4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition: Nest We Grow

NWG Winter Rendering
NWG Winter Rendering Enlarge [+]

On April 25th 2014, at the final screening of the 4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition in Tokyo, the team from the CED won top honors for their proposal, Nest We Grow. The project will be built in November 2014 at Memu Meadows in Taiki-cho, Hakkaido, Japan. Below, the student team reflects on their experience.

This past summer we traveled as a team to Tokyo, Japan to complete our design and start construction for our winning competition proposal, Nest We Grow. Earlier this year under the leadership of Hsiu-Wei Chang, a recent graduate of CED, and Professors Dana Buntrock and Mark Anderson, we developed a concept and design that we submitted to the LIXIL International University Architectural Competition. The competition, now in its 4th year, is held annually by LIXIL, a Japanese firm known internationally for its expertise in the built environment.

NWG Sectional Perspective drawing
NWG Sectional Perspective drawing Enlarge [+]

Established by LIXIL JS Foundation, the competition strives to inspire next-generation sustainable architectural solutions by inviting universities from around the world to submit designs in response a unique theme. This year’s theme, Productive Garden — A Space for Enjoying Hokkaido with All Five Senses, solicited proposals from UC Berkeley, along with 11 other universities from a total of 9 countries.

“These students ranged from first-year graduate students to those who finished thesis projects and graduated only a few weeks after winning the competition. They handled a myriad of tasks associated with an overseas award with professionalism, aplomb, and in fact, outright delight. In order to get the best from each other, they worked together and valued their complementary skill sets. We’ve got a lot to be proud of. This team really demonstrates what CED students can do!”

— Dana Buntrock, Professor of Architecture at CED

Our team’s proposed design, Nest We Grow, creates a holistic garden capable of connecting members of the community with the cyclical nature of food. We achieved this by designing spaces in the Nest to pragmatically respond to each element of the cycle, from planting, growing, harvesting, cooking and dining, to composting, which restarts the cycle. Using a 3 dimensional wood frame for the main structure we incorporated all of these elements into our Nest and created a productive garden typology. The Nest is capable of being replicated in size or scale and in many different contexts but with the same goal, to bring people closer to the production, consumption and decomposition of food.

award certificate
Award certificate Enlarge [+]

We were honored that the completion jury awarded first place to Nest We Grow. This set the stage for our summer in Japan where we became responsible for the project from the design phase to completion. In order to do so we worked closely with project architect Takumi Saikawa, of Kengo Kuma and Associates, and Masato Araya of Oak Structural Design Office. With their help and expertise, along with many others, we were able to take our idealized vision of the Nest and turn it into a reality.

Through the period of intense design leading up to the construction of the Nest we learned two very important lessons that we will carry with us into our design careers. First, work in the built environment needs to be done with a considerable amount of cooperation across many different professions, including structural engineers and contractors, and in our case a composting toilet manufacturer. These discussions each require a different set of tools, ranging from drawings to languages, and are critical to a successful project.

The second major lesson is having the ability to re-design or re-purpose a part of the design in order to meet the requirements of these discussions, and to do so quickly enough to keep the project moving towards completion. During our schematic design phase, we focused on how to approach and develop the concept through architectural language. However, when it came time to move into the construction design phase, we switched our focus to meet the demands of the budget, the construction methods, and deadlines, in order to maintain the desired building function. In several cases the concept was reevaluated in order to meet these new demands, allowing for unique solutions that were not at first considered.

NWG team meeting
NWG Team during discussion with project architect and structural consultant Enlarge [+]
On-site Rendering
On-site Rendering Enlarge [+]

This competition is an incredible opportunity for any group of young designers, and with the construction phase now under way we look forward to seeing the completion of the Nest, and to future enhancements in the years to come.

