Glories, Past & Present

Glories, Past & Present

When dealing with beloved historic structures, a delicate balance is necessary and best achieved by appeasing stalwart loyalists, but also appealing to a younger, less sentimental market.

A good example is UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, which, after a hiatus of almost three years, recently re-emerged from a $136 million renovation and expansion.

First designed by modernist architect Welton Becket in 1965, the arena has been a landmark on the campus for the last 45 years and home to a staggering 42 NCAA championship teams (in basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics). It’s been home court to basketball stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Reggie Miller and it’s where the legendary John Wooden coached.

“We wanted to keep what was here, optimize it, and make it function better,” said Jonathan Ward, design partner for NBBJ, which oversaw the recent work. That expansion added an additional 65,000 square feet of lobby, concourse, and team space.


The structure’s distinctive V-truss roof structure and concrete shell remained intact, but the arena was expanded outward with the creation of a new facade made of steel, clear glass, channel glass (which glows at night), and terra cotta panels.

The facade leans back rather than standing perpendicularly over the street; the effect gives the adjacent busy Bruin Walk, which leads thousands of students from their dorms to their classes every day, more space to breathe.

The new facade allowed for a concourse that eased visitor flow around the arena, and upgraded and increased amenities like concession stands and restroom areas. NBBJ re-oriented the entrance to the north, adjacent to Bruin Walk, by setting on that north face the 35-foot-high glass-enclosed entrance. To the east is “Wooden Way,” a mini-museum of Wooden memorabilia. On the south, glass hangar doors open up, creating an indoor/outdoor concourse space suited for grills and barbecues for tailgating. Inside, perforated blue metal panels with digital images of UCLA athletes in action hang on the original stadium’s concrete exterior and act as a way-finding system.



When the original Pauley was constructed, it was situated at the western edge of the campus. Since then, UCLA has grown around it. To make room for additional amenities, NBBJ expanded downward, with a new, two-story building underneath the existing Bruin Walk. The underground expansion holds new locker rooms with thick carpets and cherry wood, plus training rooms, a film room, a sports medicine room, and equipment storage areas. A 6,000-square-foot Pavilion Club comes equipped with a full bar and kitchen for donor events or other university gatherings.

NBBJ improved the seating bowl by realigning seating sections, reducing obstructions in circulation and views, and adding approximately 1,000 seats. Theater-style seats now replace the original bench seating. The new basketball court is made of FSC-certified maple wood. The renovated arena also comes with upgraded technical systems, including a new scoreboard, lighting system, and wraparound LED signage. The project is on track for LEED Gold certification.

Overall, the NBBJ team has done a commendable job melding past and present, especially in the eyes of athletes who have played in the old Pauley Pavilion, said Robert Mankin, NBBJ partner-in-charge. “A lot of the feedback was what we had hoped to hear—that they could come in and still recognize the old Pauley. It felt updated, but not so updated that it had erased what it had been before.”