Royce Hall Auditorium, UCLA

Barton Phelps & Associates - Royce Hall Auditorium, UCLA
"Royce Hall was not preserved in the conventional sense. It has, rather, been saved and transformed. Phelps says his goal all along was to make Royce Hall what it would have been if David Allison, its original designer, had known what is known today about how to help buildings survive earthquakes... That's why, even though Phelps immersed himself in the study of the Lombard Romanesque while working on the design, he bristles if you call it a historic preservation project. “It's not preservation, its architecture,” he says. Oakley [the campus architect] agrees: “On campus, everything is always changing. But the good buildings have many lives."

Thomas Hine,
Project Diary, Architectural Record. October 1998

University of California, Los Angeles

Royce Hall was completed in 1929, the largest of four original structures at the core of the four hundred-acre UCLA campus. A lively brick and tile essay in the Lombard Romanesque style, the building once functioned as the main classroom facility of the young university and symbolized its academic and cultural aspirations. Today, the twin-towered front remains the best known UCLA landmark. The 1800-seat auditorium was designed for speech acoustics (not music) but by 1994, it had emerged from successive remodeling projects as a regionally important concert hall and the main performing arts facility of the university.

Stimulus for Improvement: In response to severe damage to Royce in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, BPA led the design of extensive structural strengthening, functional improvements, and building conservation that essentially inserted a new building within the old. The towers verged on collapse and were strengthened and restored first on an emergency basis. The project for the rest of the 200,000 square foot building installed a structural system of six-story, concrete shear panels located around the "big box" of the auditorium and connected by concrete beams to the building's historic exterior brickwork. BPA also directed programming and design efforts that reorganized spaces for ten academic departments affected by the work.

Historic Overview: Royce Hall's eligibility for National Register listing prompted earthquake resistance requirements beyond normal life / safety levels and triggered close design scrutiny by federal and state preservation officers. The new "soft" structure provides lateral resistance in unison with original masonry infill panels to protect the building's historic fabric.

Rethinking a Monument: The renovation also answers current requirements for life / safety, accessibility, hazardous materials, and the impact of new structure on auditorium acoustics. It improves performance capability and stagecraft, restores historically significant spaces, and upgrades corridors, classrooms, offices, and building systems. BPA also programmed and designed new spaces for the Humanities division – specialized study centers, reading rooms, and conference / audio-visual facilities – as well as new offices of UCLA Live! and a multi-purpose lobby area.

Volume, Reverberation, and Light: The sidewalls of the auditorium are reconfigured by foot-thick concrete shear panels the added volume of which could have lessened reverberant character. This is countered by cutting wall openings into abandoned rooftop areaways to form acoustic galleries that increase auditorium volume and allow for different acoustic responses. Skylights in the galleries restore natural light. Unlike the former plaster interior, the new walls are clad in brick and terra cotta identical to the original exterior of the building. The uneven texture of projecting blocks, abstracted from Italian Romanesque sources, improves musical sound diffusion.

Design Awards
AIA/Los Angeles, 2000
California Preservation Foundation, 1999
U. S. Institute for Theater Technology, 1999
Los Angeles Business Council, 1999

International Architecture Yearbook, 2000
Architectural Record, November, 1998
Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1998
Architecture, December, 1995

Photography: Tom Bonner