NEWS RELEASE, 07/07/98
July 9 event to launch $68 million restoration
of historic Hearst Memorial Mining Building on UC Berkeley campus
By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
BERKELEY -- The granite boulders used for drilling practice have long since disappeared from the Hearst Memorial Mining Building on the University of California at Berkeley campus, and with them the pervasive smell of rock dust, the pounding of ore crushers and the pungent odor of cracking petroleum.
The sights, sounds and smells of 20th century mining are soon to be replaced by the snapping of pulsed lasers, the glow of electron microscopes and the hum of vacuum pumps. These are the 21st century research tools that UC Berkeley scientists will use to concoct new materials and develop new methods of natural resource exploration and extraction.
Thursday, July 9, marks the start of a $68 million restoration and earthquake retrofit of the mining building, an architectural gem listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
An event to launch the project is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. on the steps of the building. It will be attended by John Langley Howard, the 96-year-old son of famed architect John Galen Howard, who designed the building and many subsequent ones on the UC Berkeley campus.
Also attending will be UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl, Engineering Dean Paul Gray, Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean and Dion Aroner, a member of the State Assembly.
A reception follows, highlighted by a three-dimensional cake in the shape of the building and by nine exhibition tables staffed by students who will explain the latest in materials science and earth resources engineering.
The building was built in 1907, a time when enrollment in UC Berkeley's School of Mining was the largest of any mining school in the world. UC Berkeley students carried their expertise around the world - to South Africa, Colombia, Peru and throughout the western United States. The Berkeley Pit at the now closed Anaconda copper mine in Montana is testament to the contributions of UC Berkeley graduates. And the former chairman of the board of the famous Homestake Mining Co., Donald McLaughlin, was a UC Berkeley graduate who went on to become dean of the campus's School of Engineering and a UC regent.
While turn-of-the century scientists used smelting shops and crushing towers to delve into ore and earth samples from California's mines and oil fields, the planned renovation will allow today's engineers to explore the microscopic makeup of the earth's resources and atom-by-atom create entirely new materials to propel technology into the next century. The new materials research will benefit medicine, microelectronics, transportation and construction, among many other areas.
The project is being made possible by $34 million in state support from voter-approved bond funds and $34 million in private funds, which still are being raised.
The renovation project will preserve the significant architecture of the building, the finest surviving example of Beaux-Arts architecture in the nation, and restore many of its original architectural elements.
Home to the Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering, the building was named for wealthy miner and former U.S. Senator George Hearst. Upon his death in 1891, his widow, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, dedicated herself to philanthropy, and UC Berkeley benefited greatly from her generosity. The memorial to her husband was only one of many buildings she commissioned on the campus. In 1897, Phoebe Hearst became the UC's first female regent.
Originally designed by Howard so that, in his words, the interior "may be torn out, adjusted, rebuilt, if necessary, without affecting the strength or aspect of the whole," the mining building has seen frequent renovation over the years, but nothing to improve its seismic safety. Situated only 800 feet from the Hayward Fault, it was rated "very poor" in a recent survey of campus buildings. Because of the earthquake hazard, large lecture classes have not been held in the building for many years.
The building was never comprehensively updated, either. Its utilities and other infrastructure are so antiquated that researchers using advanced computing and electron microscopes must sometimes run an extension cord to a nearby building with a modern power source.
Working with the State Office of Historic Preservation, the campus envisions an overall design that preserves the historical facades of the four-story building, its beautiful three-story entry lobby lit by domed skylights, and as much of the original roof and interior as possible.
What will change, however, is the structural support for the building. To eliminate the need for radical change to the elegant architecture and to maximize life safety and limit building damage in the event of an earthquake, the campus will employ base isolation to improve seismic performance.
UC Berkeley engineers were leaders in developing base isolation, which is now being used in the renovation of San Francisco's City Hall and other buildings. It involves cutting the building free from its foundations and placing a system of isolators at its base. This allows the building as a whole to move horizontally during an earthquake, isolating it from ground motion.
Occupants are expected to return to the building in January of 2001.
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