Since their construction in 1929, the Romanesque Revival towers of Royce Hall have become an icon representing the University of California, Los Angeles. A stylized version of the building's facade serves as the trademarked logo symbolizing the campus. Designed by noted California architects Allison & Allison, the venue remains the largest of four original campus buildings that form the historic core of the university situated on a quadrangle. Originally intended to function mainly as a classroom and assembly space, over the past 70 years the building's central 1,800-seat auditorium gradually became a frequently used performing arts venue for academic and special events. After undergoing a renovation in preparation to host festivities surrounding the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, its role as a multi-use performance space was stepped up further, building a schedule of more than 280 presentations a year.
Then the 1994 Northridge earthquake threatened to change all that. Royce Hall suffered devastating structural damage, but the natural disaster actually represented an opportunity for the University: the chance to reconfigure the building's performance venue and refine support and classroom spaces. After a four-year design and construction process, Royce Hall recently reemerged as a performing arts center primed for the millennium, outfitted with improved acoustics and upgraded interior amenities. The project team tackling the complicated project included architect Anshen + Allen Los Angeles, design architect Barton Phelps & Associates, theatre consultant Landry & Bogan, acoustical consultant McKay Conant Brook, architectural lighting consultants Neal Matsuno and Joe Kaplan, and structural engineer John A. Martin & Associates.
Ironically, Royce Hall had already been targeted for a seismic upgrade before the most recent earthquake hit. And assessing the damage done by the natural disaster was all too easy. "The rest of the building sort of ran into the towers," says Tom Chessum, AIA, principal of Anshen + Allen Los Angeles. "Think of it like a tail-end car collision, in which the towers got whiplash. The prime area of greatest damage was actually throughout the main parts of the building, which were in a sense holding everything else up."
It quickly became clear that beyond reinforcing the structural stress points of Royce Hall, a major overhaul of the entire 200,000-sq.-ft. building was required. "We went into an emergency mode to shore up and repair the towers as quickly as possible," Chessum says, "because that was the most easily identifiable problem. The bigger issue was with the auditorium, the void at the center of the plan.
"A 'back to the future' theme drove almost every aspect of the project," Chessum continues. "While we were dealing with a historic structure and its various past lives, our approach to the project and many of our processes went beyond traditional restoration techniques and working relationships. In many cases, we looked at the architecture and engineering challenges of the building as if we were building from the ground up."
In addition to complex architectural considerations, the project faced a mountain of compliance issues mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the $68.8 million project's chief funding source. FEMA guidelines and its historic preservation review process required that the building be put back together as close to its original state as possible; improvements were not covered by the funding and are actually discouraged. Though the university earmarked additional monies for some improvements, the project team's mandate was to make the most of the FEMA funding by playing by the federal agency's rules.
"What was unusual about the structuring of the project team was that it allowed the owner [UCLA] to take the risk of getting exactly what it wanted in the final product and also meet strict FEMA and preservation guidelines," says Barton Phelps, FAIA, the project's principal design architect. Under the watchful eye of FEMA and historic preservationists--and with the clock ticking--architects found themselves programming the project at the same time they began developing designs and managing the early stages of construction. "It was an unusually fast-track approach to a complicated project," adds Chessum. "A project manager's nightmare," is how UCLA campus architect Charles Oakley characterizes the assignment. Architects and engineers often found themselves swarming the site to consult with the construction crew, occasionally drafting design details on the spot along a wall--diagrams which were immediately signed and photographed in place to become the official documentation of the work orders.
The site became an impromptu laboratory for testing the latest techniques in seismic analysis. A mechanical device that simulates earthquake vibrations in the building provided the basis for elaborate computer modeling that graphically depicted the building's response pattern to a range of possible seismic forces. "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," says structural engineer George Norton, project manager for John A. Martin & Associates. Since the landmarked historic facade of the building could not be altered, the solution was to create a massive six-story concrete sheer wall core enveloping the auditorium, an integrated earthquake-resistant structure that goes well beyond standard occupant life and safety criteria to protect the building. The new 28 million-lb concrete seismic strengthening system nearly doubles the mass of the original structure, "and actually led to an upgrade of the auditorium's acoustical amenities," Norton says. "But it was not without its challenges."
