New Lecture Hall on the (California Ave.) Block

Massive screens show colorful slides in "Introduction to Biology" class.
California Hall in use: Joel Ledford, lecturer in the Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences, teaches BIS 2C, “Introduction to Biology,” Monday morning (Jan. 7). (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

UC Davis has a new king of the lecture halls: California Hall, accommodating nearly 600 students, opened Monday morning (Jan. 7) with the start of the winter quarter.

The hall (room number 1100) on California Avenue is surrounded by Hutchison, Asmundson, Kerr, Robbins and Haring halls in the campus core.

The project that began with groundbreaking in June 2016 represents the campus’s first significant addition of classroom space in more than a decade.

California Hall, exterior, with sign

There’s still some work being done — but students and faculty have moved in! JoAnna Whitener of the Department of Statistics held the first class in the hall, for the opening lecture in Statistics 13A (“Elementary Statistics”).

California Hall, lobby

Spacious lobby, including lounge chairs, provide a place for interaction while waiting for lectures to begin.

With room for 579 students, California Hall is the largest lecture hall on campus, surpassing the former leader, the Sciences Lab Lecture Hall with room for 511. The next largest is 194 Rock Hall (formerly Chem 194) with room for 416.

California Hall, interior, seats filling up

Before Whitener began her lecture, Acting Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ken Burtis welcomed her class to California Hall and told the students how it had been designed for active learning. At his request, the students in every other row turned around in their swivel seats to talk with the students behind them — a sign of things to come when instructors have their students engage in group discussions and teamwork.

The students do not have individual desk spaces. Instead, the students share tabletops, another feature to encourage collaboration. Between every two seats, students have access to a 110-volt outlet and a USB port to charge phones and other devices.

Three massive screens (each 15 feet tall and 25 feet wide) display slides or whatever the instructor writes on the touchscreens below. The displays are not traditional projector screens — they are special tiles that reject light from other directions, allowing the projectors to be used while sunlight streams in through the large windows and skylights.

In fact, during the day the lights won’t even need to be switched on — thanks to the skylights (which can be shuttered to darken the room if needed). The skylights and other features will help designers toward seeing California Hall earn a LEED-gold designation under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Read more about California Hall’s technology and active-learning set-up.

 Lecturer walks amid rows of tables of students, while lecturing.
Ledford lectures while walking amid his students in BIS 2C in 1100 California Hall.
 coffee kiosk under construction
And there’s still more to come … namely, a coffee kiosk in the plaza, about a month away from opening.

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