Plans Unveiled for New Library at CSUCI


Plans for the Cal State Channel Islands library and media center were unveiled Tuesday night, showcasing a melding of old and new, steel and glass that planners hope will become the centerpiece of the new university.

The two-story, 260,000-square-foot complex, designed by world-renowned British architect Norman Foster, features a glass facade linked to the Spanish-style design of what was once Camarillo State Hospital. Inside, a pool 120 feet by 40 feet will cool the naturally lit building in summer.

"I think it fits strongly into the existing structure," college President Handel Evans said.

Foster, who designed the renovated Reichstag in Berlin, the Great Court of the British Museum and the new Hong Kong International Airport, said he was challenged by turning a former hospital for the mentally ill into an academic institution.

"I want to take it from the darkness into the light," said Foster, 65, a former classmate of Evans.

The campus, which now serves as a satellite branch of Cal State Northridge, is scheduled to become Cal State Channel Islands in fall 2002 if financing and enrollment goals are met.

Foster said the complex is like no other he has created. The older parts of the building could not handle the weight of the book stacks, which will be housed in the newer glass and steel sections of the facility. Solar cells on the roof will transform sunlight to electricity. Also planned are an outdoor piazza and a huge reading room.

"This is about creating a place of the future and transforming it from a place of the past," said Foster, who in 1999 won his profession's highest honor--the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The $50-million project will be built in two phases, beginning in 2003 and ending two years later. The building will bear the name of Oxnard rancher John Broome, who donated $5 million to establish the facility in 1999.

Broome watched as Foster and other architects showed slides and drawings of the proposed complex.

Asked if he liked the plans, Broome said he was not qualified to make judgments on architecture.

"It's just exciting to see what can be done by these young minds," said the 83-year-old, who owns Rancho Guadalasca in Oxnard. "This place looks like a university should look."

Money for construction costs will be generated through private revenue bonds, using the university's future faculty and staff housing projects as collateral.

Evans has also said he wants to partner with the city of Camarillo to tap into $350 million in state bond money approved by California voters last year to renovate and build libraries around the state.

Foster's wife once worked as a psychiatric intern at Camarillo State Hospital, Evans said.

Both Foster and Evans are from near Manchester, England, and have known each other since 1957.

"It was all very serendipitous," said Evans, who is also an architect. "I won't say he is doing this as a favor, but it is the smallest project he is handling."

Evans, 62, who was charged with creating the university in 1996, will leave the president's office this month. He said the new complex will set the tone for the college and, like Foster, he talked of past and future.

"I look at it as architecture that takes us from the darkness of the past to the light of our new future," he said. "This will make a statement about excellence on campus."

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