Mills College Receives Prestigious Preservation Design Award

Oakland, CA—October 4, 2021

Mills College is pleased to announce that Lisser Hall, the longest-standing performance space on the Mills College campus, has been selected by the California Preservation Foundation (CPF) to receive the highly selective 2021 Preservation Design Award. This prestigious statewide award is recognized by peers as an outstanding achievement in preservation while embracing sustainable practices and promoting the protection of California’s historic places.

First opened in 1902, Lisser Hall underwent extensive renovations to reopen in 2018 as a state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary performance space and event location designed to connect Mills to the local community and the rest of the world through artistic and intellectual engagement. 

Lisser Hall's performance theater at Mills College has been restored to its original 1901 flat-floor configuration.Lisser Hall’s significance as a key building on the historic Mills College campus has been restored through this preservation project. Led by campus architect and AIA Fellow Karen Fiene, in collaboration with local architectural firm ELS Architecture and Urban Design, the restoration focused on seismically strengthening the building, making the space fully accessible, and restoring the main auditorium to its original 1901 flat-floor configuration. In alignment with Mills’ commitment to sustainability, the project used environmental design principles to create a space that promotes energy and water conservation, as well as sensitivity to the surrounding landscape.

"I am delighted that Mills has received the prestigious and meaningful 2021 Preservation Design Award from the CPF,” said Mills Campus Architect Karen Fiene. “This project had a bit of everything: multiple renovations over its 120-year life, structural surprises, an exceptionally talented and experienced design and construction team, dedicated and generous Mills faculty and trustees, a time capsule, and even a ghost!”

Lisser Hall's outdoor terrace at Mills College provides space for outdoor performances, concerts, and events.This extensive restoration project reinforces Mills’ commitment to the arts and its legendary reputation for creative experimentation. The project involved creating a new performance home for the College’s Dance and Theater Studies Department, with flexible spaces designed to encourage interdisciplinary work between the dance, music, theater, and digital arts departments. In addition to restoring the main auditorium, new performance and exhibition spaces were added including the Digital Performance Theater, an intimate black box-style theater, and the Ellen & Glenn Voyles Terrace for outdoor performances, concerts, and events.

Located at the geographical center of Mills’ 135-acre campus, Lisser Hall was critical to reactivating the heart of campus. The new interdisciplinary spaces were designed to bring together Mills students, faculty, staff, and local community organizations. By restoring Lisser Hall, other nearby facilities were revitalized, creating a hub of social, intellectual, and creative activity. 

"The preservation of Lisser Hall provided the inspiration for the creation of Mills Performing Arts,” said Alexander Zendzian, executive director of Mills Performing Arts. “The new theater spaces, open lobby, and creekside terrace have opened the door for a significant increase in use for performances and other public programming, while at the same time providing fully accessible spaces to be enjoyed by both the Mills and local community."  

About Mills College
Located in Oakland, California, Mills is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender nonbinary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Consistently ranked one of the top-ten regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills has again earned the #1 Best Value College in the West for 2022. As one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country, Mills has a strong record of academic success with first-generation students, students of color, Latinx students, LGBTQ+ students, and other underrepresented students. The Mills experience is distinguished by small, interactive classes, one-on-one attention from exceptional faculty, a culture of creative experimentation, and cutting-edge interdisciplinary learning opportunities which empower students to make a statement in their careers and communities.

About the California Preservation Foundation Design Awards
Since 1983 over 550 projects have been recognized with a Preservation Design Award. Winning projects are selected by a jury of top professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, planning, and history, as well as renowned architecture critics and journalists. The jury selects projects that have furthered, to a notable degree, the purposes of the profession, consistent with the California Preservation Foundation’s mission.