -- even if you were sitting at the back of the house. Royce passed its first test with flying colors.

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