The Nest We Grow team included:
Hsiu-Wei Chang (M.Arch 2014)
Fanzheng Dong (M.Arch 2014)
Hsin-Yu Chen (M.Arch 2015)
Yan Xin Huang (M.Arch 2016)
Baxter Smith (M.Arch 2016)
Max Edwards (M.Arch 2014)

Matt Donham: Delivering on a Vision

Jeff Koons’s Split-Rocker Enlarge [+]

“Jeff Koons’ Split-Rocker is a marvel,” explains Matt Donham (MLA ’03), principal at RAFT Landscape Architecture. This giant flowering topiary with over 50,000 flowering plants — half toy dinosaur, half rocking horse — is at the same time cutely irresistible and almost monstrous in its looming scale. “The sculpture expands our understanding of where landscape can exist and what it can look like.”

It is also somewhat of a metaphor for Donham’s approach to his work: the need to zoom in and out between technical detail and the larger overall goal to deliver on a vision; a love of form; and a passion to build landscapes which are both progressive and expressive.

Matt Donham
Matt Donham Enlarge [+]

In 2012, Donham was hired by Glenstone, a private museum and sculpture park outside of Washington D.C., to reimagine Koons’ Split-Rocker as a permanent installation. The sculpture was first exhibited in Avignon in 2000, and subsequently in Versailles (2008) and Basel (2012). Donham conducted extensive research on Koons’ previous topiary installations — talking to gardeners and engineers, and creating structural models and planting palettes — in order to modify the piece to thrive year-round.

In the spring of 2014, Koons tapped Donham to develop the “living systems” for the sculpture’s newest installation in Rockefeller Center, which opened in June. With just 7 weeks to complete a normally 20-week installation process, Donham and RAFT worked closely with Jeff Koons, Public Art Fund, Gagosian Gallery, Tishman Speyer, engineers, contractors, irrigation consultants, and local nurseries to maximize the project’s success.

Research is an integral part of Donham’s work and this project benefitted from the previous research he’d done for Glenstone. The Rockefeller Center installation required the production and delivery of 50,000 plants in full bloom, specialized soils, breathable surface materials, and highly-tailored irrigation and drainage to help the plants to flourish, regardless of their orientation.

9/11 Memorial
Visitors at the National 9/11 Memorial in New York Enlarge [+]

Prior to founding RAFT, Donham was a partner at PWP Landscape Architecture and project manager for the National September 11th Memorial. During the project, he came to understand the critical role of the landscape architect as design advocate. “Everybody has their individual interest, especially with public works projects. It’s our responsibility to understand the goal of the project vision and advocate for that,” he explains.

Donham’s proximity to the leaders of PWP and lead role in the ongoing conversations with players in virtually every aspect of the Memorial project was transformative, shaping his current approach with clients. He believes strongly in holding to the galvanizing narrative that manifests the vision, while also articulating confidence and caring. “Working for Pete Walker I became adept at delivering on his ideas. It takes political skill to work with a big name, but it translates well to delivering on your own vision.”

Hudson Highlands Camp
Hudson Highlands Camp Enlarge [+]

Today at RAFT, Donham along with fellow CED classmate Rebecca Hill (MLA ’03) are generating a new form language, where shape making and space defining combines with ecological sustainability. Last spring, the firm installed a landscape in the Hudson Highlands where a gentle S-curve designed into an existing road makes room for planted swales that filter runoff while enhancing the overall composition of the landscape. It’s a small example of landscape productivity and form working together. Currently Donham is collaborating with Walter Hood, David S. Woo Chair of Environmental Design, on the garden at the Cooper Hewitt in New York which begins construction this fall.

Donham has also just begun teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design. This has inspired him to reflect back on his experience at CED and what he wants his own students to take away. “CED challenged me to determine, believe, and express my personal convictions about how the built environment should be formed,” he said. “When I am speaking with clients and trying to convince them to invest in my solutions, I find that the strength of my conviction is important. People can feel it.”

Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall

Postermaking, ca. May 1970 Enlarge [+]
The shock waves of the Berkeley’s 1964 Free Speech Movement reverberated within Wurster Hall, transforming the College of Environmental Design into a laboratory for experiments in countercultural art and politics.

