Gates Laboratory of Chemistry remained a hub of research and teaching until the 1971 San Fernando earthquake left it so badly damaged that all activities in the building had to be relocated.
After the earthquake, Gates was slated for demolition. Instead, the Institute elected to save the laboratory for future renovation. Its interior was gutted and the walls reinforced with structural steel and gunite. The building remained empty for nearly a decade, awaiting further repair.
Then, in 1980, funding from the Ralph M. Parsons and James Irvine foundations made possible the renovations necessary to convert the former laboratory into an administrative center. The gifts enabled Caltech to “complete the rejuvenation of a building that housed generations of fine scientists, and to relieve a serious space problem on campus,” President Marvin L. Goldberger said at the time.
The building reopened in 1983. A year later, the Los Angeles Conservancy awarded the project its Preservation Award for “leadership in restoration and adaptive reuse of the Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration.”