After the removal of layers of alterations that had accumulated over time within the auditorium, new systems and finishes were combined with restored historic surfaces in a non-traditional way. Hand-troweled plaster walls, heavy wood doors, bronze hardware, and linoleum floors were added to complement elements in the original building. A new indirect front-of-house lighting system complements floating ceiling vaults that house updated systems for ventilation, alarms, fire suppression, and telecommunications. The auditorium's seats were refinished and reupholstered, and wheelchair-accessible sections added. Classrooms and faculty areas throughout the building underwent a similar makeover, combining new ceilings, lighting, and support systems. Mahogany doors and windows were restored to their 1929 appearance.
The massive concrete walls of the "big box" strengthening system critically reduced volume in the auditorium and threatened the loss of its full reverberant character. To remedy this, the design team--led in the acoustic design arena by Ron McKay of McKay Conant Brook--created new spaces by opening the hall to abandoned rooftop area ways and carving tall ceiling coves out of the attic. The strategy added volume to the auditorium and increased the reverberant response desired in musical programs. To create variable acoustics that could accommodate dramatic performance, sound-absorptive panels in the galleries and fabric banners in the ceiling coves now can be deployed to lessen reverberations and enhance clarity in dramatic speech and lectures. The architects also replaced the plaster walls in the auditorium with red brick and terra-cotta masonry that related to its Romanesque-style exterior. On the lower level, buff-colored terra-cotta panels project boldly out of the walls in a carefully proportioned panel system that increases sound diffusion.
In terms of the hall's sound reinforcement system, the earthquake damaged some of the existing sound system components, "particularly the low-frequency cabinets of the original sound system and the rigging hardware that moved the loudspeakers from their storage locations into the hall itself," says McKay Conant Brook senior consultant Timothy Hart. "Originally, the goal of the renovation was to return the sound system to match its pre-earthquake condition, using as much of the original equipment as possible," Hart continues, "with the exception of the loudspeaker clusters, deemed to not be worth salvaging." However, the major structural renovation of the building provided the acoustical and sound system consultants with the chance to add additional infrastructure. "This allowed us to update the cabling and panels and provide additional capabilities for future expansion," Hart says.
Another stroke of fate intervened during the course of the project to allow a more extensive redesign of the sound reinforcement system. After the original equipment had been crated up and stored for eventual reuse, the majority of the equipment, except for the original 35mm film projectors, disappeared from storage. "The insurance company's loss was the project's gain," Hart says. "We were able to provide a new design to replace the original system using contemporary components. While we had to install a system comparable to the original, we were allowed more latitude in the redesign."
One key area where the in-house production staff was looking for improvements to the venue's sound design concerned mixing locations. "The original console had been hardwired into an area in the rear corner of the balcony, which wasn't a good spot for mixing and didn't allow use of the console in more desirable locations," Hart says "Road shows couldn't make use of any of the house infrastructure. The most novel aspect of the new sound design is that it is now more akin to a road show system where everything is modular and you can move the mixing console and effects rack to one of three locations in the hall for mixing. We paralleled all mic inputs and the output feeds to the amp room to the three mixing locations. All inputs and outputs were wired to multipin connectors at each mix position so that the console and attendant patchbays and signal processing gear could be connected quickly at any of the mix positions."
The new mixing consoles are Crest series Vx boards. Both the 24-input and a 40-input board were provided with redundant power supplies. "The primary consideration for the mixing boards was that they provide true left, right, center mixing," Hart says. "The Crest consoles were also priced reasonably, which was a consideration throughout the project." There are 144 mic lines from the stage to the mix location accessible via the patchbays. "We provided minimal signal processing equipment as part of our design," notes Hart, "since this equipment is generally sensitive to operator preference." The team specified Klark Teknik DN360 graphic equalizers and a Yamaha SPX-900 effects processor. The university also reused some existing signal processing gear. There is no dedicated monitor position and the house system does not include a monitor board, which is brought in only if a road show requests it. UCLA reused existing microphones in the facility.
