Kris Yao: Art, Technology, and a Little Luck

Renowned Taiwanese architect Kris Yao (M.Arch ’78) admits that he was lucky. As a young student entering Tunghai University and forced to choose a path, rather than pursue the expected routes of science or engineering, he decided to test for architecture and as luck would have it, discovered his passion.
Kris Yao
Kris Yao Enlarge [+]

Born and raised in Taipei, Kris Yao is one of Taiwan’s most highly regarded architects. He has won numerous awards including the National Award for Arts and Architecture — the highest honor in cultural and art disciplines in Taiwan. In 2002, Kris Yao represented Taiwan in the 8th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and was invited again in 2008. In 2004, Yao was asked to present his project, the THSR Hsinchu Station, at the 1st International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam, and also exhibited work at the 1st International Architecture Biennale in Beijing, China. Most recently, Yao received the Architizer A+ Award for his China Steel Corporation Headquarters in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The College of Environmental Design recognized Yao with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005.

China Steel Corporation
China Steel Corporation Photography Jeffrey Cheng Enlarge [+]

Yao’s works include an enormous array of building types: corporate/industrial, residential, cultural, educational, medical, retail, and transportation. He is also known for his superb interior architecture. But he maintains a special passion for cultural and historically related projects, as well as projects that involve complex technology. As someone who spends more than his share of time traveling, Yao admits that he’d love to design an airport. This passion for art and technology in fact inspired the name of his firm, Artech Architects. Headquartered in Taipei with another office in Shanghai, the firm currently employs over 160 people.

Luck also played a role in Yao’s advanced education. While he applied to a variety of institutions in pursuit of his masters degree, Yao explains with a smile that he didn’t really chose Berkeley; Berkeley chose him.

Having never before visited the U.S., Yao was captivated by the free exchange of ideas, the diversity, and the lack of hierarchy that he encountered when he arrived on campus — a unique character unlike anything he previously experienced in Taiwan. He went on to receive his Masters of Architecture from CED in 1978.

Since then, Yao has maintained close ties with CED and has been a generous supporter of the college and campus, including contributions to the campaign for Wurster Hall, leading the Berkeley Taiwan Alumni Club, and sponsoring the recent 2012 Shanghai Berkeley Ball.

During his thesis work, Yao interviewed diverse interest groups and individuals, giving him the opportunity to immerse himself in the local community and American culture. While he’d always been interested in how design happens, his CED experience helped him more deeply understand the personal, social and political dynamics that shape design.

This relationship of the person to the built environment remains central to Yao’s work. He views architecture as a theatrical stage for the people who interact with the space. Comparing architecture to story-telling, he strives to communicate an experience that people can relate to — that although it may be like nothing they’ve ever before seen, there nevertheless should be a familiarity that touches the heart.

These concepts are perhaps no better exemplified than in Yao’s Wuzhen Grand Theater in the surreal water village of Zhejiang in southern China, where visitors arrive by wooden boats or on foot from an island across a bridge. The building, set to complete in May 2013, uses familiar local materials: reclaimed wood forms a graceful lattice across a fan-shaped glass facade and ancient massive bricks from the city wall clad another portion of the exterior.

Wuzhen Theater
Wuzhen Theater Enlarge [+]
Wuzhen Theater
Wuzhen Theater Enlarge [+]

For Yao, three things are vitally important in the design of a building: response to locality, craftsmanship and refined attention to the way a building is put together. In the design of the Wuzhen Theater, these values come together to create a structure that, though massive and modern, feels almost hand-made.

Buddhism also plays an important role in Yao’s work and his life. While Yao doesn’t adhere to a particular design philosophy, he likens his approach to the Zen art of “direct seeing.” This approach undoubtedly contributed to the design of the recently completed Water-Moon Monastery in Taipei where Master Sheng Yen imparted his vision for the building in six words: Flower in space, Moon in water. With this guiding principle, Yao created a design that reduces color and form to a minimum, conveying the spirit of Zen Buddhism. Yao used an innovative technique to void cast a Zen sutra in prefabricated GRC panels, painting the scripture in sunlight onto the interior surfaces.

Water-Moon Monastery
Water-Moon Monastery Photography Jeffrey Cheng Enlarge [+]
Water-Moon Monastery
Water-Moon Monastery Photography Jeffrey Cheng Enlarge [+]

Kris Yao looks with gratitude to Berkeley and the College of Environmental Design for the wisdom and experiences that have contributed to his success, “It’s a wonderful university that benefits many. I loved being a part of it.”

