Saturday, July 10, 2010

Warren Hall


Warren Hall's replacement may have a different name - I didn't get close enough to the sign to see. I believe that the architect is SmithGroup, a mega-firm from Detroit that bought the local firm Stone, Marraccini & Patterson (later SMP - the spelling of the full name is from memory). In its new guise, it's continued to focus on hospitals and labs. The design quality of its work is better than it was. Back in the day, SMP was responsible for the USPS Building near the Oakland West BART Station, and other monsters. That era is mercifully over, although of course the buildings linger. The State Health Building's demise may be a sign of the times: they're also tearing down 1960s and 1970s relics in England. They have their defenders, but there's no getting around their ugliness. It's still too early to say if the Warren Hall replacement is a success. The old Warren Hall was a modest affair. This is much bigger, with a look that says "SCIENCE" (all those filters on the roof). As mentioned below, university lab buildings tend toward bland. Will this one? As an aside, I visited the SMP office on Bay St. in SF in 1971. It was in a former Safeway - rows of desks organized in two halves, with a traffic cop at the front. It reminded me of a slave galley. In those days, big firms were made up of acres of draftsmen. At SOM, where I worked briefly, there was a movement to unionize. I'm sure it was going on at SMP, too. It scared the hell out of the firms, and working conditions improved significantly shortly thereafter. The nascent union ("Organization of Architecture Employees") didn't make it, but it made a difference. (The new building is on the east side of Oxford between University and Berkeley Way.)

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