By Michael Bazeley and Andrew Cohen
Dignitaries turned the first ceremonial spades of dirt Wednesday at a groundbreaking for the new South Addition building, the centerpiece of a series of ongoing improvements to Berkeley Law’s physical complex.
Sporting yellow “Cal” helmets and wielding gold shovels wrapped in ribbon, a group of former deans, and two groups of staff, alumni and students took turns plunging the spades into the ground of the courtyard where the new three-level building will sit.
Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. recalled the many activities—pitching pennies, playing Frisbee, or just hanging out—that have made the courtyard a favorite gathering place for law students over the past several decades.
But, he added, Berkeley Law “can’t be the great law school of tomorrow that we want to be unless we have world-class facilities.…The program has far outgrown our current walls.”
The ceremony was festive, but low-key and relatively brief. Attendees nibbled on light lunch food, watched the ceremonial digging, then posed for a group photo. A jazz band played in a shady corner.
Former law school deans Herma Hill Kay, Sanford Kadish, Robert Berring and Ed Halbach were on hand, as was former UC Berkeley Chancellor Michael Heyman.
Edley jokingly warned one group of ceremonial diggers “not to go deeper than 48 feet.” To another group, he urged them to work their shovels more quickly. “C,mon, we’re never going to get it done at this rate!”
The South Addition anchors a set of renovations intended to accommodate considerable growth at the law school. In the past four years, Berkeley Law has expanded its faculty by 25 percent while adding six new research centers, and continued expansion is planned.
The school has already created four modern seminar rooms, renovated three lecture halls, and restored a library reading room. Other ongoing or planned projects include upgrading classroom technology, creating faculty offices in Simon Hall, developing collaborative space for students on the west terrace level, and renovating the west terrace itself to reclaim usable outdoor space adjoining College Plaza.
It’s the South Addition, however, that will provide the most visually striking change to the school. Built one level above ground and two levels below, along Bancroft Way, the South Addition will feature a roof-deck garden connected by footbridges to the Steinhart Courtyard and the library’s main reading room. A newly landscaped entryway will create a green and vibrant transition from the complex to the street.
Functionally, the building will increase instructional and library space. Library plans include efficient compact shelving, more space for student research and reading rooms, as well as huge skylights and open stairways to produce a warm, inviting environment.
The 8,500 square-foot ground level pavilion will integrate into the existing complex and blend with neighboring school buildings. A large atrium will allow natural light to filter through to the two underground floors.
Work on the building project is due to begin later this month and last about two years, with the building ready for move-in around summer 2011. Edley acknowledged that the building work would be disruptive, despite best efforts to shield the rest of the school from noise, dust and other byproducts of construction.
“I hope that, as we as a campus community bear that disruption in the next many months,” he said, “you’ll have a sense of progress.”
For more information about the school’s many building projects, go here.