Architect Sir Norman Foster to Unveil Designs for CSUCI Library


World-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster is set Tuesday to unveil designs for a state-of-the-art library and media center at Ventura County’s Cal State university, offering a more complete look at what is meant to be the signature building on the emerging campus.

Foster, a British architect who in 1999 was awarded his profession’s highest honor, has drawn a two-story, glass-facade structure designed to merge with the Spanish-style architecture of what once was Camarillo State Hospital.

Cal State Channel Islands President Handel Evans said the 260,000-square-foot building will be a landmark structure, one that carves a unique identity for the campus as it evolves into a full-fledged, four-year institution. The university is scheduled to open in the fall of 2002, if financing and enrollment goals are met.

“This is an architectural event of no mean consequence to the county of Ventura and certainly to CSU,” said Evans, who is a trained architect and college classmate of Foster’s.


“I think it’s an international architectural event--perhaps the most significant architectural event ever to pass through this county,” Evans said.

It is not the kind of work--in scale or design--for which Foster has become famous.

Rather, he has earned a world-class reputation for his towering glass-and-steel structures, which have pierced skylines in cities worldwide and earned him a host of awards.

His designs include a $1-billion bank headquarters in Hong Kong, the new Great Court for the British Museum and Hong Kong’s recently completed $20-billion airport, one of the largest in the world.


But it is perhaps his most recent project, the renovation of Berlin’s Reichstag, that offers the best glimpse of his ability to blend the old with the new--a crucial element in his work at the campus.

His design for the parliament building, which in April was reinstated as the seat of the German government, was hailed as an emblem of reinvigorated German democracy and is considered the centerpiece of a rebuilding campaign to reconstitute Berlin as one of Europe’s great cultural centers.

In recognition of his body of work, Foster, in April 1999, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, dubbed the Nobel of the profession.

On the outskirts of Camarillo, Foster will transform an old hospital laboratory--a medical unit where doctors once studied mental disorders and performed lobotomies--into an architectural showpiece.

The $50-million project will be built in two phases and include an outdoor piazza and central conference room. The building will bear the name of Oxnard rancher John S. Broome, who in 1999 donated $5 million to establish the facility.

“He is designing a building that is going to make the leap from the hospital into the university of the future,” Evans said. “This will be our symbol. It will show what can be done to retrofit in a modern setting.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2003, and the first phase is expected to be completed in 2005.

Broome’s money is being used to pay for the library’s design and contract documents. Money for construction costs will be generated through private revenue bonds, using the university’s future faculty and staff housing projects as collateral.


Evans said he also is hoping to partner with the city of Camarillo to tap into $350 million in state bond money approved by California voters last year to renovate, expand and build libraries statewide.

State grant regulations strongly encourage libraries to form partnerships with local schools. Evans recently sent a letter to the Camarillo City Council, asking its members if they would be interested in such a partnership as they move to renovate their own cramped and crowded library.

Evans said there could be a way for Camarillo to secure enough bond money to upgrade the city library and funnel money to the university for its project. In return, Camarillo residents would be allowed full access to the university library.

Camarillo Mayor Mike Morgan pitched the idea last month to his colleagues, who agreed to explore the idea.

“We’re at the birthing phase right now, so we’ve got to see how it all works out,” Morgan said.