Press Release
Artist's rendering of planned renovations to the Naval Architecture Building (right), which will house the Blum Center for Developing Economies and College of Engineering faculty. The rendering includes a new wing (left), and plazas and raised connectors that will link the complex to other buildings on campus. Artist's rendering of planned renovations to the Naval Architecture Building

Al Gore to speak at groundbreaking of new Blum poverty studies building

| 20 April 2009

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new home of the Richard C. Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, this Thursday, April 23. Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring worldwide understanding to the issue of global climate change.

Gore will be joined at the ceremony by UC Regent and center founder Richard Blum, UC President Mark Yudof, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and College of Engineering Dean Shankar Sastry, faculty director of the Blum Center. The 1:30 pm event will take place outside the historic Naval Architecture Building on the north side of the campus. It will be followed by students presenting their wide-ranging research directed at combating global poverty.

The Blum Center was established three years ago through a founding gift from Blum, a San Francisco financier and philanthropist, as a multi-disciplinary initiative established to combat poverty. Headquartered at UC Berkeley, it also involves a partnership with UC Davis and UC San Francisco.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who serves as an honorary trustee of the center, will be speaking at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre, on Saturday, April 25. Others visiting campus this month in connection with the center's anniversary include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland.

"I believe UC Berkeley can have a singular effect in the fight to alleviate human suffering. If you look at the dangerous political divisions in today's world, you will find that most extremism has its roots in poverty and lack of education. We hope that our center will help train the next generation of leaders to be dedicated to alleviating poverty in the developing world," said Blum, who received both his undergraduate degree and MBA from UC Berkeley.

While UC Berkeley faculty are developing and adapting new technologies and new social and entrepreneurial models to tackle real-world problems, they are also educating the next generation of leaders in the fight against global poverty. More than 1,000 students have participated in Blum Center-sponsored classes, symposia and applied research initiatives.

Interest in the new Global Poverty and Practice minor on campus has made it the fastest growing secondary field of academic specialization for students at UC Berkeley. The minor draws students from 30 majors and gives them the knowledge and experiences necessary to take action against poverty. Classroom studies are combined with experience working directly in developing countries. To date, students have worked in 25 countries.

Blum Center teams of faculty members and undergraduate students are currently working to deliver safe water and sanitation solutions to eight countries; provide new mobile technologies and services in many locations in Africa and Asia; and deploy energy-efficient technologies around the world.
The rapid growth of the Blum Center programs necessitated the creation of a physical home for the center. Richard Blum offered to finance the restoration of the building and the construction of a new wing to provide that home.

The original Naval Architecture Building, built in 1914 and designed by John Galen Howard, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has housed many academic units over the decades, including architecture programs, but currently is not in use by faculty or students.

The new project will respectfully restore the historic building and more than double its square footage while also revitalizing it to meet modern building codes and life safety codes. It will also provide a new home for the College of Engineering's Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department. The department conducts teaching and research related to modeling and analyzing business operations to improve efficiency, productivity and product quality. The new location will allow the department's students and faculty to work closely with Blum Center colleagues on manufacturing and marketing technologies that address global poverty.

A new wing will be constructed 16 feet away from the original structure to respect its historic integrity. A second-level bridge, first-level terrace and ground floor connector under the terrace will link the historic building to its new wing. A plaza area will connect the entire project to nearby engineering buildings. Most of the ground floor will be devoted to a student work space area that is designed to foster student collaboration and the exchange of ideas.

The $16 million project was approved by the UC Board of Regents and is being developed by a private, non-profit organization - the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley Foundation, also known as the Blum Center Foundation. The foundation was created and is funded by Richard Blum. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with project completion expected to take 16 months.

Under a short-term ground lease agreement between the Blum Center Foundation and the University of California, the foundation will lease the existing Naval Architecture Building and immediate site from the University of California and complete the improvements under its management and at its expense. After the project is completed, the improvements would be gifted to UC Berkeley by the Blum Center Foundation.

The San Francisco-based firm of Gensler Architects is designing the building. The project design team also includes Knapp Architects of San Francisco, which specializes in historic preservation.