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Summer 1998
Royce Revived
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Royce Hall was named for the California explorer and philosopher Josiah Royce, and, like Royce, the building’s architects aspired to greatness. The hall was designed to be the dominant structure of the new campus and a symbol of its aspirations. It was the first block on a bare site, and early photos show it and Powell Library rising in lonely splendor from a former sheep pasture. Architect David Allison emulated the towers and rounded arches of the12th-century church of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan to create an impressive facade, then added cloisters and rounded lecture halls to soften the massive wings. Allison’s Royce created a sense of place. The way it is sited -- on high ground, facing south to catch the sun, on axis with a slightly lower Powell -- is a master stroke. Even a first-time visitor would sense immediately that this was the hub of the campus, conjuring as it does a chapel in a medieval school.

Royce is also a grand deception, as brilliant and shameless as anything Hollywood could have dreamed up. Patterned brick and terra-cotta conceal a reinforced concrete structural frame, lending an air of distinction to a functional package of classrooms, offices and auditorium. Within, concrete beams are merely whitewashed, except in the lobby, where they are painted to resemble ornamented wood. Step into the auditorium and you are jolted into another era: The Renaissance-style coffered ceiling was modeled on that of the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica in Rome, itself created 300 years after the church that inspired the exterior. And to give dignity to a new campus seeking to establish its independence from Berkeley, master planner George Kelham selected an appropriate architectural style -- Lombard Romanesque. It was a friendlier aesthetic than gray stone Gothic, and the use of red brick was intended to capture the warmth of the Southern California sun.

Anshen + Allen, executive architects for the Royce renovation, and design architect Barton Phelps were challenged to strengthen, restore and improve this historic structure without compromising its architecturally significant elements. This was no small task, as they had to reconcile the demands of engineers and a top acoustician. They had to work within state guidelines for the restoration of protected buildings. And they had to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to recoup most of the $68.3-million expense.

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