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BRANDEIS-BARDIN PROUD OF RECONSTRUCTED CENTER.

Byline: Douglas Clark Daily News Staff Writer

Three years after sustaining severe damage from the Northridge Earthquake, the Brandeis-Bardin Institute is preparing to open a new Arts and Conference Center.

The three-building center, which is part of a $10.5 million project to repair infrastructure throughout the institute, will be the focus of a public celebration Sept. 14 that will include music, dancing, swimming, food and tours.

``It really will be a great day. We never expected to be able to do what we did,'' said institute President Joseph A. Wapner.

Though the earthquake that struck on Jan. 17, 1994, devastated various areas of the lush 3,100-acre institute, hardest hit was a landmark building known as the Maier House. Built in 1914, the structure, which had been used for administrative offices and as a gathering place for its various programs, was demolished several months after the 6.7-magnitude temblor.

The new 8,768-square-foot main building is a reinterpretation of the Maier House based on the feelings and philosophies of institute members, said Andrea Cohen Gehring, director of design for the Santa Monica-based architectural firm of Widom Wein Cohen.

The design is the recipient of the Design Award of Honor from the Society of American Registered Architects.

``It was probably the most meaningful project I've ever been involved in because everyone was so full of emotion,'' said Gehring. ``I'm Jewish, and it was good for me to be able to express that not just in my religion, but professionally.''

Gehring said stones taken from a nearby riverbed were used to build benches, walls and a fireplace similar to the one that was in the Maier House.

Also, the landmark house's handrails - the only thing salvaged from the wreckage - are on display in the new building's circle of remembrance room.

``That was meant as a remembrance of the past,'' Gehring said of her use of the handrails.

The main house, which will be used for performances and art exhibits, and a new 9,096-square-foot dining facility with a kosher kitchen, define the core of the new center and contain a library and a multipurpose room.

A new 5,661-square-foot administrative building was also part of the project.

Kay Miller, the institute's director of development, said fund raising for the reconstruction of the campus began a few months after the earthquake. Though the task of rebuilding the institute seemed overwhelming, the fund-raising effort was bolstered by $4.5 million in federal grants.

Wapner said the fund raising went well because of the institute's reputation.

``Individuals who knew the place, they didn't have to be convinced,'' he said. ``We're very grateful and pleased.''

By 1995, the design phase began. Gehring said she spent a weekend at the institute to learn more about the location and the nonprofit group's guiding principles. The institute was granted occupancy permits in February of this year.

The institute, which has been a Jewish educational and cultural center for more than 50 years, sponsors an arts program, a collegiate seminar, a summer concert series, lectures, dances and camps for children ages 7 to 16. Though Wapner said the new center would provide a wonderful home for all those activities, the institute had no plans for expanding programs.

``The programming is very important. But we'll concentrate on the existing programs rather than new ones,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

Photo: (1--color) The Brandeis-Bardin Institute's Arts and Conference Center was designed around the institute's philosophies.

(2--color in SIMI edition only) The Maier House, built in 1914, was hit hard by 1994's Northridge Quake.

(3--ran in CONEJO edition only) A seniors study group meets in the Molle Library at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 30, 1997
Words:616
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