In 2005, OLIN - a landscape architecture, urban design and planning studio – was selected to join HNTB Architects in the design of a master plan for University of California Berkley’s southeastern campus that aimed to unify its distinct elements and strengthen the social spaces of the campus. HNTB led the renovation of the California Memorial Stadium and worked with STUDIOS Architecture and OLIN to design the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance. These projects are unified by the design of the grounds which are just part of the transformation planned for the campus, which also includes the renovations and landscape design for the Haas School of Business, UC Berkley School of Law and the Piedmont Avenue.
The landscape design of the Stadium and Athletic Center are driven by the desire to address the different needs of students, athletes, faculty and visitors in one environment. The grounds are conceived of as a multi-functional landscape, as described by OLIN partner Hallie Boyce. The design accommodates the everyday functions of the campus and while preserving the opportunities to host special campus events.
The Simpson Center engages the natural landscape of the campus in several ways. Taking advantage of the 120-foot grade change between Piedmont Ave and the athletic center permitted it to be designed and built into the topography making the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza, designed atop the center is both roof and landscape. This change in grade addresses the contrast between the historic Beaux-Arts Stadium and the contemporary Athletic Center and minimizes the impact of the distinct facades.
Working with the textures and materials of the old and new buildings, the team designed a transition of elements between Piedmont Avenue and the Simpson Center. Starting with stone walls at the street, the material transitions to a rustic rough-hewn wall that marks the facade of the Simpson Center, followed by the smooth refined stones of the plaza above. Working with the context of the historic building and the new plaza offers a reflection into the years of history within the structures on UC Berkeley’s campus.
The new plaza replaces a parking lot and creates a diversified landscape for pedestrian use. Transparency and opacity – glass and stone – mark the transitions through the plaza, enabling views of the surrounding campus and the city while also creating and intimate environment on the grounds of the two buildings. Two major staircases and a ramping path lead back to the campus below. On game days, this plaza can accommodate up to 65,000 people; otherwise it is an expansive landscape of hard and soft scape full of trees, benches, and streetlights.