Hearst Memorial Mining Building reopens
Rededication on Sunday will celebrate its renovation, retrofit, and research future

camera Slide show: A campus gem sparkles again - high bandwidth or low bandwidth



The grand Memorial Gallery of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building honors George Hearst, a U.S. senator, silver miner, and husband of benefactor Phoebe Hearst.
Ron Delany photo

19 September 2002 |

The 95-year-old Hearst Memorial Mining Building, an architectural and historic landmark on the Berkeley campus, will reopen its doors next week, after four years of renovation to bring it up to seismic-safety codes, restore its architectural beauty, and ready it for 21st-century teaching and research.

The renovation features new laboratories and classrooms equipped with the latest in multimedia aids and lab hardware, for use by faculty, students, and staff in materials science, nanoscience and nanoengineering, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

Top campus administrators will join with donors, alumni, and contributors to the building’s restoration on Sunday, Sept. 22, at a rededication ceremony and celebration. The 1:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. event, which is open to the public, will feature exhibits detailing the building’s history, architectural restoration, and new seismic foundation. Additional exhibits will focus on materials science and interdisciplinary research.

The $90.6-million renovation balances the rich design legacy of founding architect John Galen Howard with cutting-edge technologies designed to protect the building from damage in a major earthquake. In addition to its meticulously restored vaulted entrance gallery, elegant sculptured windows, and grand marble staircase, the building houses new laboratories for advanced experiments in computation, ceramics, metals, and polymers, as well as facilities to develop nanoscale superconducting materials.

Its architectural makeover has been embellished with a seismic upgrade employing “base-isolation” technology that was pioneered by Berkeley engineers more than 20 years ago. The seismic isolation system is an increasingly common method of protecting buildings against earthquake damage. San Francisco’s City Hall and Court of Appeals, as well as Oakland’s City Hall, have been seismically upgraded with similar base-isolator systems.

The building, which weighs 60 million pounds, now sits on a foundational grid of 134 cylindrical base isolators made of stainless steel and rubber, each weighing 5,300 pounds. Thirty-four dampers have been interspersed throughout the waffle-like grid to act like shock absorbers that will impede ground movement in an earthquake. Engineers from Rutherford & Chekene, the structural and civil engineering firm on the project, says the building, which stands just 800 feet from the Hayward Fault, will be able to withstand a 7.0-magnitude earthquake without suffering damage.

Modernization also entailed upgrading the building’s aging infrastructure, including replacement of its power, water, ventilation, heating, and lighting systems. The building that once had flues for extracting smoke from furnaces is now equipped with HEPA filters to purify the air, crucial for sensitive electron microscopes and other lab equipment. The laboratories have been revamped to include acoustical shielding to protect against ambient noise; the electrical wiring and telecommunication lines have been upgraded as well.

“As much as this building represents the history of engineering in the past century,” says Chancellor Robert Berdahl, “it will also be the site of history in the making for the coming century. The state-of-the-art laboratories and teaching facilities in Hearst will provide the physical foundation for engineering research that will move us into the future.”

Painstaking renovation
On Aug. 23, 1907, benefactor Phoebe Apperson Hearst dedicated the Hearst Memorial Mining Building to the memory of her husband, George Hearst, among the most successful miners of the of the Nevada silver mines. It was the first academic building erected under architect John Galen Howard’s Hearst Architec-tural Plan, the result of an international competition funded by Phoebe Hearst to devise a master plan for development of the entire Berkeley campus, adopted by the UC Regents in 1900.

Howard designed the four-story building as “a vigorous reinterpretation of 19th-century structural aesthetics” (in the words of one architectural historian), endowing it with a sweeping, open-air lobby set off by delicate columns, lattice girders, skylight domes, and pendentives filled with Guastavino tiles. The renovation project has restored those features, along with some of the building’s original courtyards, while constructing two modern additions to the north side of the building.

Restoration of the building’s architecture involved painstaking measures to preserve original materials and design features. Howard had envisioned an ever-changing space “whose interior portions may be torn out, adjusted, rebuilt, if necessary, without affecting the strength or aspect of the whole.”

Thus, laboratories and classrooms designed for cutting-edge research and instruction retain elements of their historic roots. In such places as the renovated Graduate Student Cluster, located on the third floor, there are sections of
I-beams from floors that were added after World War II. In the gallery, which mirrors Henri Labrouste’s 19th-century reading room in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, Howard’s combination of graceful lines and light from above has been preserved. Exposed brick, iron balustrades, steel lattice trusses, and composite steel-beam pipes reinforce the building’s function as a center for multidisciplinary teaching and research in engineering.

When faculty and staff from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering move into the newly refurbished building, they will be joined by some of the faculty and staff from the Berkeley-led CITRIS program, which focuses on advances in information technology to solve societal-scale problems in such areas as energy conservation, transportation, education, and emergency preparedness. Berkeley’s Institute of Design, a cross-disciplinary research center and graduate program affiliated with CITRIS, will also be housed in the building.

Chancellor Berdahl, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray, College of Engineering Dean Richard Newton, CITRIS Director Ruzena Bajcsy, engineers from Capital Projects, and the structural and civil engineering firms responsible for the building’s restoration will be among the those attending this Sunday’s rededication ceremony.


Additional information and to register to attend ceremony
A building’s legacy: 95 years of innovation
The lore of Lawson Adit


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