UCLA just spent $35 million to turn claustrophobic locker rooms and a worn-out basketball court into a spacious dance facility, with glass-encased practice rooms and a white marble foyer that grandly connects to the building's classrooms, academic offices and auditoriums.
"There's always more you would like to do," said architect Buzz Yudell, in detailing the renamed Glorya Kaufman Hall. "But I think what we've been able to accomplish here is extraordinary."
And these days, it's hardly unusual. UCLA, which is closing in on a decade-long capital improvement program, has built up nearly every corner of the Westwood campus. "We should change the initials," joked Jeffrey Averill, the university's architect, on a recent tour. "UCLA could stand for Under Construction Los Angeles."
Since 1997, the school has completed, or has under construction, more than $3 billion in projects, such as the re-make of Kaufman Hall, the $44.8 million Physics and Astronomy building and $211 million in student housing.
In various stages of planning and construction are another 42 approved and funded projects with a cumulative budget of $1.7 billion. These include the $52.4 million Edythe L. and Eli Broad Art Center, the $149 million California NanoSystems Institute, the $138 million Life Sciences Replacement Building, and the $700 million Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
"This has been quite a wave," said Sue Santon, assistant vice chancellor for UCLA capital programs. "I don't see another one quite like it in the future."
To pay for the extensive projects, UCLA has leveraged massive amounts of money it received from federal and state sources for seismic upgrades with private donations, revenues from state bond sales, campus resources and state budget allocations.
Forty percent of the projects are being funded by money earmarked since the 1994 Northridge earthquake for seismic retrofitting of the campus' classic brick buildings.
Besides safety concerns, UCLA is building to meet future growth. The state Board of Regents ordered the school to accept 4,000 additional students, sparking the need for more than 2,000 new dormitory rooms and increased classroom sizes. The new buildings, especially in the sciences, ensure that UCLA can remain a top research institution that can attract high-caliber faculty and stay in the running for lucrative grants.
Like many public universities, UCLA has increasingly relied on private donations to make up for the gap in public funds. In cash-strapped California, the university has taken private fundraising to a new level.
Since launching its Campaign UCLA eight years ago, around $3 billion has been raised from donors ranking the school among the top-10 research universities in private fundraising. The campaign will close at the end of the calendar year with a "Wall of Philanthropy" where 300 nameplates will identify donors who have given more than $1 million.
Kaufman Hall is a good example of how the capital improvement process has worked. The historic red-brick building, constructed in 1932 as a gymnasium but more recently home to the university's dance program, was badly in need of seismic upgrades.
Between funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state sources, the school had $17 million for the project enough to hold up better in an earthquake but not adding much else.
Enter Glorya Kaufman, a frequent UCLA donor and widow of KB Home co-founder Donald Kaufman, who put up $18 million the largest single donation to the dance art form in the United States and the largest to the university outside health sciences to pay for the upgrades.
A similar transformation is taking place on the other side of the campus, at the re-named Broad Art Center, which is scheduled to reopen in May 2006. The building, home to the university's visual arts program, also was badly damaged in the '94 quake.
With a donation from billionaire businessman Eli Broad, the other founder of KB Home, the $52.4 million project will alter the 163,000-square-foot building's interiors and exteriors, which, unlike Kaufmann Hall, aren't designated a state landmark.
Relying on private donors can complicate the process. Both Kaufman and Broad were extensively involved in the design of the buildings.
Kaufman wanted spaces where students could lounge and chat between classes. Partly for that reason, Yudell said student lounges and stairwell nooks were added. An outdoor caf & #233; on the building's top-floor perch is expected to open soon.
Broad, a consummate proponent of modernist architecture, has been involved in large projects throughout L.A. County, including the $1.8 billion remaking of Grand Avenue downtown and the renovation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile.
"Eli likes to know what's going on and has comments on just about everything," Averill said. "Not in a bad way, though. He has very specific tastes."
The university originally was located in downtown Los Angeles and moved to its current Westwood location in 1929 after it expanded into third- and fourth-year programs.
The quad was formed by Royce Hall, the Powell library, Haines Hall and the Physics-Biology Building, all copied after the Northern Italian Renaissance architecture style.
By 1931, the campus had 10 buildings and a small bridge spanning an arroyo later filled in with additional buildings slowly added during the Great Depression years.
The university went through several periods of rapid growth during the 1950s and early 1970s, but in the last two decades there has been a nearly complete transformation.
In 1984, the university's buildings and parking lots accounted for 15.1 million square feet; today, it's 23 million square feet.
The wave of construction is expected to come to a close as UCLA's big-ticket projects, including the replacement hospital, are scheduled to open throughout next year. (One exception: The 176,000-square-foot Life Sciences Replacement Building, which is expected to start construction in 2006 and take three years to complete.)
UCLA has yet to decide what it will do with the old UCLA Medical Center when the 1.1 million-square-foot Ronald Reagan replacement hospital opens next year.
The older medical center takes up a large and prominent parcel on the campus and is in need of extensive and costly seismic upgrades. UCLA officials haven't ruled out the possibility of razing the building to make way for something new. "That's going to be an interesting debate," Averill said.
The debate over the old hospital's fate has other ramifications. Aside from a large surface parking lot on the southern tip of campus, UCLA is nearing build-out. Already, it's the most densely developed campus in the University of California system.
That means nearly all the university's future projects will require razing older structures. Until now, the school hasn't needed to knock down buildings because it has been able to expand existing facilities.
Beyond the hospital, Averill pointed to a few low-rise buildings dating from the late-1960s and early 1970s that could be razed to make more room for denser development. "As the campus grew rapidly during those years, the buildings weren't thought out as much as they could have been," he said.
UCLA is also building new structures on top of low-rise buildings. A portion of the California NanoSystems Institute will incorporate part of a three-story parking garage. La Kretz Hall, which opened in June to house the UCLA Institute of Environment, was built on top of the university's 5 million-gallon reservoir tank.
"In prime areas of campus we are constantly trying to recoup space," said UCLA's Santon. "It's hard to imagine this place without there always being some form of construction going on."
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