Welcome to the ‘deconstruction’ zone

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs


A little bit of University Village hangs in the dining commons of Unit 1 residence hall, where a new sign — made of wood scraps, floor tiles and other scraps from Village repair projects — announces a fitting theme for the soon-to-be-closed dining hall.
Peg Skorpinski photo

28 August 2002 | As construction crews put finishing touches on Crossroads dining commons, the 42-year old kitchen in Unit 2 residence hall has closed for demolition, and its sister facility in Unit 1 is absorbing the 800-student overflow.

With 1,600 hungry mouths to feed, that’s a logistical challenge demanding creativity. Hence the new look of the remaining dining hall, which has reinvented itself as the “Deconstruction Diner.”

“We’re playing up the fact that we’re in a construction zone,” says Mike Laux, general manager of Unit 1 dining hall. “We’re in it; we might as well poke fun at what we’re dealing with.”

Walkways are marked with brightly colored “caution” cones and painted yellow lines; signage atop yellow-and-blue 55-gallon drums directs students to clearly marked “zones,” where specialized menus — deli sandwiches, short-order items, or blue-plate specials — are offered.

Besides thumbing a nose at adversity, the remake is intended to speed traffic flow through the commons. “With the large population we’re feeding, we’re trying to streamline, to get students through our space as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says Laux. The dining hall has extended its hours, and kitchen staff are preparing additional prepackaged, “grab-and-go” items.

The crowning feature of the makeover is a 14’ x 4’ hanging sign reading “Deconstruction Diner,” made of leftover workshop materials — wood scraps, PVC pipe, electrical wiring, conduit, hardware, and floor tiles — by Senior Maintenance Worker Jay Sicard, working from a concept proposed by Dining Services’ marketing department.

A campus employee for 24 years, Sicard does upkeep and repairs on graduate-student family housing at University Village in Albany. “I’ve painted just about every single apartment more than once,” he says. He’s also managed to create a small gallery of artwork — like the 22-foot-tall turning wheel, the spinning fountain, and the 5-foot-tall eagle head installed on University Village buildings and in its public spaces.

“Life is busy,” says Sicard, “so most of my good art has been done for UC Berkeley, in different places in the Village over the years.”

Collaborating on the sign offered a challenge. He and his colleagues also enjoyed the play on the academic school known as deconstruction. “That’s also what you do when you fix something: you deconstruct it and reassemble it,” he notes.

After the sign was installed, Sicard stopped by the dining hall with his family to show them his handiwork, and discovered that Design Services had made it the focus of the hall’s makeover, replicating his creation on various forms of signage.

“It was a shock,” he says. “The dining commons had been turned into a construction zone with style. And in the center of it all, over the salad bar, was the ‘Deconstruction’ sign in all its glory. It was one of my proudest moments in more than 20 years of working at Berkeley.”


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