Students turned hallways and classrooms into impromptu print shops in the wake of U.S. military incursions into Cambodia in May 1970, producing anti-war posters now featured in graphic arts exhibitions and collected by museums from Oakland to Washington DC. Self-styled “Outlaw Builders” launched hands-on ventures in pedagogy, including a mobile lab for elementary school teaching interventions, a communal settlement built from salvaged materials, and an early iteration of ecologically sustainable, “autonomous” home technology. The story of these innovative enterprises is told in Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall, an exhibition in the Environmental Design Library showcasing the rich holdings of the Environmental Design Archives and the privately held Docs Populi poster collection.

1970 Gorilla Graphics poster
Gorilla Graphics poster Enlarge [+]

As alternatives to postwar consumer culture, scavenging and hand-crafting combined a sense of play with the cultivation of new skills, liberated social relationships, and developed ecological consciousness. These qualities pervade the protest posters created by two CED-based graphic arts collectives, Gorilla Graphics and Kamikaze Design, in response to the expansion of the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia in 1970. CED Dean William Wheaton endorsed the appropriation of Wurster Hall’s first-floor classrooms and hallways as a “headquarters for… anti-war related activities,” as he testified in a subsequent investigation. The CED became a round-the-clock propaganda factory, with students cranking out press releases and galvanizing silkscreened images. At a donation of one cent for a poster and one dollar to silkscreen a design onto a t-shirt (supplied by the customer), Gorilla Graphics raised as much as $500 dollars daily –corrected for inflation, an amount over $3000 today. The phenomenal ease with which money was raised for student anti-war activities conveys the scale and popularity of the CED’s graphic arts insurgency.

Amerika is Devouring its Children
CED Poster Enlarge [+]

Anti-war protest was a high stakes pursuit, however. Incensed by campus faculty and administration support for student activism, the Regents of the University of California, at the behest of Governor Ronald Reagan, launched an inquest into the “possible misuse of University equipment, facilities, funds or personnel time.” The San Francisco accounting firm of Haskins & Sells was hired to conduct a thorough audit of resources used in protest activities within three hotbeds of rebellion: the School of Law, Eshelman Hall, and the College of Environmental Design. The investigation was no shot over the bow: any diversion of resources “considered to be improper with respect to pertinent provisions of the Constitution and the Education Code of the State of California or University policies and regulations” would establish grounds for the expulsion of student activists and a purge of faculty and staff.

The inquiry failed to produce evidence supporting disciplinary action. Typewriters and mimeograph machines used by activists had been “assigned to students for their own use” or requisitioned from surplus stock. Accountants painstakingly traced the source of paper used for the production of anti-war posters back to the refuse bins of the campus Computer Center. The Regents’ expenditure of taxpayer funds for an investigation conducted by a top-shelf accounting firm did have a positive outcome: it generated a trove of detailed information on the strike of 1970 for future historians of campus counterculture.

The Eagle
“The Eagle” Enlarge [+]
School children with geodesic dome
School children with geodesic dome Enlarge [+]

The power of the handmade to forge a new political and social awareness also infused a series of pedagogical experiments launched at the CED in the early 1970s. In a studio course dedicated to “freeing up the classroom for learning by doing,” architecture students working with Professor Sim Van der Ryn collaborated with teachers and elementary school students to restructure classrooms and playgrounds. The standard phalanx of desks made way for flexible spaces in which to build things. Children learned geometry, measurement, and simple construction skills using salvaged materials. Jim Campe, an enthusiastic CED lecturer, spearheaded an initiative to transform a surplus mail van into a nomadic platform for one-day classroom makeovers. A handmade, self-published record of the school reform venture, The Farallones Scrapbook, quickly sold out of its print run of 5,000 copies. Picked up by Random House, it became a “West Coast lifestyle” bestseller, and helped fund the CED design collective’s next enterprise.

