When the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake hit, the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) was planning extensive seismic upgrades, phased in over five years, for its historic Royce Hall. The preventive measures came too late, however. The earthquake left the landmark severely damaged, cracking its two towers and weakening its overall structure.
Four years later, the 1,800-seat hall -- which has played host to Aaron Copland, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Twyla Tharp, to mention a few -- has been restored, though as a modern hybrid of its former self. After the earthquake, the only elements of the original 1929 structure left unharmed were the Renaissance-inspired coffered ceilings and the plaster columns and frame around the proscenium. To ensure Mother Nature would not fell Royce Hall again, the architectural firm Anshen and Allen and the engineers John A. Martin & Assoc. built a system of concrete walls which surround the auditorium. The walls, however, hampered the hall's acoustics.
"The challenge was to develop a structural strengthening concept that could be inserted into the historic building in a manner that would preserve its museum-quality fabric," said structural engineer George C. Norton. To achieve this, the architects carved tall ceiling coves out of abandoned attic space, increasing the space's volume and adding to its reverberant character.
In other changes, hand-trowelled plaster walls, heavy wood doors, bronze hardware and linoleum floors replaced past alterations so as to compliment the details of the original building. Up-to-date ventilation, alarms, fire suppression and telecommunications systems were also installed.
Royce Hall, built by Alison & Alison in 1929, was originally intended as a classroom and assembly hall, though musical programs were added over the years. The building is on the National Historic Register. Duke Ellington, Elton John, Luciano Pavoratti and Leontyne Price has all performed at Royce. -- By Robert Simonson