Ratcliff Architecture News

Berkeley Law's Expansion and Renovation Signal New Era. December 8, 2011.

Berkeley, CA—This fall, students at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law gained a distinct advantage: a new addition composed of a state-of-the-art library, classrooms, and study areas that enhance the law school’s research and interactive learning environments. Designed by Ratcliff, the addition completes a five-year, multi-phase renovation and expansion project to upgrade the school’s historic home. It signals a new era for the prestigious law program, while establishing a valuable model for the reuse of existing facilities.

“This enterprise embraces the future of legal education and ensures Berkeley Law’s continued leadership as we celebrate our centennial year,” said Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. “By supporting our top-caliber students and faculty with updated learning facilities and a world-class law library, we’ve set the stage for the next 100 years. This remarkable project provides our community with an architectural landmark befitting that future.”

The addition and renovation reflect Berkeley Law’s growing programs, expansive research collection, and evolving educational demands. Anchored by the colonnaded law building that has been the school’s home since 1951, the law school complex had grown over time through a series of disparate additions that still couldn’t accommodate the school’s needs. RATCLIFF’s four-phased plan updated and clarified existing buildings, while creating a strategic and iconic centerpiece that unifies the entire law complex.

Sited on an under-utilized courtyard along the campus’ south edge, the 55,000-square-foot addition takes full advantage of scarce land by placing two full floors below grade. From the street, the addition appears as a transparent pavilion that defines a new entry to the school and is sensitively scaled to its surroundings. Framed by a terraced wall, sunny courtyards, and a rooftop garden; and offering a café, lounge, and classroom inside; the pavilion provides a vitalizing social and academic hub for the school.

“Our new building fosters a strong sense of community that invigorates the entire law school complex,” said Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, associate dean for capital projects and director of the Law Library. “We are changing people’s perspective of the school, establishing an engaging modern presence that improves the educational and aesthetic experience for students and faculty alike.”

Below grade, new library facilities including reading and seminar rooms, staff offices, compact stacks, computer labs, and a reference desk enjoy a quality of natural light that belies their subterranean location. Numerous skylights direct sunlight down to these levels, while a central glass-clad staircase descending from the pavilion also illuminates the lower levels both day and night, creating a visible connection between indoor and outdoor environments. In contrast to the airy glass pavilion, the concrete foundation of the original law building is clad in rough-hewn Indiana limestone that captures light and shadow from above and lends a rich tactile quality to the library’s lower level.

The new library and pavilion complement 49,000-square-feet of renovations to the school’s existing facilities. Three distance-learning classrooms, a new moot courtroom, conference rooms, student meeting areas, law journal and faculty offices, and numerous upgraded classrooms compose a modern institution that advances Berkeley Law’s academic mission. Extensive site-work throughout the complex unifies existing and new elements and strengthens connections with the surrounding campus.

The building’s design integrates many sustainable features, including an advanced water reclamation system that captures nearly 100% of the site’s rainwater for irrigation and groundwater replenishment; drought-tolerant and native landscaping; sustainably harvested wood; daylighting; energy efficient ventilation, heating, and cooling; and healthy indoor air quality. The project is on track to achieve LEED for New Construction Gold and LEED for Commercial Interiors Silver certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council. Most significantly, however, the approach of reuse and expansion significantly minimized the project’s environmental impact by avoiding unnecessary tear-downs and rebuilds.

“Reusing the existing law school facilities was the more challenging path, but it was the right solution for the school and the environment,” said Joseph Nicola, principal in charge with RATCLIFF. “Berkeley Law was a tremendous partner in bringing all the pieces together to create a new home that honors the school’s legacy, and more importantly, supports its future.”



Headquartered in Emeryville, California, RATCLIFF provides architecture, interior design and planning services to higher education, healthcare and civic clients throughout the Western United States. RATCLIFF has a long history with the University of California, Berkeley that began with the firm’s founder, Walter H. RATCLIFF’s, design of the Morrison Reading Room at Doe Library (1925). More recently, the firm has completed major renovations for the Valley Life Sciences Building (1995), Boalt Hall (1996) and the Bancroft Library/Doe Annex (2008). In continuous operation in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1906, RATCLIFF is a recipient of the Firm of the Year award from the American Institute of Architects, California Council.


For images, interviews and other information:

Yosh Asato; Asato Communications

415 845 0646; yosh@yoshasato.com

Berkeley Law Renovation and Expansion

University of California, Berkeley

Client: UC Berkeley School of Law

Architect: RATCLIFF, Emeryville, CA

Landscape: Hargreaves Associates, San Francisco, CA

Structural: Rutherford & Chekene, San Francisco, CA

Civil: Sherwood Design Engineers, San Francisco, CA

Mechanical/HVAC: Taylor Engineering, Alameda, CA

Plumbing/Fire protection:  Huey Engineering, San Francisco,  CA

Electrical: O’Mahony & Myer, San Rafael, CA

Lighting: Auerbach Glasow French, San Francisco, CA

Daylighting: Loisos + Ubbelohde, Alameda, CA

Graphics/Wayfinding: Propp + Guerin, San Francisco, CA

Telecommunications: TEECOM Design Group, Oakland, CA

Audio/Visual: Smith Fause & McDonald, San Francisco, CA

Food Service: Webb Design, Tustin, CA

Elevator: Pitfield & Associates, Sacramento, CA

Specifications: Emily Borland Specifications, San Francisco, CA

Waterproofing: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, San Francisco, CA

LEED Green Building: Simon & Associates, San Francisco, CA

Dewatering Specialists: Underwood & Rosenblum, San Jose, CA

General Contractor: Hunt Construction