In the middle of the farming community around Merced, Calif., the University of California, Merced has been blooming, and at its center is the Pavilion, a dining hall that serves as the campus hub in the way that grange halls used to serve agricultural communities through a shared social, economic and political vision. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), San Francisco, and built by WEBCOR Builders, San Francisco, the Pavilion features a metal-clad shed roof that captures the ethos of the structures found in the surrounding area but with a contemporary thrust.
The Central Valley of California is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. Michael Duncan, FAIA, is design partner at SOM and was lead designer on the Pavilion. He was also heavily involved in the original master plan for UC Merced. “We took our cues directly from some of the larger shade structures that are some of the most noticeable architecture as you drive through this part of the world,” he says. “Their straightforwardness, their exposed structure presents a kind of honesty of material. There’s not a lot of hidden there. And that became a strategy for the simplicity of the building.”