Dean Jennifer Wolch acknowledged Yao’s generosity, “Kris’s wonderful support over the years is greatly appreciated. We’re definitely lucky that Kris chose us.”

Lanyang Museum
Lanyang Museum Photography Jeffrey Cheng Enlarge [+]
Lanyang Museum
Lanyang Museum Photography Jeffrey Cheng Enlarge [+]
Building in Bhutan
Bhutan. One of 4 small buildings using only traditional materials: earth, timber, stone, and slate. Enlarge [+]
Building in Bhutan
Bhutan. Traditional materials with a modern aesthetic. Enlarge [+]

ParticiPlace: Community-Based Participatory Research through an International Design Competition

Interwoven Communities
Interwoven Communities by Gabriel Kaprielian, Liz Kee, Marisha Farnsworth, and Jonghoon Im from Berkeley California: ParticiPlace2012 1st Prize winner and co-winner of the Social and Cultural Integrity Prize Enlarge [+]
ParticiPlace2012, an international design competition for the Living Culture Center for the Pinoleville Pomo Nation was organized as part of my PhD. research in Architecture. The competition provided a test bed to explore the gap between global designers and local communities — the users in place.

Environmental psychology provided the framework for understanding place, specifically Canter’s definition of place as the overlap between physical attributes, activities, and conceptions. When interviewing practicing architects, it became clear that in the for-profit design world, architects use a variety of techniques to become familiar with the specific physical attributes of place while activities of place are usually provided in the design brief. However, conceptions of place are harder to communicate across wide cultural and geographical gaps, hence are often neglected. At the same time, in the non-profit world of architecture, while more attention is given to learning conceptions, the information provided is not always enough for the architect’s place-information palette. As technology and particularly the variety of social network tools develop and become widely used around the world, I decided to study whether these tools can be harnessed to bridge the gap between local communities and global designers providing solutions in developing regions.

Based on case-studies in the field of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), technology without human motivation is not enough to create development. Empowering local communities requires both a top-down approach and a bottom-up solution. The opportunity provided to Native American Nations in the US to use federal funds to both design and build their own housing solutions is a top-down approach that calls for bottom-up solutions to allow the community simple ways to influence the design — essentially the core of this project. Together with Professor Agogino from the department of Mechanical Engineering and Ryan Shelby, a Mechanical Engineering PhD. student, we established CARES — Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability — with the goal to support Native American and other communities in making informed decision about sustainable design solutions.

ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner
Kadi Franson, Nathan Pundt, and Leah Nichols from Oakland California: ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner of and co-winner of the Social and Cultural Integrity Prize Enlarge [+]

CARES works closely with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN), a Native American Nation located near Ukiah, two hours’ drive north of Berkeley, to co-design sustainable housing and community design solutions that are culturally appropriate. Our trans-disciplinary design process encompasses faculty and students from architecture and engineering, and community members working together throughout the cycle of design, construction, and post-occupancy evaluation.

In the search for technologies that could facilitate our design process, we decided to organize an international design challenge for a Living Culture Center that the PPN is interested in building. Our proposal for the design challenge won second prize in the Berkeley Big Ideas competition from the Blum Center for Developing Economies, providing a kick-start to the project. We brought in a distinguished jury from leading design firms and received additional generous support from the College of Environmental Design and the College of Engineering, followed by a contribution from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and from the PPN. These resources allowed us to run a design competition attracting professionals and students from around the world.

Echo of Presence by Elements Architects
Echo of Presence by Elements Architects from Oak Park, Illinois: ParticiPlace2012 2nd Prize winner, Sustainable Engineering Innovation Honorable Mention and Social and Cultural Integrity Honorable Mention Enlarge [+]

Out of 38 registered teams, 17 submitted their design ideas including teams from India, Japan, Spain, Georgia, UK, Dominican Republic, Canada, and the U.S. Three categories of prizes were awarded: the general prize; a Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize, and a Social and Cultural Integrity Prize — each of these acknowledging different design qualities of the submissions. The blind jury, comprised of contemporary Native-American and sustainable design practitioners, as well as community leaders, evaluated the submissions to select the winners. The first prize was awarded to a team of graduate students from the CED that included Gabriel Kaprielian, Marisha Farnsworth, Liz Kee and Jonghoon Im. The second was awarded to Elements Architects, a firm located in the Greater Chicago area; and the third prize was shared by Kengo Sato from Japan and Kadi Franson, Nathan Pundt and Leah Nichols representing a team from Oakland.

ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner
Kengo Sato from Tokyo, Japan: ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner and co-winner of
the Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize
Enlarge [+]
ParticiPlace2012 Honorable Mention
Emily Kwok, Hien Vuong and Gwen Fuertes from San Francisco, California: ParticiPlace2012 Honorable Mention and co-winner of the Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize Enlarge [+]

ParticiPlace2012 allowed the PPN to define their building requirements and discuss a variety of ideas that they can use as they go forward in realizing the building. The Living Culture Center will allow the PPN to practice, preserve, and revive their unique, native-Pomo culture. The proposed designs encourage active social exchange, cultural education, and living cultural practice. Once built, it will create space for PPN citizens to integrate long-standing traditions with contemporary lives.

On a research level the project demonstrates that even under conditions of cultural and geographical distance between designers and place, community members and designers can bridge this gap by using available information and communication technologies. Based on analysis of a variety of data collected throughout the process, my own research showed that international designers who had never visited the site could provide solutions that were as place-appropriate as the solutions provided by those who were situated nearby. Though globalization may have created a chasm between designers and local characteristics of place, this research calls to empower local community members through common technology to help bridge that gap and to enable designers to become intimate with the places that they help to design.

Energy Efficient Japan

A hallmark of the CED program is its relentless commitment to addressing the most critical challenges facing society today with an attention to sustainability, design excellence, community involvement, and technological expertise. CED faculty continually lead the way in promoting these values not only in the classroom but beyond it as well.

No event demanded the application of these principles more than the disaster that occurred March 11, 2011. The most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan caused huge devastation triggering a massive tsunami responsible for meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Along with tremendous rebuilding needs, the country whose lifestyle depended on reliable electricity, was now forced to rethink its energy use.

This became the catalyst for Architecture.Energy.2011, an intensive 4-day workshop, June 23–26, 2011 in Tokyo, developed by CED Professors of Architecture Dana Buntrock and Susan Ubbelohde. Intended as a quick response to the catastrophe with longer-term follow-up, the workshop was designed to introduce advanced concepts of building energy use and occupant comfort through the lens of architectural space and material as a filter for the environment. A subsequent workshop was held in August of 2012 at Berkeley, offering participants knowledge and skills that continue to be applied today.

handbook used in workshop
A page from the handbook used in the 2011 workshop in Japan, produced by Susan Ubbelohde’s practice, Loisos+Ubbelohde. Enlarge [+]

A different way of thinking

Having been involved in architectural research in Japan since the late 1980s, Dana Buntrock has an intimate familiarity with the country’s approach to building design and a strong affiliation with the architectural community there. She reached out to her colleague Susan Ubbelohde, realizing that while Susan and her firm, Loisos+Ubbelohde, had no prior experience in Japan, their leading-edge expertise in technical analysis and energy efficient building practices was essential.

Historically, Japan has placed little emphasis on basic energy conservation approaches, such as insulation, in architecture. Because living and working spaces are typically very small, and households are in the habit of heating only one room at a time, per capita energy use has been relatively low. Energy saving practices that we take for granted in the US — like thermal insulation, day-lighting and energy performance measurement and analysis — are rare in Japan and although a building code related to energy consumption exists, compliance has been voluntary. While Japan places great importance on environmental policy as it concerns greenhouse emissions, there was little relation to efforts to reduce overall energy consumption, especially connected to buildings.

Buntrock and Ubbelohde were not out to champion California energy policy. “We were not interested in suggesting we are better at energy conservation than Japan, but simply that we offered a way of thinking that filled out an area where Japan had not yet developed strengths,” explains Buntrock. Ubbelohde echoes the sentiment, “Japan has a challenge to maintain their current quality of life without nuclear power. Japanese architects now have the opportunity to look at building science as a means of addressing that.”

Light. Heat. Air. Energy.

The June 2011 workshop, funded through a variety of resources that Buntrock and Ubbelohde put together, including money from the UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies and personal resources, was designed to provide tools and ways of approaching energy efficiency for architects already leading the profession in Japan. Seminars on the physics of building performance based on daily themes — Light, Heat, Air, and Supplementary Energy — were followed by an Environmental Measurement segment where participants used devices to discover how metrics relate to experience, and a Design Lab where teams were tasked with re-designing a contemporary building. Energy modelers from Loisos+Ubbelohde and UC Berkeley simulated energy performance and gave feedback to the participants as they worked.