Outlaw Builder
“Outlaw Builder” Enlarge [+]

In the summer of 1971, Van der Ryn and Campe proposed a studio course titled “Making a Place in the Country” that would bring Berkeley students to a remote five acre site in northern Marin county for three consecutive days every week. The design/build experiment tackled the construction of a commune premised upon ecological integrity. According to a student’s journal entry, it was an opportunity to “build a house in which my physical self could exist and… a consciousness in which my spiritual self could exist.” This “living-learning experience” began with a crash course in foraging for forest mushrooms, collecting mussels at a nearby beach, and scavenging redwood from disused Petaluma chicken coops. Students designed and built sleeping platforms and tree houses, a collective kitchen and meeting room, an outdoor oven, a shower and a composting toilet. Participants received a certificate entitling them “to be known to all as [an] OUTLAW BUILDER with all the rights and privileges attached thereto.” A report on the experiment, designed and printed as an underground press-style publication titled Outlaw Building News, sold out at local bookstores almost as fast as they could be printed, providing cash for the next “outlaw building” enterprise.

Outlaw Building News
“Outlaw Building News,” Enlarge [+]

A patchwork tower of timber and machine parts took shape on a patch of grass in front of Wurster Hall in the spring of 1973, the final project for a Van der Ryn studio on “Natural Energy Design.” Built of lumber salvaged from a demolished Hayward barn, the student-designed “Energy Pavilion” incorporated a small wind generator, a homemade solar collector, a stationary bike that alternately drove an electrical generator or a mill to grind grain, steel barrels as rainwater reservoirs, a greenhouse bedded with lettuce and snow peas, and a composting toilet. The odd structure was, in fact, a freestanding service core of an ecologically sustainable autonomous home. After an intensive research phase informed by the few books and journal article available on the topic, students compiled a 150-page document, The Natural Energy Handbook, which, marketed as an underground publication, funded the construction of the Energy Pavilion. Promoted by Bay Area newscasters, the quirky tower was an instant attraction, generating long lines of visitors — as well as the unwanted attention of the Campus Esthetics Committee. Disdaining the notion of “outlaw building” on campus, the Committee demanded that the structure be removed before commencement exercises. It disappeared before the visiting families of new graduates could be shocked into some semblance of ecological awareness: a task accomplished a few months later by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. By the time OPEC’s massive spike in oil prices had produced the first global energy crisis, the CED’s early experiment in sustainable building technology had come and gone like a counterculture hallucination.

Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall can be viewed from Thursday 16 October through Friday 5 December in Wurster Hall’s Environmental Design Library. See the UC Libraries website for opening hours.

Craig Allison: Constructing the Future

BAM/PFA site during construction
BAM/PFA site during shoring and excavation phase Enlarge [+]
Architecture students rarely envision the construction trade as a career path. While few would argue that design and construction are inexorably linked, design is often assumed to hold the primary role in guiding the realization of a vision.

What Craig Allison (M.Arch ’74) came to learn when he entered the construction field over 40 years ago, is how much influence the construction team actually has on what gets built. “Being trained as architects, we tend to think that designers have by far the greatest influence on a building, when the reality is that the owners who decide what they want to build and the contractors who help figure out whether they can afford it or not have a very large impact,” Allison explains. “I found I can participate in the process just as effectively from the construction side as I could have from the architectural side and maybe more so.”

Craig Allison
Craig Allison Enlarge [+]

Craig Allison is co-general partner of Plant Construction Company, L.P. In his 33 years with the firm, he and his company have been responsible for the development and renovation of some of San Francisco’s most iconic historic buildings, including the Ferry Building, the Flood Building on Market Street, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Presidio Landmark.

Allison emphasizes that Plant specializes in customers rather than building types. One of those customers is UC Berkeley for whom Plant is now managing construction on the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Slated to complete in January 2016, the complex integrates the campus’s long-shuttered downtown Berkeley printing plant with a new structure extending north to Addison. The collaboration between the city and the campus, along with the challenge of the design — including knitting together three separate structures and the stringent environmental controls required in a museum — make this a uniquely complicated project. Allison stresses that the teamwork and cooperation between the city, the university, the architect — Diller Scofidio + Renfro — and the Plant team has been extremely good. “That’s what determines whether we enjoy our job or not,” he notes. “It’s less to do with what we’re building and more to do with who we’re working with and how we’re cooperating.”

