AKA: UCLA, Towell Library, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: American Constructors California, Incorporated (firm); Byrne, Patrick and Associates, Electrical Engineers (firm); Engelkirk, Robert, Engineering, Incorporated (firm); Hodgetts + Fung Design Associates (firm); Martin, A.C. and Associates, Architects (firm); Quigley, Patrick, and Associates (firm); Rubb Building Systems (firm); Sullivan Partnership, Mechanical Engineers (firm); Patrick Byrne (electrical engineer); Gary Dvorak (lighting designer); Robert Engelkirk ; Hsin-Ming Fung (architect); Craig Edward Hodgetts (architect); Albert Carey Martin Jr. (architect); Jerry Edward Sullivan (mechanical engineer)

Dates: constructed 1992-1992, demolished 1997

2 stories, total floor area: 36,000 sq. ft.

Wilson Plaza
University of California, Los Angeles, Campus, Los Angeles, CA 90095

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The Towell Library stood in Wilson Plaza to the west of Janss Steps.


This temporary library facility was erected on the UCLA Campus while Powell Library underwent seismic renovation and alterations during the 1992-1997 period. The Temporary Powell, or "Towell," as students called it, had the capacity of 210,000 volumes and contained about 36,000 square feet of space. It stood at the foot of Janss Steps, east of the athletic fields. It gained world-wide attention for its architects Hodgetts + Fung, a remarkable feat for a hastily-designed-and-constructed, impermanent building.

Building History

The Santa Monica-based architectural firm of Hodgetts + Fung planned and supervised the construction of the Temporary Powell Library over a nine-month period in 1992. In an article looking back at the Towell Library in 2018, the UCLA Newsroom website noted: "To execute his solution, [UCLA campus architect Charles] Oakley turned to architects within the Bruin community: the husband-and-wife team of UCLA Associate Professor Craig Hodgetts and alumna Hsinming Fung M.Arch. ’80. The ... team of Hodgetts + Fung had designed the UCLA gateway, the campus entrance at Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue. 'We had won the trust of the administration,' Hodgetts says. They had also designed a temporary theater, so they were knowledgeable about impermanent construction. For the Powell project, the couple worked under severe time constraints. 'It was an emergency-type schedule,' says Hodgetts. Over 14 months, they created a two-story structure using aluminum, canvas, and exposed cables and fasteners, at a cost of $3.5 million. It sat between the Men’s Gym (now the Student Activities Center) and the Dance Building (now Glorya Kaufman Hall) at the bottom of Janss Steps. Its name: Temporary Powell Staging Facility. Before long, to the campus community, it became simply 'Towell.'" (See UCLA Newsroom.edu, "Hail to the Hills: A Balloon of a Building," published 07/01/2018, accessed 11/01/2023.) Various figures for the cost of Towell were mentioned in newspaper and website reports, ranging from $2.9 to $3.5 million.

The Hodgett + Fung project team included: Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung, Lunn Batsch, Robert Flock, William Martin and Peter Noble. The architects collaborated with the structural engineers Robert Englekirk Engineering, Incorporated and the electrical engineers Patrick Byrne and Associates. The architectural and engineering firm of A.C. Martin and Associates served as the civil engineers. The general contractor was American Constructors California, Incorporated, and the steel and shell fabricator was Rubb Building Systems. The lighting consultants were Patrick Quigley and Gary Dvorak of Patrick Quigley and Associates. (See Library Builders, [London, England: Academy Editions, 1997], p. 221.)

Towell was lauded for its small size and good sightlines, enabling better security in the library. Created of impermanent materials, it did have some drawbacks. The Los Angeles Times noted: "On the downside, the Northridge earthquake caused some leakage problems and falling rain was a loud as thunder on the fabric roof." (See Annette Chavez, "A New Page," Los Angeles Times, 11/17/1996, p. WS1.)

After Powell Library reopened in late 1996, Towell was reused as a student store by 11/1996. It was also to serve as campus surge space after this for other departments on campus. The Los Angeles Times reported: "Now that Powell Library has reopened its doors, the $2.9 million Towell houses the student store. And in a few months it may house some anthropology and sociology faculty offices while Haines Hall undergoes some remodeling. While [UCLA Campus Architect] Oakley said he couldn't speculate on when the building will meet its demise, he believes it will be before 1999. 'It'll really be tired by then,' he said." (See Annette Chavez, "A New Page," Los Angeles Times, 11/17/1996, p. WS1.)

As noted by columnist Ouroussoff in 2001, "UCLA dismantled the Powell in 1997, soon after the reopening of its more imposing brick counterpart." (See Nicolai Ourroussoff, "Teaching the Art Center to Play," Los Angeles Times, 09/26/2001, p. F2.)

Building Notes

Writing about a Hodgetts + Fung Building at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, LA Times writer Nicolai Ouroussoff stated about the architects in 1998: "The firm founded in 1984, is best known for its design of Towell Library at UCLA, completed in 1992 as a temporary replacement for the school's Powell undergraduate library, then undergoing seismic renovation. The design, with its corrugated metal, plastic and fabric skin, draped over a loose geometry of lightweight aluminum frames, drew upon the work of '60s architects, such as the British group Archigram, who sought to develop a more open, spontaneous architecture." (See Nicolai Ouroussoff, "Putting Up Walls That Break Down Barriers," Los Angeles Times, published 11/15/1998, p. G65.)

The Temporary Powell Library had the following measurements: general book stack space, 390 square meters; reading spaces, 885 square meters; seminar spaces, 45 square meters; reference and periodical spaces, 430 square meters; technical services spaces, 32 square meters; service spaces, 114 square meters; computer spaces, 81 square meters; ancillary, support and circulation spaces, 1,330 square meters. (See Library Builders, [London: Academy Editions, 1997], p. 221.)


The fabric roof Towell was redone in 1996. Annette Chavez, writing in the Los Angeles Times, stated: "The architect, whose firm Hodgetts and Fung Design Associates is based in Santa Monica, said the building was designed to be a 'temporary seismic staging facility' with an expected life span of just five years. Hodgetts knew that after the library was reopened, Towell would be used to house other departments while buildings underwent construction. It was always meant to be a flexible--and recyclable--structure, he said. Because school officials have decided to extend the building's existence by about five more years, adjustments have been made to the outside structure. The top of the building was recently 're-skinned' with a different colored fabric, much to the dismay of Hodgetts. 'It used to look a bit like a Cirque Du Soleil tent structure, now it more closely resembles Desert Storm,' Hodgetts said of the new beige-colored roof." (See Annette Chavez, "A New Page," Los Angeles Times, 11/17/1996, p. WS1.) Hodgetts was suggesting that the building had taken on the appearance of a military tent from the contemporary Desert Storm military campaign.


The Towell Library was razed upon the completion of the Powell Library Seismic Renovation, 1997.

PCAD id: 1364

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