UCSD Audrey Geisel University House Rehabilitation
Location:La Jolla, CA
- 2014 California Preservation Foundation Award: UCSD Audrey Geisel University House Rehabilitation
- 2015 Save Our Heritage Organization People in Preservation Award: UCSD Audrey Geisel University House Rehabilitation
- 2015 AIA San Diego Merit Award: UCSD Audrey Geisel University House Rehabilitation
- 2015 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award: UCSD Audrey Geisel University House Rehabilitation
This National Register resource is used as both a chancellor’s private residence and a public space for university symposiums and events. The resource, a 12,000 square foot Pueblo Revival residence, was built in 1950-1951 of unreinforced adobe. The original residence was never intended to serve the overlapping criteria of private residence and public venue, and for 40 years had done neither effectively. After 60 years the entire mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure was substandard or failing. Compounding the difficulty of the proposed project were the site constraints. The site had substantial coastal bluff subsidence, native habitat concerns, and is listed as a Native American Sanctified Cemetery by the California Native American Heritage Commission. In 2008, the owners revised their plans to demolish the condemned residence in favor of rehabilitating the historic structure. The complex rehabilitation involved coordinating ten sub-consultants and working with an extensive community based Advisory Group. In the Building Condition Assessment and Rehabilitation Recommendation Report, the Executive Architect, Ione R. Stiegler, identified character-defining features, the condition of the building, and provided an evaluation of its significance and integrity using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.
The rehabilitation seamlessly included a seismic retrofit, bluff stabilization, reinstalling all utilities and mechanical systems, altering the drainage pattern of the entire building and site, installing new fire suppression and security systems, improving circulation and restoring aesthetic features while honoring the site’s Native American heritage. The private wing of the structure was updated and modernized to accommodate current and future chancellors. Minimal, but strategic changes were made to the interior. Non-contributing additions and remodels were carefully removed, such as the family room, rear patio, and rear gallery enclosure. Existing historic elements were refurbished, such as fireplaces, ceilings, floors, tile, doors, and hardware. Rotted and deteriorated historic elements were reconstructed as needed, including windows, beams, posts, corbels, and front gate.
The National Register nomination identified the importance and significance of the site and building under three Criteria. The property is noteworthy under Criterion A as it has significance to the cultural traditions of the Kumeyaay people and as a coastal archaeological site of great antiquity having traditional association with the Pacific Ocean.
In addition, the site contains the remains and grave goods of ancient ancestors as part of a state-recognized Sanctified Cemetery. Identified and present at the property are data and multiple research issues fulfilling the requirements for significance under Criterion D. Preservation of this site is a priority over disturbing it to conduct further research.
Finally, the building is significant on the National Register under Criterion C, at the local level of significance, as an excellent example of the Pueblo Revival style designed by a master architect, William Lumpkins. The building exhibits virtually the entire array of character-defining features associated with the Pueblo Revival Style.
Challenges and Solutions
The project is noteworthy in the manner that every decision made was evaluated against the prevailing guideline that the Native American cultural significance of the site must be preserved and treated with respect and honor. The site was researched using non-destructive methods. Archaeologists scanned the open areas with Ground Penetrating Radar. In addition, Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs, trained to identify the location of ancient remains, scouted the site on two separate occasions several years apart.
The site contains a continuous six foot (approx.) deep cultural layer deposit with numerous intact inhumations dating back at least 10,000 years and millions of fragmented human remains. This deposit, referred to as the cultural layer, required a creative approach to resolve rehabilitation issues while minimizing ground disturbance. While the Executive Architect had actively employed archaeology as an aid to historic preservation for other projects, for this project the accompanying ground disturbance would have been untenable. In close consultation with the Kumeyaay Nation, a Kwaaymii Indian and archaeologists, solutions were researched that would negate soil disturbance for the bluff stabilization and installation of new utilities.
The solution to the failing coastal bluff solution was a combination of months of investigation and team collaboration. Constructing a wall using reinforced concrete piers was deemed the most sympathetic to the site with minimal ground disturbance. Each pier caisson was hand dug by an archaeologist, under Native American monitoring supervision, to ensure no artifacts were uncovered. Once cleared, a drill rig would continue to the required depth. The finished concrete face was artistically sculpted to blend into the natural surroundings of the coastal bluff.
The solution for the utilities would also serve long term to protect the cultural layer from disturbance due to repair or the installation of new services in the future. Cast in place concrete trenches were created to accommodate new subterranean lines for sewer, water, fire suppression, gas, electrical, cable and telephone. The concrete trench was wholly situated within a new soil fill area, over existing undisturbed grade. The utility trench has steel plate covers that are removable, allowing access without disturbing the cultural layer. The design nearly negated any sub-surface excavation in the cultural deposit layer. However, the utilities did need to connect to underground connection points. Any excavation occurred within previously disturbed areas and away from any known inhumations. Archaeologists pre-dug all areas under Native American monitoring supervision.
The seismic retrofit of the building was handled almost entirely at the roof level. The existing roof framing and finish membrane were stripped off while keeping and protecting in place the historic ceilings. New structural plywood and bracing were laid atop the existing ceilings creating a new rigid roof diaphragm. All of the new utilities and services were installed to run throughout the interstitial space of the expansive flat roof and then branch out to each area of the building. Reframing the roof allowed for the opportunity to redirect water runoff away from the bluff and instead drain into the bio-retention basin adjacent to the structure.
Secretary of the Interior’s Standards
Following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for rehabilitation was the chosen preservation treatment for the building. Following the State of California Public Resources Code Section 7050.5 of the Health and Safety Code was the mitigation for the site.
The house was given a new, but compatible use as both a private residence and a public venue for the university. By referencing historic photos, original plans by William Lumpkins, and examining existing conditions, great care was taken to repair and preserve all exterior features of the building. Changes to the exterior removed or scaled back the massing of prior non-significant additions.
Since 1952, there have been four additions to the house; 1962, 1969, 1973 and 1985. The 1962 addition consisted of a bedroom and full bath located in the north wing of the home, adjacent to the “Barbecue Room.” The 1962 addition, commissioned by the owners and designed by Lumpkins, was maintained and it was determined to have acquired historic significance in its own right.
The additions in 1969 and 1973 were deemed not significant and were demolished, returning the house to its historic footprint and appearance in these areas. The 1985 addition was evaluated and not considered significant and the placement of the addition on the rear did not impact any character-defining features. It was determined this addition could remain, although the exterior footprint of this addition was reduced to limit impact.
Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize the property were preserved. The main building materials of this home are adobe and wood. The majority of adobe walls were in good condition. Where repairs were needed, mainly due to water damage, great care was taken to repair those specific areas. Exterior features consisting of wood corbels, posts and beams had to be replaced in-kind due to extensive deterioration. Great precision and accuracy was taken to reproduce replaced features to match the historic in design, size, color, texture, and material. Significant interior features, specifically wood ceilings, beams, vigas and windows were in very good condition and could be rehabilitated. The home has many different wood ceiling elements, all of which were meticulously preserved. In addition, all historic interior light fixtures were refurbished. Original encaustic tiles comprising select interior window sills is another example of an interior character-defining feature that was preserved. Any past changes made to the historic windows, that were inconsistent with the original design, were returned to their original appearance. The original interior wood floor had been severely damaged and could not be salvaged. New wood floors were reconstructed to match the historic floors in design, size, color, texture, and material.