Kresge College celebrates first phase of renovation

Kresge College Provost Mayanthi Fernando and Chancellor Cynthia K. Larive cut the ribbon marking the opening of three new residential halls and a new academic center on campus.  (Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)
From left to right: Jolie Kerns, Director of Physical and Environmental Planning; Dave Keller, Associate Vice Chancellor (interim) Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES); Lori Kletzer, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor; Cynthia K. Larive, Chancellor; Mayanthi Fernando, Kresge College Provost; Felix Ang, Campus Architect.

UC Santa Cruz celebrated the completion of the first phase of the Kresge Renewal Project with a ribbon-cutting that marked the official opening of three new residential halls and a new academic center on campus. The Sept. 27 event took place on a quintessential warm fall day in the Kresge College courtyard, the stunning architecture coexisting beautifully with the college’s natural landscape. The new buildings at Kresge are some of the few on campus that are nestled in the redwoods and feature stunning views of Monterey Bay.

“Today is such a wonderful celebration,” said Chancellor Cynthia Larive in her remarks just before she and Kresge College Provost Mayanthi Fernando cut the ribbon.

“Kresge College was built around the idea of community. These new buildings—the academic space, the residential space, the Owl’s Nest cafe, the new lounges for the students—all bring the Kresge community together,” Larive said. “But what I’m most proud of is that the changes don’t just modernize the architecture, modernize the spaces, and keep true to the spirit of Kresge—they do so in a way that embeds accessibility. That’s important so all members of our community can feel at home at Kresge.”

Sustainability and accessibility were at the forefront of the project’s design led by noted architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. The three new residential halls are home to more than 400 moved-in students and feature open spaces and lounges where students can connect and collaborate. The new 35,000-square-foot academic building houses multiple departments and faculty offices, affirming the college as a scholarly space as well as a residential one. The entire campus community will benefit from the building’s multipurpose classrooms, study lounges, a state-of-the-art computer lab, and a 600-person lecture hall—the largest on campus—for events and performances. The remodeled North Bridge, now accessible to people of all abilities, connects Kresge to the rest of the campus and helps facilitate foot traffic to the west side of campus.

“With all the thoughtful decisions that went into the design—the myriad sustainable design features, student lounges with views of the bay, abundant natural light for the building interiors—what is perhaps most striking is not what is new but what remains: an ever-evolving educational experiment set within our spectacular natural environment,” remarked Jolie Kerns, UC Santa Cruz’s Director of Physical and Environmental Planning.

Kresge was founded as an intentional living and learning community with academic and living spaces intertwined. The college’s original design imagined Kresge’s students, faculty, and staff reading, eating, and creating together and was designed in close collaboration with students.

“These founding values—creativity, sustainability, and collaboration—continue to resonate at Kresge, and they informed what we see here today: the culmination of the first phase of the Kresge renewal project,” said Fernando, the college’s provost.

The renewal project began in 2016 with a community-generated vision for a dynamic renovation plan that meets the needs of today’s students while maintaining the original spirit of Kresge College. 

“What an exciting time to be here,” said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, Lori Kletzer. “This [Kresge] is a place that will celebrate teaching, that will celebrate learning, celebrate living together in a 21st-century way. I couldn’t be more excited for this stage for Kresge and then of course thinking a few years down the road when we can reopen all of Kresge College.”

The second and final phase of the Kresge project, slated to reopen in fall 2025, will restore existing buildings—adding more space for housing and residential life—resulting in a total of 970 beds. The treasured Town Hall will be rebuilt on the south end of the college and will once again host concerts, conferences, and other large events including town halls where students will come together to continue to envision the present and future of Kresge.

“We will continue to center the student experience,” Fernando said. “The opening of these buildings today continues a long and storied legacy at Kresge of enabling students to live and learn together.”

The Kresge Renewal Project was recently recognized in a New York Times round-up of top-notch architectural makeovers.