AKA: University of California, Los Angeles, Chiller Plant and Co-Generation Facility, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA; University of California, Los Angeles, Chiller Plant/ Facilities Management Complex, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA

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

Designers: Holt Hinshaw Architecture, Planning, and Design (firm); Holt Hinshaw Pfau Jones, Architects (firm); Parsons Main International, Incorporated (firm); Marc Christopher Hinshaw (architect); Paul Holt (architect); Wesley C. Jones (architect); Charles T. Main (engineer); William Barclay Parsons (engineer); Peter W. Pfau (architect)

Dates: constructed 1994

total floor area: 210,000 sq. ft.

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Westwood Plaza and Charles E. Young Drive South
Westwood, Los Angeles, CA 90024

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Since its completion in 1994, the Chiller Plant/Cogeneration Facility, sprawling over 8 acres, has ranked as one of the UCLA Campus's most interesting buildings, due to the novel revelation of its energy production mechanisms. The UCLA Chiller plant has a dichotomous appearance, its base remains opaque, covered in a finely detailed skin of brick, while the machinery of its second level is mostly open for inspection. Elements of the brick walls provocatively tilt out, while steel panels above tilt in an opposing, but complementary manner. The closed base supports a usually sequestered, but now exposed composition of steel girders, walkways and catwalks. The eye delights in the intricate array of large and small pipes, some in parallel, some twisting, that circulate fluids and gases through the plant. This energy production facility, capable of generating 42.5.MW of electricity, shared with Fred Bassetti's remarkable East Pine Substation (1968) in Seattle, a similar desire to encourage public scrutiny of our remarkable infrastructure, a tendency all too often suppressed by misplaced aesthetic and cultural presuppositions about what was architecture and what was engineering.

Building History

This remarkable, high-tech plant was completed and functioning by 09/1994. Its high-tech look reflected its architects' fascination with machines. The Guardian newspaper stated of the chiller plant in its 2002 obituary for Paul Holt: "Holt's fascination with technology led to a successful fusion of hi-tech engineering and civil architecture in the 1980s and 90s. If the astronaut memorial is Holt Hinshaw's most poetic achievement, the $250m energy services facility the firm designed for the University of California, Los Angeles, is their most urbane. This huge cooling plant is, at once, an unashamed celebration of functional machinery and sophisticated design. Despite its avowedly industrial skyline, the building reaches down to sidewalks in a gently animated skin of well-laid bricks. It is the sort of building the Romans would have loved, and a natural successor to that generation of civilised power stations, dams and other heroic and dignified public works created in the US in the 1930s and 40s." (See The Guardian.com, "Paul Holt," published 07/31/2002, accessed 09/14/2017.) The work of partner Wes Jones (b. 1958) also reflected this fascination with machines and things mechanical.

Architect Wes Jones has written cogently about the aesthetic potential of power plants when he discussed the UCLA Chiller Plant/Cogeneration Facility: "That the natural penetrates even to our densest urban cores is obvious in the immense efforts expended to mitigate her effects there: vast power plants are erected to turn back the night, chiller plants are built to alleviate the heat of the day and steam generators to transform the cool of the night. Yet we are generally embarrassed by these efforts—the often beautiful artifacts engineered to provide this light, cold and heat are hidden away, where they are not able to remind us of the effort and energy required to enjoy life in unnaturally dense environments of our cities. To reveal these measures is, in a way, to celebrate the power of the natural conditions they mitigate—and to hope that in mitigating their effects we do not forget we are never actually free from them." (See Jones Partners.com, "UCLA Chiller Plant/Cogeneration Facility," accessed 01/31/2018.)

Building Notes

This energy generation plant won a great deal of acclaim for engineers: Parsons Main and architectural consultants: Holt Hinshaw Pfau Jones. Wes Jones was the design partner in charge.

PCAD id: 2366