Measuring wall surface temperatures
Participants at the 2011 workshop in Tokyo use infrared sensors to measure wall surface temperatures. Enlarge [+]

The workshops were truly a cross-cultural collaboration, with organizers and leaders from both Japan and the US. Along with Professors Buntrock and Ubbelohde, and L+U principal George Loisos, groups were led by L+U staff Brendon Levitt, Ibone Santiago, Eduardo Pintos — all CED alumni — and Santosh Phillip. CED graduate student participants included David Fannon (M.Arch ’12), Kyle Konis (PhD Arch ’11), and Jeremy Fisher (M.S. Arch ’11). Collaborators in Japan who helped with organization and logistics included Shuzo Murakami, Building Research Institute; Masao Koizumi, Tokyo Metropolitan University; Kengo Kuma, Tokyo University; Nobufusa Yoshizawa, Insitute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation; and Balazs Bognar, Kuma and Associates.

Kyle Konis and Tokyo-based architects
Kyle Konis (UCB PhD ’11), now a professor at the University of southern California, reviews performance data with a team of Tokyo-based architects. Enlarge [+]

Response was overwhelming. All together, 57 individuals participated. Many firms and organizations, under pressure to respond not only to the paradigm shifts in thinking about energy, but also to the more immediate need to rebuild in devastated areas, sent different participants on different days.

Workshop presentation
Mr. Norihisa Kawashima, an architect at Nikken Sekkei, and other Japan workshop participants present the results of four intensive days of redesign to Professor Susan Ubbelohde and George Loisos. Enlarge [+]

The follow-up workshop the next year at Berkeley, funded by a grant from the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, focused on energy efficiency from a policy and application perspective, and concentrated on a more substantial sharing of available tools. Many of the same participants or participant firms took part in the second workshop along with first-time attendees.

Expressing her amazement at the level of engagement of the workshop participants, Susan Ubbelohde remarked, “These were some of the best designers I had ever worked with. Since the workshop, we’ve had a number of architects and engineers from Japan visiting the office and now there is an ongoing dialog that has really benefited the entire office. It’s been great.”

Bill Burke speaking at workshop
Bill Burke explains the use of the artificial sky during a tour of the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, part of the 2012 workshop. Enlarge [+]
Professor Dana Buntrock and Japanese architect Mr. Masatoyo Ogasawara
Professor Dana Buntrock and Japanese architect Mr. Masatoyo Ogasawara, who participated in the 2012 Berkeley Workshop. Enlarge [+]

Making a Difference

While it may be a while before significant results are achieved, participants are beginning to put their experience to use. Norihisa Kawashima, an architect at Nikken Sekkei who came to Berkeley as a visiting scholar and worked with L+U to learn Berkeley-based simulation approaches, is now back at Nikken Sekkei sharing what he has learned.

Partners from the Tokyo-based ADH Architects, designing publicly financed homes in the earthquake region, have been working with L+U to propose upgraded approaches to efficiency. They will work with another workshop attendee, Dr. Masayuki Mae of the University of Tokyo, to do thermal testing after completion.

Not surprisingly, the workshops have also had an impact on the Berkeley student participants and faculty. David Fannon now works as a building scientist and specialist in high-performance design for Syska Hennessy Group in New York. Kyle Konis was moved after meeting young Japanese designers who, though their lives had been dramatically affected by the disasters, were driven to have a positive impact. Konis now teaches sustainability classes at USC and has incorporated his Japan experience into the themes of his teaching.

“There are social implications to energy,” explains Dana Buntrock. “Without electricity thousands of buildings in Japan became at least temporarily uninhabitable because of poor thermal and day-lighting qualities. Beyond reduced reliance on fossil fuels, which Japan now must consider, energy efficiency has larger implications for human comfort. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue working with Japanese colleagues on the energy demands of buildings.”

More information about Architecture.Energy.2011

Celebrating 100 Years of Landscape at Berkeley

California is home to iconic places and canonical landscapes that draw people to the Golden State in search of the American dream. Some are wild or nearly so, like Yosemite, Death Valley, or stretches of the Pacific coast. Others are interspersed with urban settlement, such as oak woodlands of the Sierra foothills, or southern California’s coastal chaparral. Still others form the fabric of the state’s equally well-recognized cities and suburbs.

California’s designed landscapes are no less iconic. Making a radical break from earlier traditions, California’s early landscape architects powerfully shaped American lifestyle ideals that drew people to the state. Framed by wisteria, shingled bungalows offered the opportunity of home ownership. With their sleek patios and biomorphic swimming pools, mid-century modern houses defined the new indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Corporate campuses graced by serene minimalist landscapes attracted pioneering scientists and engineers. Public gardens and plazas, featuring California native plantings, created generous spaces for social interaction.

