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UC Berkeley | David Blackwell Hall

Offering an inclusive community for incoming first-year students.

American Campus Communities partnered with University of California, Berkeley to address the school’s housing shortage. We built David Blackwell Hall, in partnership with UC Berkeley as part of our American Campus Equity (ACE)® program, which opened in 2018 and offers 752 first-year students an inclusive environment that fosters connection and academic success. These attributes reflect not only ACC’s development approach and UC Berkeley’s goals but also the building’s namesake, David Blackwell, who was a preeminent mathematician and statistician as well as the school’s first tenured Black professor.

Honoring a Legend

David Blackwell (Courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

David Blackwell was only 22 when he earned his Ph.D. in math in 1941 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He taught at Howard University, a historically black college, until 1954, when he came to UC Berkeley as a visiting professor. He spent the next 34 years at UC Berkeley, where he was extremely popular and received numerous accolades and honorary degree. The university describes him as “distinguished researcher who independently invented dynamic programming, a statistical method still used today in finance and areas like genome analysis.” That invention, and his development of a fundamental theorem still underpinning modern statistics, helped propel Blackwell, in 1965, to be the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. Blackwell passed away in 2010 at the age of 91.

Housing More First-Year Students

David Blackwell Hall was the first UC Berkeley dorm to open between 2012 and 2018, during which time the school’s enrollment grew by 17%. Through innovative design, ACC was able to accommodate a large number of students while keeping living spaces comfortable. For example, the beds are set end to end along one wall, with a privacy wall in between, to give each student their own separate space.

The common spaces–complemented by ACC’s Residence Life program–are designed to help first-year students transition to college life. Each floor acts as a community within the larger community, featuring quiet study areas at the ends and a lounge in the center. The first floor features a spacious academic success room, additional lounges, a fully equipped fitness center and a presentation room with TVs and a podium. Adding to the ambience and inspiration, some of the west-facing windows look out at the Bay Bridge, the bay, and the San Francisco skyline.

Inclusive and Sustainable

Lobby at David Blackwell Hall

The building also houses Stiles Hall, a community service agency that helps inner-city youth stay in school, engages UC Berkeley students in community service and promotes interracial understanding. Residence Life programs also promote inclusion, and the community’s halls offer plenty of gender-neutral bathrooms.

David Blackwell Hall is a LEED Gold certified. To conserve energy, the lights throughout the building are on sensors and automatically dim when spaces are unoccupied and when more ambient light is coming through the windows. There is no air-conditioning in the building and temperature control is achieved through a heat exchange that can pull hot air into a cold area in the building and vice versa. Fresh air is also pumped around the building.

Through these innovative sustainable systems, combined with urban planning principles, and campus design sensibilities, ACC and the project architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz and interior designer Sixthriver Architects have created a unique new addition to both the UC Berkeley campus and the South Berkeley community.