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’50s era dining halls now face demolition

John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Thursday November 30, 2000

When the UC Regents approved plans for the new central dining and office facility, the existing dining pavilions, classic examples of modernism, came closer to the wrecking ball. 

The regents approved the new dining structure on Bowditch Street on Nov. 17 along with a student housing project at College and Durant avenues. Both are part of the planned Underhill Area Projects. According to university officials the existing pavilions at 2605 Durant Ave. and 2650 Haste St., will be razed when the dining hall is complete. 

Both pavilions were designated as historical landmarks by Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in September because of their modernist design created by celebrated architect John Carl Warnecke and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. 

Warnecke designed seven buildings on the UC Berkeley campus as well as other structures of note nationwide including the Hawaii State Capital and the JFK grave in Arlington National Cemetery. 

The most distinguishing feature of the  

pavilions is the floral-shaped roofs, which are made of reinforced concrete and extend about 15 feet beyond the glass walls of the dining pavilion. 

“Like most modern architecture, the design was pure function and structure,” said Warnecke, 81. “Whatever you want to call the roofs, floral or flowing or Oriental, they were designed to continue the feeling of trees and landscaping from the neighborhood and the nearby hills into the center of the development.” 

The design of the dining pavilions, both completed in 1959, was critical to the overall project, because of their location in the center of four, nine-story residence buildings. 

The roofs are mentioned in the landmark designation as an excellent example of the work of prominent structural engineer Isadore Thompson. 

Irene Hegarty, director of community relations for the university, said the pavilions are seismically unsound and are scheduled to come down once the new central dining hall is complete. Construction of the new dining hall is scheduled to begin in the spring. 

Hegarty said the building could be seismically upgraded but “It would be difficult.” 

Once the central dinning area is complete, it will be easier to provide services students want, Hegarty said. “We’ll be able to extend hours, provide more modern food service and have a cafe-style area that students will feel safe in late at night,” she said. 

Lesley Emmington-Jones of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association said the university should work out a way to save the pavilions. 

“The spirit of the roofs give a relief to the starkness and density of the resident halls that surround it,” she said.