Beatrix Farrand sitting in her Reef Point Library
Beatrix Farrand sitting in her Reef Point Library. Throughout her professional career she divided her time between creative design and landscape design history. Enlarge [+]

One of the most influential intellectual hubs for this new landscape architecture was the University of California, Berkeley, which began offering degrees in landscape architecture in 1913. Berkeley’s alumni and faculty were leaders in the 20th century’s modernist landscape architecture movements, realized in projects ranging enormously by type and scale. Several were part of Telesis, the influential group of Bay Area progressive architects, landscape architects and city planners who argued for an integrated approach to environmental design.

Cover of Big Fun
An illustrated history of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, written and illustrated by Charles “Chip” Sullivan. Enlarge [+]

In 1959, Berkeley’s landscape architecture faculty joined the new College of Environmental Design. Housed in Wurster Hall with lively and diverse architects and city and regional planners during the social and environmental movements of the 1960s and 70s, the department’s faculty and students highlighted social and cultural factors in landscape architecture, participatory public design and community-based landscape projects, and the nexus between larger-scale landscape design and ecology. The role of landscape architecture as a social design practice, on the one hand, and as a branch of environmental planning, on the other, was increasingly recognized. In 1997, the department officially became Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, dedicated to training students in the art of design, the science of ecology, and the pragmatics of planning practice.

Thomas Church as a landscape student learning surveying
Thomas Church as a landscape student learning surveying, 1922. Enlarge [+]

2013 marks the department’s centennial anniversary. This is cause for celebration, especially when those 100 years have such a rich record of creative accomplishment, design innovation, and social purpose. It is a history to be shared and rejoiced, as well as (in good academic fashion) interrogated and critiqued. The new book, Landscape at Berkeley: The First 100 Years, offers a retrospective on the remarkable history of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, through remembering the pioneering work of its faculty and students.

But a centennial celebration is also an opportunity to take pause, and thoughtfully consider prospects. No academic institution can rest on its laurels. So, what should an academic department, whose historical mission has been to rigorously train landscape architects and environmental planners and to pursue significant research, take as its central orientation for the future?

Robert Royston critiquing a student project
Distinguished alumnus Robert Royston was a lecturer in the department for a time and often participated in design reviews. Here he is critiquing a student project, c. 1964. Enlarge [+]

Berkeley’s department is addressing this question through deliberation, evolution, and radical moves. The faculty spent the 2012–13 year in discussions about strategic directions, while simultaneously building a new research center on resource-efficient communities, and recruiting extraordinary new faculty and students who will help propel the department toward its new goals. Their directions are ambitious, and spring from a recognition that climate change and the imperatives of urban sustainability, adaptation and resilience place their integrated approach to design and ecology at the center of planning for the future of cities and metropolitan regions.

Katelyn Walker presenting Masters Thesis
Katelyn Walker (MLA) presenting her 2013 Masters Thesis — Devil’s Postpile National Monument Campground and Day Use Area Restoration and Redesign Enlarge [+]

In particular, the department seeks to train landscape architects and environmental planners to master the arts, crafts, and sciences of landscape design and ecologically-based design. Students are increasingly expected to integrate their diverse talents to create landscapes that are at once aesthetically compelling and performative. But the department also intends to innovate in six key areas of research, teaching and service:

  • Urban landscape regeneration: The need to retrofit, reuse and restore obsolete or degraded urban landscapes is fundamental to urban sustainability. New methods of project delivery and construction based on new technologies, materials and sensors are critical for understanding the lifecycle, long-term maintenance, external costs, and values/services, of designed landscapes.
  • Landscape infrastructure: Landscape infrastructure, from block to regional scale, is increasingly recognized as a crucial approach to contending with extreme weather events involving flooding and storm surges. Designed estuaries and wetlands, stream embankments, urban infiltration networks and even barrier systems require an ever-stronger integration of ecology and design research.
  • Resource-efficient and healthy urban landscape design: Planning dense, walkable, mixed use urban places that minimize resource use, protect ecosystem services, promote health, and encourage walking and bicycling can reduce the urban ecological footprint. Creating such resource-efficient districts requires thoughtful analysis of density, innovative use of urban forest and green cover resources, strategies to integrate food production, and water/energy efficient street and open space design.
  • Social and environmental justice: Although concerns about justice are deeply embedded in department culture, climate change is apt to exacerbate the vulnerability of disadvantaged populations and increase risks associated with temperature and weather extremes and associated pollution problems. Redesigned urban landscapes as well as environmental hazard planning are important ways to address these heightened risks.
  • Designed landscape performance: The increasing use of landscape strategies to promote urban resilience and resource conservation implies the need to measure how they perform, in both social and ecosystem terms. This will require the development of new models and metrics to sense and track resource utilization, ecosystem service delivery, and social acceptance.
  • Collaborative practice: As urban governments, community organizations, and private firms around the world grapple with the implications of climate change, landscape architecture and environmental planning practitioners will play increasingly central roles — as members of large, multidisciplinary teams that work closely with local stakeholders. Collaborative practice and international collaboration will be central to the success of the field and its practitioners.

