Evans Hall was built in 1971 and was named after Griffith C. Evans, chairman of mathematics from 1934 to 1949. Designed by architect Gardner Dailey this 12-story building infamously houses the Mathematics and Statistics departments of UC Berkeley.
The Info You’re After
WHY WAS IT BUILT?
Evans was built out of a necessity to house the growing Mathematics and Statistics departments that up until the construction of Evans were displaced amongst the wooden “T-Buildings” (T for temporary).
While the university had every intention of building something eventually, it was the efforts and push from the above-mentioned departments that ultimately helped move along plans for construction.
With the student body rapidly increasing in size the university needed to rapidly organize the departments and find a more permanent structure where they could remain. As it happens this need to be rapidly constructed would lead to a large problem.
WHY DOES IT LOOK THAT WAY?
You probably are thinking about why Evans is "ugly". That's perfectly fine to think especially when that's the general public opinion within the school.
There's a handful of reasons why Evans is unappealing but I propose 2 main reasons which lead to one another.
The first is based on perspective. If you look around the surrounding buildings one thought becomes apparent, it's out of place. The neighboring builds are wonderfully colored and quite frankly create an inviting atmosphere. Evans was built surrounded by frankly more appealing buildings so it makes sense it would stick out like a sore thumb from the outside especially when a differing style of architecture was used.
But why is this, well here lies my second reason. Evans architect for one is different because they were brought on after the previous architect left, who just so happened to be the main campus architect. This previous architect used classical Beaux-Arts architecture to create the intricate and appealing buildings that we see as Doe Library and Hearst Mining Circle.
The new architect, Gardner Dailey, had a different vision for UC Berkeley Architecture. But we also have something else to add, the great depression and a need to quickly house the aforementioned Math and Stats Departments. All this led to the architect having to create an inexpensive and quick-forming building which led to the “boxy” architecture that we see in Evans and other buildings built during this time period.
Referred to as Brutalism, this type of architecture was characterized by its monolithic and geometric appearance which we can just call “boxy” in appearance. This contrasted deeply with the other forms of architecture that were seen as appealing once again referring to how the placement of Evans hall in between the intricately designed buildings added to its worsening image in relation to its neighboring buildings.
WHOM CAN I FIND INSIDE ITS WALLS?
Evans was constructed as a way to house multiple departments that were on the rise. Over its existence departments have grown out into their own buildings on different parts of the campus.
A 1971 edition of The Daily Californian mentions some of the departments housed within the walls in its early years. The list includes Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Graduate School of Journalism, Demography, and Economics.
Nowadays Evans continues to be the home of largely the Mathematics and Statistics departments with a few smaller departments housed and as well as some of the offices belonging to the College of Letters and Science.
A majority of students will find themselves at some point within the walls of Evans, either for a math class or in visiting one of the many offices belonging to the professors of the Math and Stats departments.
DOES EVERYONE REALLY HATE IT?
Opinions and feelings towards Evans hall are very centered on the idea of “avoiding it at all costs” or “the worst building”. Again, as mentioned, the building is visually unappealing and it suffers from frankly being a rushed job, in part due to the architect but largely a fault of having to build cheaply and fast.
This dislike towards Evans isn't a newly formed idea even, it has been long a feeling amongst the campus community that has only intensified with more buildings being built and especially with a recent retrofitting to Evans that added beams and a new paint job that many have said has only made the building that much more unappealing.
Digging into the history of the perception of Evans we see that from a 1971 issue of The Daily Californian, the early inhabitants had issues with the gray monolith building that blocked views. Professors complained early on about the layout of their offices and students would go on to begin the trend of a common perception that is still around to this very day.
As one can very much see from the earliest days of its existence Evans was looked down upon as a disaster for its shape, color, and placement within the campus. The student population is highly aware of Evans as largely the center of all things Math and Stats which based on one's perception and like of math may add to the unappealing feelings towards the building. Even so it seems that the perception of Evans is largely rooted in its physical appearance and not just its representation for the Math and Stats departments which some find unlikable as an academic subject.
So Yes, it would seem that a large portion of the student population has a distaste towards Evans Hall. A result of its physical attributes creating a ugly outside that contrasts badly to its surroundings and its internal attributes that seem enclosed with nearly no windows to be seen except within the offices of faculty that likewise still dislike the building for its bland interior.
SO WHAT NEXT?
Luckily or unluckily, Evans has been announced to be slated for demolition in late February of 2022 with the construction of a new replacement building over the horizon at some point during 2024.
After consideration of its structural stability as well as public opinion, a new more safe, and visually likable building will be built. Also in a new location away from the center of campus where it used to interfere with the visual flow of buildings.
So unlike other stories Evans has a unique case where in this moment (May of 2022) you can almost plot out the entire history of a building even when it still stands at this very moment.
News of the demolition of Evans has been largely accepted and favored by the student population for finally getting rid of a building that has long stood in contrast to its surroundings and which has distributed a central vision of the University in which a clear view of the bay from atop the steps of Hearst Mining Circle was envisioned. At this very moment there seems to be no opposition from anybody from the departments housed within Evans to the new upcoming neighbors.
WHAT IS THE BIG PICTURE?
Evans may be one building within the larger campus of UC Berkeley but its story of Construction reveals UCB’s efforts towards academic excellence. The campus built Evans to sustain its current and future growth especially when the majority of STEM has some level of math at its core. Berkeley sought to establish itself as a well functioning institution by organizing its departments away from its formly roughly formed and scattered throughout the campus, within the wooden T-Buildings, past.
Although very subtle and frankly very interpretive Evans is one example of many to construct the foundation for future growth in particular the growth of STEM which in this current age is a cornerstone of Academic Excellence in any institution. Possibly though this idea of centering STEM within the walls of Evans will be realized with its future building. With the creation of the new building the same idea remains to create the stepping stones and environment on which the future will be built on. To add to the University of California in its establishment towards being a frontier institution of Academic Excellence.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Before its gone forever
University Dr, Berkeley, CA 94720