2700 Hearst Ave, Berkeley, CA 94720
Year Constructed
Structural Engineering Firm(s)
Structural Engineer(s)
Ratcliff Architects, William Turnbull Associates
Foothill Housing Complex
Foothill Housing Complex
Source: Frank/Architects
Foothill Housing Complex Map
Foothill Housing Complex Map
Front of La Loma Complex
Front of La Loma Complex
Source: Daily Californian
Bridge connection between La Loma and Foothill Complexes
Bridge connection between La Loma and Foothill Complexes
Source: MacDonald Architects
Significance to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

The continued need for student housing at UC Berkeley in the 1980’s led to the planning of the Foothill Housing Complex. However, the design of the Foothill Residential Complex was a departure from the previously constructed concrete towers for Units 1, 2 and 3 on the south side of campus. The hillside, roads, Hayward fault and traffic patterns around the north side of campus heavily impacted the design of the complex. As a result, the sprawling design had more of an open feel to it and was instantly popular among the students.  The popularity of the Foothill Housing Complex has since influenced new UC Berkeley residential hall construction design and existing residential hall renovations, as the design teams strive to emulate the student experience of Foothill Housing.

Structure Description

The Foothill Housing Residential Complex consists of nine buildings on the northeast corner of the University of California, Berkeley campus. The residential complex serves 750 students and is considered part of the Unit 4 residential area, which includes Bowles and Stern Halls as well. Three of the buildings are located north of Hearst Avenue (known as the La Loma Complex) while the other six are located south of Hearst (known as the Foothill Complex).  They are connected across Hearst Avenue by a pedestrian bridge. All buildings are multi-story wood construction, with the tallest being six-stories high. The lateral-force-resisting system consists of wood shear walls.

Interesting Facts
  • Supports for the bridge across Hearst Avenue between the La Loma and Foothill complexes were constructed in 1991. However, the bridge itself was not built until 2007.
  • A trace of the Hayward Fault runs underneath southwest corner of the mat foundation of the La Loma complex.
  • The initial plans for Foothill called for living space for 2100 students. However, hillside, earthquake fault and cost considerations reduced the scope of the project.
  • The legal limit for typical wood construction is five stories due to fire codes. However, because the the housing complex was built into the hillside, a sixth story was permitted by the fire marshal for the project.
  • The Unit 4 complex is popular among engineering students, as the housing is close to the engineering section of campus.