San Francisco Ferry Building
Plant Construction’s renovation of the historic San Francisco Ferry Building Enlarge [+]

Since the age of five, Allison has always been interested in building things. A native of California whose parents both attended Berkeley, the architecture department at CED just made sense. Following early project management positions with Bay Area construction and development firms, Allison joined Plant in 1981.

Architectural training and exposure carries advantages in the construction trade. Allison explains, “A contractor’s job is often to hold the line on the costs of the project. If you understand the architectural goals as well as the owner’s needs you can balance those things better. I think my background gives me a decent understanding of what the design of any given project is trying to accomplish.”

140 New Montgomery
140 New Montgomery Enlarge [+]

Today, Craig Allison concentrates on a few projects with long-term Plant clients and managing the overall partnership along with co-partner David Plant. Deeply committed to seeing the company succeed, he is focused on structuring the company or future generations — an obligation he finds deeply rewarding.

This year, Plant Construction Company made a generous gift to CED to establish the Plant Construction Company, L.P. Undergraduate Fund. Matched by the Haas Public Service and Leadership Scholarship Challenge, the purpose of the fund is to encourage those promising hard-working students most in need of a boost. The gift was inspired by a recently retired Plant employee of 40 years, Eugene Hom, who worked his way up from apprentice carpenter just out of high school to become senior project manager on some of the company’s most prominent projects. The fund rewards that effort. “If he had had the educational opportunities afforded to others, there isn’t anything that he couldn’t have accomplished.”

Re-Imagining CED’s Built Environment

As the College of Environmental Design seeks to understand and redefine how people around the world experience the built environment, we are challenged to look at the ways in which our own spaces influence how we work and learn.

CED’s facilities for studio instruction — the hallmark of a design education — are 50 years old. By rethinking the outdated design models that define our current studio environment, we have the opportunity to create 21st century studios with the technology and adaptable design systems that encourage a culture of experimentation and creative interaction. Smart classroom design solutions that are flexible and foster collaboration are critical to educating future environmental design and planning students and preparing them for a world in which cross-disciplinary team work is essential.

Flex Studio
Flex Studio Enlarge [+]

Flex Studio

The Flex Studios initiative will refashion our existing studio space to provide multiple platforms for creativity, research and design collaboration, and to allow learning spaces to serve as better models for collaborative professional spaces.

The studio redesign will incorporate flexible furniture systems and increased space for collaboration and dialogue, allowing for open exchanges during the design process that reflect the challenges and excitement of professional life. that will enable students and faculty to think about the built environment through different lenses.

The new design will bring together students from multiple departments and promote a cross-pollination of ideas.

Our goal is to reconfigure and upgrade seven floors of studio space in Wurster Hall. The redesign requires replacing outdated furniture, offering ergonomic student workstations, providing functional meeting areas, and expanding digital and traditional pin-up areas. The strategy is based on a flexible “studio kit of parts” that can be reconfigured easily and adapted to any number of potential educational contexts. The kit will include height-adjustable desks, work tables, and ergonomic stools; custom fabricated metal grid studio divider system with power speedway, task lighting, shelf and pin-up space; technology facilities including rendering computers and plotters; collaboration tables for model building, group discussion and information interaction; a kitchenette; and two presentation and review rooms featuring extensive pin-up space as well as cutting edge electronic display technology.

How You Can Help

Give to CED

The estimated costs to update Wurster Hall’s studios will total $8–10 million. Our goal is to update all studio floors by 2020. But we are starting with a pilot program to completely renovate one floor in 2014–15. The cost of completing this pilot floor is $1.5 million.

We have a generous and willing partner in our efforts. Recognizing the importance of this studio redesign project for our students and faculty, campus leadership has agreed to provide a 2:1 match for any gifts to the College of Environmental Design’s new Flex Studio Fund.

Please join us in meeting this critical need and ensuring a first-rate educational experience for our students, by donating a new student workstation, putting your name on a new state-of-the art review room or studio bay — or even an entire studio floor. Become a part of the lasting legacy that will propel the CED studios to the forefront of 21st century innovation in design and planning education.