UCLA Covel Commons Dining Hall

“At UCLA, education takes place in many ways. The dining options we offer are one way to expand social and cultural awareness.” – Peter Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor, UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services

Originally built in 1992 and last renovated in 2003, UCLA’s Covel Commons Dining Hall was in need of a functional and aesthetic refresh. FF&P’s new concept for the space proposes a dramatic shift not only in terms of operations and character, but in the nature of the dining experience itself. Key to FF&P’s design for Covel is the desire to create a stronger sense of place, a “there” where people can come together not simply to eat, but to connect with one another.
To enhance Covel’s identity as a unique dining destination on UCLA’s campus, we drew inspiration from the Mediterranean, where purchasing, cooking, and sharing fresh food is a shared cultural experience. Upon arrival, people enter into an open, bustling “marketplace” dotted with a constellation of serving stations, each enticing diners with the colors, sounds, and aromas of different Mediterranean cuisines. Rather than following the traditional cafeteria model of separating food service from consumption, diverse seating clusters are distributed throughout Covel, with varied sizes, heights, and furniture configurations evoking different spatial typologies like the zocalo, portico, pavilion, and nook.
Diverse finish materials such as terrazzo and tile, patinated copper, Carrara marble counters. and mosaic wall murals cohere around reinforcing Covel’s Mediterranean theme. An array of lighting, from domestically-scaled pendants to modern chandeliers to festoons. These create distinct focal points of activity, each with its own sense of mood—imagine the sensation of sitting a sun-soaked piazza versus a quiet courtyard. A simple, contrasting color palette of blacks and patinated copper, whites and creams, and natural wood lets food and people be the real stars, their vibrancy and flavor imbuing Covel Dining Hall with warmth and life.