Berkeley - When the Hearst Memorial Mining Building at the
University of California, Berkeley, first opened in 1907,
the study of mining was vital to the campus and the nation.
At a rededication ceremony this Sunday (Sept. 22), 95 years
later, the building's doors will reopen to new frontiers in
materials science and engineering research.
Following a four-year seismic upgrade and renovation project,
they also will reveal the campus's painstaking preservation
of an historic, Beaux Arts structure that many consider
the architectural gem of the University of California system.
The building had become so outdated that it no longer supported
the demands of modern research. By the mid-1990s, it had
become clear that the building - rated seismically very
poor - was in need of a massive overhaul. As part of the
retrofit, it now sits on a foundation system that allows
the 60-million-pound building to move 28 inches in any horizontal
direction in an earthquake.
The result of this extensive project, which cost $90.6
million, is an elegant, 19th century-style home - complete
with delicate columns, lattice girders and Douglas fir window
frames - for 21st century research. Individual and corporate
donors as well as the state financed the work.
"The completion of this remarkable renovation is an important
milestone," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl. "It is a
glorious example of preserving our heritage and an even
more important example of UC Berkeley's determination to
propel science and engineering into new areas that will
benefit people's lives well into the future."
The Department of Materials Science & Engineering will
return to the Hearst mining building, having been temporarily
relocated to other labs and offices during construction.
As part of the Center for Information Technology Research
in the Interest of Society, or CITRIS, the building will
also support interdisciplinary research in nanosciences
and nanoengineering. It will temporarily house other components
of CITRIS, an initiative partnering four UC campuses and
launched by Gov. Gray Davis to create information technology
solutions to critical societal problems.
"The CITRIS component of this building is critical to the
college and the campus," said A. Richard Newton, dean of
the College of Engineering. "Here we will couple engineering
research with chemistry and the physical and biological
sciences in the development of new nanoengineered materials.
CITRIS researchers will invent the new materials and processes
needed to fuel the next technological revolution, while
also addressing some of our toughest societal challenges,
including energy and the environment."
When philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst funded construction
of the building at the turn of the 20th century, she dedicated
it in memory of her husband, U.S. Senator George Hearst,
who made his fortune in mining. With that in mind, the building
was originally designed to accommodate equipment for mining
technology, including a three-story crushing tower in the
central court that was impressive in its time.
Over the decades, studies in the Hearst mining building
have evolved from mining to mineral engineering to present-day
materials science and engineering. 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, including
pulsed laser deposition chambers and electron beam lithographic
machines. The laboratories have been upgraded to include
acoustical shielding to protect against ambient noise, and
the electrical wiring and telecommunication lines have been
Where students in the past learned how to mine diamonds,
students today are creating synthetic diamonds used to coat
hard drive disks to protect them against failure.
"Those early students mastered excavation and extraction
of mineral resources using mega-scale mining equipment,"
said Ronald Gronsky, professor in the Department of Materials
Science & Engineering and vice-chair of the UC Berkeley
division of the Academic Senate. "Today's students are much
more interested in the nano-scale, developing tiny complex
widgets that can mine the human body for pathogens and extract
them, painlessly. Our field of scholarship has progressed
to the point where scientists and engineers are developing
new materials from mineral resources by controlling their
structure and composition directly at the atomic level."
The original architect of the building, John Galen Howard,
noted such inevitability of change at the 1907 dedication
ceremony: "We have tried to make our building so that its
main structure shall be ... a mere shell whose interior
portions may be torn out, adjusted, rebuilt, if necessary,
without affecting the strength or aspect of the whole."
The strength of Howard's concept is what makes the Hearst
mining building so unique, said Rob Gayle, assistant vice
chancellor for Capital Projects. "The building's original
architect invited us to modify and renew the interior of
the building to adapt it to contemporary needs," said Gayle.
"We have accepted his invitation to come back to the building
to make it over for a whole new technological era while
respecting its character at the same time. There is no other
historic building on campus that lends itself to such a
radical change in its function while maintaining its original
Visitors walking through the front entrance of the four-story
building will find themselves in the grand Memorial Gallery,
where each pane of glass in the central skylight has been
inventoried, repaired if needed, and restored. Looking above,
visitors can also see the arches adorned with Guastavino
tiles, an early fireproofing method not commonly found in
West Coast architecture. The project reinforced the tiles
with fiberglass from behind, and nearly invisible pins add
security in an earthquake, making this the only Guastavino
tile system ever seismically strengthened. The 1960s vinyl
flooring in Memorial Gallery has been removed to reveal
the original herringbone-patterned yellow brick.
Throughout the building, Douglas fir window frames and
doors have been carefully restored or replicated. On the
building's west side, a new universally accessible entrance
has been created. Entire areas of roof, floor and wall that
had been added in the 1940s and 1950s to created additional
workspace have been removed to restore the two light courts
that flank the center of the building. The steel roof trusses
over the new graduate student space have also been restored,
while the clay roof tiles have been replaced with new ones
by the same manufacturer that furnished the tiles in 1907.
With every turn of a corner there are signs of the old
and the new, and all are protected from catastrophic damage
in the next earthquake. Capital Projects worked with the
California Office of Historic Preservation to ensure that
the new elements are compatible with the building's historic
character. The Capital Projects team also consulted with
campus faculty on various aspects of the retrofit and renovation.
In a retrofit that goes from top to bottom, the roofline's
chimney system has been reinforced with high-tension steel
strands that are attached to anchor plates.
Most notably, the building's original foundations were
replaced with a base isolation system of 134 composite steel
and rubber bearings. These high-tech shock absorbers now
allow the structure to safely ride out earthquakes.
This base isolation technology, pioneered by UC Berkeley
engineers more than 20 years ago, also enabled the preservation
of the building's brick masonry walls, which would have
been more vulnerable to seismic damage had the foundation
The Hearst mining building sits just 800 feet west of the
Hayward Fault, which had once been accessed through a horizontal
tunnel, the Lawson Adit, drilled by mining students in the
early 1900s. Named after Andrew Lawson, a UC Berkeley professor
of geology and mineralogy, the mining shaft was extended
from 200 to 900 feet to give seismologists a close-up look
at the fault.
"We intentionally drilled and extended the tunnel to get
to that fault," recalled John Pruyne, 90, who received an
enviable wage of $1 per hour as a student mining Lawson
Adit. "Not only was the adit dark, it was wet. Mining wasn't
a comfortable job, but it sure paid a lot." Pruyne received
his bachelor's degree in mining and metallurgy in 1939.
As the focus of research shifted away from mining over
the decades, the shaft fell into disrepair, and much of
it has since collapsed. The entrance to the tunnel, less
than 12 feet from the building, is now locked, but still
visible as a reminder of the achievements made by students
and researchers at UC Berkeley.
The project team included architectural firm NBBJ, the
Turner Construction Company and structural engineers Rutherford