Situated on the western slope of the Hill the just-opened Olympic and Centennial residence halls offer 621 rooms, multiple study spaces, 3D printer access, a new dining hall, great views from the Hill and 1,800 new beds to undergraduates who want to enjoy the benefits of living on campus. This brings the total number of students living on campus to approximately 14,500 students for fall 2021.
The numbers tell only part of the story. More importantly, Olympic and Centennial halls get UCLA nearer to the finish line of its “4:2 guarantee”: four years of UCLA housing to any first-year student who wants it, or two years for any transfer student.
“High-quality, affordable campus housing helps students access and take advantage of everything that UCLA has to offer,” Chancellor Gene Block said. “The completion of these halls and other construction in the works bring us closer than ever to being able to guarantee housing to every interested freshman and transfer student.”
Pete Angelis, assistant vice chancellor for housing and hospitality, estimates that UCLA will hit that goal by fall 2022 with the addition of two more developments in the pipeline: Southwest Campus Apartments and Gayley Heights, slated to open winter quarter 2022 and fall 2022 respectively.
With the addition of Olympic and Centennial, UCLA has been able to clear its waitlist, ensuring beds for all interested students this year, said Sarah Dundish, director of housing services and strategic initiatives. Both halls, which offer triple-occupancy rooms, are 100% full this year.
“We’re really excited that students are going to have a year of experiencing these buildings under their belt,” Dundish said. “We’ll be able to see its popularity next year for the first time.”
Olympic Hall’s social and study areas will be available to all residents of UCLA Housing, who will also have access to a maker’s space with state-of-the-art equipment including laser cutters, 3D printers and an adjacent computer lab.
The first two floors will house study spaces with a thematic environment with a fireplace and access to The Drey, a new eatery offering sandwiches, salads and ramen to go. The word “drey" means a squirrel’s nest, a nod to the fauna synonymous with campus for so many Bruins.
“The big takeaway here is to have these study and social spaces be worthy of a premier public institution,” Angelis said. “Making these spaces as comfortable, nice and enjoyable as possible is our way of hopefully encouraging those good study habits that will help students thrive here at UCLA.”
The two halls, which are built on the former Lot 15, are just months away from LEED Gold certification with sustainable materials throughout, Angelis said.
Both halls’ names are nods to UCLA’s past, present and future. Olympic Hall, for the 1984 and 2028 Olympics, and Centennial for the timing of when the projects broke ground, which was during the celebration of UCLA’s 100th birthday in 2019.
In 2028, UCLA Housing will serve as the Olympic and Paralympic Village, housing and feeding athletes from around the world.
On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean from the west-facing top floors of the halls and looking northwest, the Getty Center. Inside, however, one’s focus might be quickly diverted to the interior of the buildings, which take design cues from the structures of trees. In Olympic Hall, columns that soar through two levels of the study space are made to look like tree bark.
The buildings aim to be an extension of the natural botany that exists around them. Visitors can expect to see stone pine, Aleppo pine, coral bells, wild strawberry, coyote bush and sages marking the building’s exteriors. Angelis said the buildings and landscaping create a kind of grotto for those who enter the halls.
Angelis said he suspects that something else could become the development’s most identifying feature: a bridge — the first on the Hill — connecting Rieber Court with the entrance of Olympic Hall.
As students return, UCLA Housing staff are seriously focused on safety precautions. Residents vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to get tested for the virus, although all members of the UCLA community are required to complete daily symptom monitoring surveys if they’re living or working on campus. Tests will also be available for anyone who wants one and students with vaccine exemptions are required to get tested twice a week. Free tests can be picked up at the front desk of every residence hall or at on-campus vending machines.
While students won’t be required to wear face coverings in their rooms, masks will be required indoors in common areas. Students will also be required to wear masks when not eating or drinking inside dining halls, and at outdoor events with more than 1,000 people.
“New residence halls or old, it’s the students who make the whole community on the Hill vibrant,” Angelis said.
“I can’t even tell you the pent-up energy that’s within the housing and hospitality team to have students back on campus,” he said. “They are craving that interaction … They enjoy taking care of students. That’s our core purpose.”