The sound design team updated the loudspeaker system with more contemporary components and improved coverage within the hall. "The university staff wanted to depart from the mechanical system to bring the loudspeakers into operating position and use a system to fly the loudspeakers into place from the stage," Hart says. "When not in use, they can be lowered and stored backstage. The production staff also wanted to move away from custom-designed clusters and use standard, off-the-shelf, full-range cabinets to ease maintenance and allow for more straightforward augmentation of the system in the future." An additional mandate from the architect was to employ compact cabinets that minimize the visual impact on the space.
The loudspeakers employed for the three main channels are Renkus-Heinz Trap 40/9 cabinets, which were chosen by the design team and the university staff as the result of two shootouts that were held at Wadsworth Theatre, another UCLA venue. "The Renkus-Heinz speakers were selected as a result of their performance, presenting clean reproduction characteristics with very little coloration of the source material," Hart says. "They also worked well as an array: they were consistent through their horizontal coverage area with no abrupt changes in response. Three 90 x 40 full range cabinets were used for the center cluster and two 90 x 40 full range cabinets for the left and right clusters." The loudspeaker clusters for Royce Hall were processed using X24 processors. The rest of the signal chain includes Klark Teknik parametric equalizers and BGW 750G and 350 amplifiers.
Two subwoofer cabinets (Renkus-Heinz SVBs) are installed behind the center cluster above the proscenium arch for reinforcement of the low end. The center cluster hangs from winches that were located in the original trap door over the center of the stage approximately 8' behind the front of the stage. The subwoofers are set within the trap door area above the proscenium. The left and right cabinets hang from winches at the front edge of the stage at the far ends of the proscenium arch. These cabinets are delayed to align with the center cabinet.
In addition to the three main clusters, there are two satellite loudspeakers (Renkus-Heinz Trap 40FR/9 series 90 x 40 cabinets) that cover the balcony to add crispness and intelligibility to the balcony seats. They are mounted flush in the ceiling forward of the balconies and receive a mix of the three main channels and deliver it to the balcony with an appropriate time delay so that the listener in the balcony perceives that the sound is coming from the stage.
Besides its improved acoustic and reinforced sound design, Royce Hall makes the most of some technical shortcomings. "The whole facility is sort of a triumph of the skill and determination of the in-house production team," asserts theatre consultant Jack Bogan. "The physical plant certainly is not what you would start out to build today to serve the enormously intensive programming that the University continues to put on. The hall was originally built in essence as a large lecture hall, onto which they tacked a stage house. There isn't enough grid height, it doesn't have adequate wing space, and the truck access is impossible--you have to back a semi down five stories past the parking garage and back up three stories to the loading dock on an 'S' curve. But you can't weep and wail. FEMA provided a lot of money to fix the damage adhering to their restrictions, so we had to put back the technical systems as they were, but in the best possible way."
The stage's entire technical infrastructure and electrics were removed during the seismic upgrade. "The gridiron had to be replaced, because the structural engineer elected to use it as a structural diaphragm against lateral forces at that point in the stage house," Bogan says. When reconfigured, the gridiron was refitted with loft wells put in at 9' on center using 1.5" pipe "so you don't have to use truss battens even for heavy loads," he notes.
"Royce Hall's in-house technical director Jim Bates really called the shots regarding what was done on the stage, and he believes that the simplest and most reliable system is the best," Bogan says. "So we put back single-purchase counterweight linesets wherever possible." There are five winches, including one very large storage set used to hoist the orchestra enclosure wall units up the back wall. The team reconfigured the orchestra shell's ceiling into two winched ceiling units that rotate in place. "Secoa built a new shell in the same shape of the old one for less than it would have cost to put the old pieces together," Bogan says. The orchestra shell ceiling features integral ETC Source Four PARs.
The existing Gala hydraulic lift on the stage was reinstalled. Meanwhile, improvements were made to elevators that access lower floors in the building for storage of equipment and scenic elements, since the auditorium is short on fly and wing space.
