In February of this year, CED faculty came together at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Conference Center for an historic event: an all-college faculty research retreat. The retreat was structured primarily around the work of faculty members who had joined the college relatively recently—mostly young assistant professors but also more senior faculty who were new arrivals from elsewhere. Its goal was not to talk about past research, but rather on “What’s Up Next?”—namely, the research questions and projects that faculty hope focus on in the near future.
Also on hand were several members of the CED Dean’s Advisory Council; representatives of the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs’ Energy Technology Division with whom CED has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote collaborative research; several other key private sector research partners from such notable firms as Stamen Design; and interested campus leaders seeking a greater understanding of research conducted by CED faculty. Lastly, Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, delivered a riveting (and at times hilarious) lunchtime keynote.
Just a few snapshots:
Stefano Schiavon (Architecture) described his work on energy efficiency, carried out at the Singapore-Berkeley Research Initiative for Sustainable Energy at the multi-university CREATE campus in Singapore, as well as a new multi-million dollar grant on which he serves as Principal Investigator.
Simon Schleicher (Architecture) detailed his new projects focused on bio-inspired tensile structures developed via close study of specific plants, and the development of complex simulation models. The goal of such research is to expand the design vocabulary of buildings and their sustainability.
Kristina Hill (Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning) introduced the new UC Berkeley Climate Readiness Institute in which she plays a leadership role. The CRI, which just received a coveted NSF graduate student training grant, focuses on how cities and metropolitan regions can harness the latest scientific, policy, and design research to become more resilient in the face of climate change.
Iryna Dronova (Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning) outlined her upcoming multi-scale research agenda, including her NASA proposal on climate indicators that capture interrelated effects of urban green space characteristics on residential property values and ambient environmental quality, and a set projects on SF Bay Delta restoration and water resources based on advanced remote sensing technologies.
Malo Hutson (City & Regional Planning) presented his planned research on health and residential racial segregation. Charisma Acey (City & Regional Planning) discussed her research seminar funded by MATRIX on the human right to water, and the development of hybrid water infrastructure in cities of the global South, especially in Africa. And Carolina Reid (City & Regional Planning ) highlighted rapidly expanding income inequality, particularly in the Bay Area. Her research agenda focused on the long-term impacts of the foreclosure crisis, the role of the Community Reinvestment Act, and strategies to mitigate inequality and instability in affordable housing.
Chris Calott (Architecture) outlined his interests in critical real estate and community development research, using design studios that build toward a series of key questions about particular places, informed by scholarship and practice. His future projects involve the design of social housing and related forms of public architecture, particularly in informal settlements of the global south.
Ron Rael described printFARM, and his future projects dedicating to building low cost, sustainable architecture with innovative 3-D-printed materials. He also described his collaborative efforts with other CED faculty members to establish a large-scale digital fabrication research facility at the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.
By the end of the day, most participants were stunned at the breadth and ambition of what their faculty colleagues were trying to accomplish. Moreover, a host of opportunities for collaboration emerged. The research discussed also represented a wealth of novel data, analytic methods and design research strategies that moves these fields forward. Lastly, the closely coupled spectrum of concerns around built environment challenges that emerged throughout the day—design activism, sustainability, social and environmental justice, and ecological futures—revealed CED’s broadly shared DNA across our varied disciplines and our ability to make a difference through both basic and applied research.