UC Berkeley’s new Jacobs Hall to open in fall

Jaime Parades Talavera/Staff
Jaime Parades Talavera/File

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A hall on the north side of campus plans to open its doors for the first time Aug. 20 to host classes during the upcoming academic year and to encourage innovations in design and engineering.

Construction on Jacobs Hall began in August 2014 with a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation. The contractor, Hathaway Dinwiddie, has previously worked on projects including UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies. The hall was inspired by UC Berkeley alumnus and philanthropist Paul Jacobs, who is also the executive chair of Qualcomm Inc. and holds three degrees from UC Berkeley.

The resources and launchpad granted by Jacobs Hall’s facilities will allow students to work from an interdisciplinary perspective with six studios, or makerspaces, that allow access to 3-D printers, laser cutters and technical mentors around the clock.

Karen Rhodes, the executive director of marketing and communications for the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, said Jacobs Hall will provide a “one-of-a-kind opportunity to give students the most of their time and learning experience at Cal.”

Rhodes said that in addition to housing about 15 classes, the facility can be used to host camps, enrichment programs, labs and competitions during the summer. Girls in Engineering, a program for middle school students interested in engineering, is in its second week on the Berkeley campus and is planned to be stationed in Jacobs Hall in 2016.

Jacobs Hall will be part of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation set to open in the fall, an interdisciplinary hub for artists and engineers looking to work and experiment with design and technology. Courses sponsored through the Institute are design methodology, technology entrepreneurship, and computational design and fabrication.

Bjorn Hartmann, chief technology officer for the Jacobs Institute and a campus associate professor, said he is looking forward to seeing “lots of creative and inspiring projects” from the upper-division project courses scheduled for the fall.

“The new tools and digital fabrication facilities in Jacobs Hall and our expert technical staff will allow students to realize ambitious ideas,” Hartmann said.

Shanthi Shanmugam, a UC Berkeley engineering student and founder of the Berkeley Design Council, said she sees the Jacobs Institute as a place for people with a variety of interests to meet because they know that there will be like-minded people working on different projects.

“Design is usually not done in a silo and the number of design clubs/organizations we have at Cal is a testament to the students’ desire for design on campus,” Shanmugam said in an email. “I see Jacobs Institute as part of the answer by providing a space for students to meet and the resources to create.”

When construction started a year ago, concerns were raised that patents or discoveries made in Jacobs Hall would be credited to Qualcomm Inc. According to Rhodes, however, there was never any expectation of “proprietary activity.”

In addition to concerns regarding campus privatization, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association has brought up issues of how a building such as Jacobs Hall would fit into the neighborhood, considering that nearby buildings such as Cloyne Court and Allenoke Manor have an old-town architectural style.

Students protested the building in April, when many redwood trees around the proposed area were removed. The protesters sat on the site during the “tree sitting” and planted redwood tree saplings during a vigil.

UC Berkeley rising junior Eva Malis, who participated in the “tree sitting” her freshman year, said she understands why the UC Board of Regents would want to construct the building but does not understand why “it had to be on top of the Redwood Grove, or why the development plans had to be so secretive.”

UC Berkeley real estate division spokesperson Christine Shaff said that construction of Jacobs Hall is progressing and that there have not been any complaints from the neighbors about the construction or any concerns expressed since those mentioned during the design phase.

According to Rhodes, Jacobs Hall is currently being outfitted for equipment space and is on track to open in fall.

Contact Rimon Hossain at [email protected].