"Royce Hall had replaced their dimmers fairly recently, and had the typical array of university luminaires that we reconditioned and put back in," says Landry & Bogan's Heather McAvoy. "It was a unique project because of the FEMA funding sources. For stage lighting, that really limited us to removing what had to be removed for all of the other work, and then simply putting the equipment back in after the fly tower was rebuilt. There was a lot more I would have liked to have done with the setup and the existing distribution; the raceways and the boxes are not in great condition. But the in-house technical staff is great and has learned to basically fix up everything on their own and work with the equipment at hand."
The existing stage lighting dimmer bank was a Teatronics MD-288, with 404 20A, 2.4kW dimmers and 24 50A, 6.0kW dimmers. "The house lighting was significantly more complicated than before and required more dimmers," McAvoy says. "The current house lighting dimmer bank is actually a console that was being used in an experimental space in another part of the building, which we relocated to accommodate the auditorium's new house lighting needs." The reallocated house lighting dimmer rack is a Colortran Dimension 192, with 55 20A, 2.4kW dimmers Dimmer lighting controls are provided by an ETC digital address system. For improved power, two Union Connector 400A company switches were added.
Built several years before seismic codes in California even existed, UCLA's aging showplace has been reinvented to stand further tests of time. A hybrid of historic preservation, modern-day engineering intervention, and advances in acoustics, the enhanced Royce Hall again has university concert-goers rejoicing.
Royce Hall, University of California, Los Angeles Architect: Anshen + Allen Los Angeles; Tom Chessum, Antoinette Bunkley, Jorge de la Cal, Anthony Moretti Design architect: Barton Phelps & Associates; Barton Phelps, Markku Kari, David Haggerty, Jeanette Fabry, Celia Miller, Ron Calvo Interior designers: Audrey Alberts Design, Tina Beebe Theatre consultant: Landry & Bogan; Jack Bogan, Heather McAvoy Acoustical consultant: McKay Conant Brook; Ronald McKay, Timothy Hart, Mark Schaffer Architectural lighting consultants: Neal Matsuno, Joe Kaplan Structural engineers: John A. Martin & Associates Mechanical/electrical engineers: Kim Casey & Harase Painting conservator: Tatanya M. Thompson & Associates Building preservation: Melvyn Green & Associates In-house technical director: Jim Bates General contractor: Morley Construction Partial equipment and finishes: Tru-Roll rigging Irwin Seating theatre seats with Unika Vaev upholstery Thomas Moser wood chairs Amtech elevators, lifts Refurbished Gala hydraulic lifts Junckers wood flooring Armstrong acoustical tile Pyrock acoustical plaster Benjamin Moore paints and stains Lightolier downlights Shaper, Leucos, Poulsen, Lightcontrol, Prudential, Zumtobel, Elliptipar, Engineered Lighting Products, Alkco, Limburg Glass, and Cole Lighting architectural lighting fixtures (throughout building) Lutron architectural lighting controls Refurbished/refitted theatrical luminaires, Colortran and Teatronics dimmer racks, Expression controls Union Connector 400A company switches Secoa orchestra shell with integral ETC Source Four luminaires Crest custom mixing consoles RDL mic-to-line mixers Klark Teknik single-channel/ five-band equalizers Yamaha digital effects units Oxmoor buffer amplifiers RDL mic preamplifiers BGW power amplifiers Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers Sennheiser hearing-impaired system w/ headsets Bogen tone generator Shure paging microphones Sony CCTV camera and monitor Computar variable-focus lens Pelco adjustable camera mount Sigma video distribution amp and rackmount kit Clear-Com two-channel intercom Middle Atlantic equipment rack, caster base, and rear rail Furman PL+ power light and conditioner Atlas power sequencer, hallway, and ceiling speakers Littlelite reading lamps Bittree audio patch panels, custom loudspeaker and video patchbays, and multirack plates Bogen in-wall amplifiers and back box Omnimount speaker mounting bracket