Walker Hall is an adaptive reuse of a 1927 building at the core of the University of California, Davis campus. The project, designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, transformed a vacant, seismically unsafe building into a graduate and professional student center with meeting rooms, a lecture hall and sophisticated active-learning classrooms that serve the entire campus. It coalesces history, community and advanced educational environments at a hub of university life.
The original 34,000-square-foot building, designed to house the university’s growing agricultural engineering program, was one of the earliest buildings on campus. Its 2-story Spanish-style wing faces north to the central quad and housed classrooms and offices. To the south, three lofty, clear-span wings served as large shops for hands-on research, design and fabrication of farming machinery.
The revitalized building is an important addition to the university’s graduate and postgraduate programs, which account for only 20 percent of the total student body. It supports graduate students’ academic, professional, and personal wellbeing with rooms for mentoring and advising, as well as financial and mental health counseling. A variety of social, meeting, and study spaces foster collaborative, interdisciplinary discourse and help students build a strong scholarly community.
The 2-story north wing houses a graduate student lounge, counseling rooms, studies, multipurpose meeting spaces, and administrative offices. The three southern wings were shortened to allow for a new campus walkway and the three shop wings were repurposed as a 200-seat lecture hall and two large general assignment classrooms. These spaces are flexible active-learning environments that incorporate sophisticated media and digital technologies. In this way, the former machine shops now offer a new kind of toolbox that supports contemporary action-based learning.
The history of the original building and the hot, dry climate of California’s Central Valley inform the new architecture. The architects retained and celebrated existing steel trusses, concrete columns, and finishes and inserted modern facades within the original shells. The interior opens to the campus through heavily shaded windows; from the outside people can see the activity during the day and the glow of the reflected sky after dark.
New exterior details—steel sunshades, cylindrical daylight collectors, a sculptural steel stair, and geometrically folded shade canopies—speak to the industrial history of the building. Walker Hall was seismically retrofitted with energy-efficient systems. New thermal insulation and high-efficiency building systems, combined with dedicated renewable energy provided by an on-campus solar farm will result in a zero-net-electricity building. The project received LEED Platinum certification.
Walker Hall illustrates how an unsafe, abandoned structure can be transformed into a sophisticated educational and administrative environment for a major university.
PHOTOS: Bruce Damonte, Jeff Marsh, Richard Barnes
Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
- Bill Leddy
- Ryan Jang
- Jasen Bohlander
- Alice Kao
- Enrique Sanchez
Structural Engineer: Forell Elsesser
Civil Engineer: BKF
MEP Engineer: Arup
Security / Low Voltage / Acoustical: Salter