Law School Renovations

Reprinted from the 2011 Transcript magazine.

Over the last three years, the law school has grown its faculty ranks significantly and launched several new research centers. Meanwhile, its number of student journals and organizations is at an all-time high. Now, with extensive upgrades to existing facilities—and the recent opening of the stylish South Addition—the school has never looked better.

“This is a virtual renaissance for a 60-year-old structure that felt nothing like a world-class law school, and could not support our teaching today and our ambitions for tomorrow,” Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. says. “The improvements will also transform student life, with fabulous spaces for study, activities, and just plain hanging out.”

The South Addition

The South Addition, which opened in time to hold the graduation reception on May 13, is the centerpiece of Boalt’s master plan. Constructed one level above ground and two below, the building adds 55,000 square feet of new space. The two lower levels house the law library’s renowned collection in efficient, compact shelving, creating space for student research in four, glass-enclosed reading rooms that are bathed in natural light.

The ground floor, which connects to the existing law building, includes a 72-person state-of-the-art classroom, a café, and a large commons area that opens onto an outdoor courtyard, both of which can be used for studying and socializing. Above is an elegant roof garden with bench and table seating and a footbridge to both Steinhart Courtyard and the library’s main reading room.

Meanwhile, a landscaped entryway gives the law school its first distinctive point of entry—plus two attractive plazas— creating a green and vibrant transition from the school’s physical complex to Bancroft Way.

Opening the South Addition also clears the way for Boalt to remodel former library space with an eye toward creating more room for legal clinics and student services staff. Alumni support will play a key role in determining the scope and pace of that reconfiguration.

“Construction of the South Addition required a lot of flexibility from our faculty, staff, and students,” says Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, associate dean for capital projects. “While we made a concerted effort to mitigate the impact of construction on them, there were certainly times they had to deal with noise, detours, and other inconveniences. Throughout the process, they were all really fabulous.”


Because new teaching methods have emerged since the law school was built in 1951, revisions emphasize smaller seminar rooms. By adding modern seminar rooms, renovated lecture halls, and updating audio- and visual-support technology in several classrooms, Boalt has been able to expand course offerings and events.

“We’ve upgraded every single classroom to some extent,” Vanden Heuvel says. “They’re not over-the-top luxurious, but are well thought out. We’re really proud of that, because it’s a vital component of improving our students’ experience.”


Boalt’s library stacks were badly overcrowded at 170 percent of suggested capacity, and its location in the center of the building created pedestrian traffic jams. Architects solved that conundrum by relocating the library collection to the South Addition’s two underground levels, housing it in efficient, compact shelving, and adding two new reading rooms which feature limestone walls and 100-year-old study tables from the original Boalt Hall.

Student Center

The Student Center provides a flexible, contiguous space for all kinds of activity. Boalt’s 12 student journals now call the Student Center home, and it has an inviting lounge, a kitchen, four different kinds of seating, and three new group study rooms.

“We tried to design a student space that emphasized the professional nature of the law journals’ activities, while still giving students a comfortable space in which to meet and relax,” says Vanden Heuvel.

Heyman Terrace

At an alumni weekend ceremony last October, Boalt Hall’s West Terrace was renamed the Heyman Terrace in honor of former Boalt Professor and UC Berkeley Chancellor I. Michael Heyman. Now a prime gathering place for students and faculty, it is a welcoming face to the campus. 

—Andrew Cohen

Visit the original building web site here.