As dean of the College of Environmental Design, I am proud of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning’s first 100 years of achievements, inspired by its ambitious goals, and confident that we will witness even greater achievements in the century to come.

Students demonstrating
Students holding a demonstration against the Vietnam War in the courtyard of Wurster Hall, 1968 Enlarge [+]

Photos courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley.

Michael Lin: Inspiring Support

Although Michael Lin graduated from CED with a degree in Architecture, he likes to say that he actually majored in extracurricular activities. And though, like many CED alumni, Lin chose a career path outside of design, his spirited “extracurricular” support of Berkeley and CED is still keeping him quite busy.

Michael Lin with son, James
Michael Lin with son, James Enlarge [+]

Originally attracted to UC Berkeley because of its academic reputation, Lin knew he’d made the correct choice when he first visited the campus and it “just felt right.” He initially enrolled in the College of Letters & Science, but transferred to CED on a whim because it merged his interest in design and liberal arts.

That design talent and Cal spirit combined early to fuel his outside activities when as a student tour guide, he and a few fellow guides decided that the University Visitor Services’ video needed an upgrade. Though now retired, their remake, The Many Voices of Cal, was used in recruiting and sent to all incoming freshmen for over five years. Lin continued to produce videos including one celebrating 2003 Alumnus of the Year Warren Hellman, which piqued Lin’s interest in finance and investing, ultimately leading him to his current career as a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial.

In spite of being employed outside of the design professions, Lin’s design education permeates much of his life and he acknowledges its value for many professions beyond the sphere of architecture, landscape, and planning, “It’s been especially useful in visually communicating and presenting complex information more clearly.” Lin also applies his design training to a variety of personal projects. For example, he created the artwork for the Cal at Sundance alumni networking event — a project in which he’s heavily involved, now going on its third year — at the famed Sundance Film Festival, and for other Cal events as well.

Sundance and Oski posters
Left: Cal at Sundance poster; right: Oski poster Enlarge [+]

Over the years, Lin’s enthusiastic support fueled a history of campus involvement: in addition to his tour guide duties as a student, Lin was a member of the Cal Rally Committee, the ASUC, and co-founder of SEArch — Students for Environmental ARCHitecture.

More recently, he co-chaired UC Berkeley’s tenth reunion campaign committee for the Class of 2001, raising over $340,000 for the university, and currently serves as a reviewer of undergraduate admissions applications.

Michael Lin with reunion class donation check
Michael Lin with reunion class donation check Enlarge [+]

Acknowledging his belief in the crucial role the university plays in shaping the world, Lin is unwavering in promoting the merits of supporting Cal. As he sees it, what one does for oneself alone is fleeting, only lasting for one lifetime, but what you give to an institution has an enduring effect over generations.

And Lin’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. He was awarded the University of California Berkeley Foundation’s Young Bear Award in 2011 for outstanding achievement on a fundraising project and successful outreach to the community or alumni. And in March 2012, he received the Cal Alumni Association’s Bradford S. King Award for Excellence in Service by a Young Alumnus.

Michael Lin with Brad King award
Michael Lin receiving the Bradley S. King Award for Excellence Enlarge [+]

Crediting Dean Wolch with making significant positive headway in providing direction, building support and reaching out to make CED stronger, Lin was naturally honored when she recently asked him to join the Dean’s Advisory Council. He’s excited to help CED continue its trajectory by encouraging engagement and promoting a culture of giving back, and hopes that the Council’s successful efforts might potentially be replicated in other schools within the university.

As a student, Lin was inspired by the independent thinkers that surrounded and mentored him — those engaged in social issues who modeled their lives on their own terms. His advice to students preparing to graduate is to work hard and push forward in a chosen direction, but most importantly to design a uniquely individual path and make time for those things that are meaningful. “We are most energetic and creative when we are inspired and do the things that we love.”