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University House Has Become Home to Chancellor

By Marie Felde, Chancellor's Office
posted September 9, 1998

University House is ready for its second century of service &endash; and for a new tenant. After a year-long renovation and rehabilitation, Chancellor and Mrs. Berdahl have moved into the campus's official residence and it is once again equipped to host events and welcome visiting dignitaries.

"It is really exquisite. It will work beautifully as a public space to hold events for the university's friends and guests. And it is a wonderful residence," said Berdahl.

From the outside one immediately notices the handsome original sandstone brick and the elegant lines of the Italian Renaissance-style structure. Shrubs that had grown to cover much of the front of the house were removed during the exterior renovation. The result is a facade that once again resembles the house as captured in a 1911 photo of Teddy Roosevelt seated in a motor car at the foot of the entry steps.

The building is a campus landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ground was first broken for the house in 1902 but before it was completed, campus overcrowding required its use as seminar rooms for several years. The house, as the campus's official residence, was finally completed in 1911.

The 20,000-square foot building had been vacant since July 1997, when Chancellor and Mrs. Tien moved out and workers moved in, turning the place into a full-fledged construction site.

"This summer, we completed a long cycle of renewal of University House. For the first time in decades, a project was undertaken which tried to respond to the house as a whole &endash; in its role as both the ceremonial home for the campus and the private residence of the Chancellor," said Rob Gayle, project manager and senior architect with the campus's Planning, Design and Construction department.

"Since the house was made seismically safe in 1991, the recent work focused on halting and correcting deterioration of exterior walls, roofs and balconies. That deterioration, if not halted and reversed now, would have led to much more extensive work later," said Gayle.

Interior renovation included installing an elevator to provide disabled access to the three floors and the full-sized attic, adding men's and women's restrooms in the basement ballroom and on the main floor, and installing a caterers' kit-chen on the main floor.

An important part of the project was transforming the third floor into a fully functioning private floor for the Chancellor's family. In the past, family members had to use the first-floor kitchen and living and dining rooms that serve as public areas during the 100 or so receptions, dinners and other events that bring as many as 2,500 guests to the house each year.

The comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation -- the first in almost 40 years -- have involved nearly every trade and touched every surface, inside and out.

The interior is distinguished by its bright, clean look with lighting and furnishings that give an art deco feel, but one that is also quite modern. Architecturally, said Gayle, "this is a big house, but a simple house. Throughout, the selected finish work and furnishings provide a unity of design that the house had long been without."

Another notable addition is the display of paintings and artwork from the university's Berkeley Art Museum. The works will be on temporary loan and will change from time to time.

The $3.5 million effort, funded through non-state funds from the Office of the President, was managed by the campus's office of Planning, Design and Construction. Plant Construction Co., a San Francisco firm specializing in historic buildings, was the general contractor. Others involved in the project include Page and Turnbull Architects; Carmen Nordsten Igonda Design (interior design); and Diane Horner Design (coordinating designer).

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