Sutardja Dai Hall

Sutardja Dai Hall Technical Building
Berkeley, CA

Architect: SmithGroup, San Francisco, CA
Precast Contractor: Willis Construction Co., San Juan Bautista, CA
Awards: 2009 PCI Award – Best School

This unique educational facility houses a broad range of educational functions, including a research laboratory space, a conference space, and a social activity space. Accom-modating this smorgasbord of functions was not extremely difficult in itself, but doing so while remaining responsive to the building’s context was. Matching the aesthetics and spirit of the environment proved to be a significant challenge to the designers, as the surrounding area is saturated in the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. 

Directly next to this new seven-story building is an example of this style, the campus’s first building, which was built in 1914. The Arts and Crafts style centers around a strong devolution toward expressing the hard-to-replicate appearance of architectural elements created by hand. As can be imagined, emulating this with precast concrete was quite challenging. As a nod toward durability and the high-tech nature of the functions performed within the building, the design team chose precast concrete as the exterior material early in the design process. Additionally, the team selected glass-fiber-reinforced concrete because it adapts well to shapes and textures. Ultimately, through the use of a special concrete slurry and real spruce pieces to mimic texture, the design team was able to create precast concrete panels that both matched the building’s surroundings and maintained the architectural style of the area.