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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Photos courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley.
In a now-neglected book entitled Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964), Christopher Alexander approached design as a question of “goodness of fit” between form and context. I thought about this formulation frequently when I began traveling in 2002 the entire length of the US-Mexico border on both sides, a journey of 4,000 miles. I had the good (or bad) fortune to embark before the US undertook the fortification of the international boundary line and so witnessed the border’s closure, an experience that altered my understanding of both countries.
The US-Mexico borderlands are among the most misunderstood places on earth. The communities along the line are distant from their respective national capitals. They are staunchly independent and composed of many cultures with hybrid loyalties. Nowadays, border states are fast-growing places of teeming contradiction, extremes of wealth and poverty, and vibrant political and cultural change. They are also places of enormous tensions associated with undocumented immigration and drug wars.
Mutual interdependence has been the hallmark of cross-border lives since prehistoric times. After the Spanish conquest, a series of binational “twin cities” sprang up along the line, eventually creating communities of sufficient distinction as to warrant the title of a “third nation,” slotted snugly in the space between the US and Mexico. I came to understand the third nation not as a zone of separation but instead as a connecting membrane. This way of seeing substitutes continuity and coexistence for sovereignty and difference, running counter to conventional wisdom that the border is the place of last resistance against immigrant and terrorist.
In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the international boundary, which was frequently marked by no more than a pile of stones. A second survey in 1892 added over 200 more boundary monuments. But in the 1990s, responding to increased waves of undocumented crossings from Mexico, large fences sprouted in border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez. Following 9/11, the US unilaterally adopted an aggressive program of fortifying the entire line. The new barriers are without historical precedent, and threaten to suffocate the arteries of communication that supply the third nation’s oxygen.
On the US side, the border was transformed into an archipelago of law enforcement agencies dedicated to the apprehension and deportation of undocumented migrants, and supported by private manufacturing, detention and security corporations. On the Mexican side, the federal government’s war against drug cartels resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and may even have consolidated cartel power.
In places, the new Wall is sinuously beautiful as it snakes through desert, but it can hardly be construed as a good fit! Yet the environmental design responses it has provoked are immensely intriguing in their diversity. The Wall provides a canvas for artworks, or becomes an instrument to be played by musicians; and ‘windows’ cut into the Wall reduce cross-border incidents of rock-throwing. Design professionals are directly engaged in building the rising number of official Ports of Entry that establish new portals in the Wall that shuts out Mexico. My CED colleague Ron Rael has designed water, energy and anti-pollution schemes along the Wall’s length. And people invent surprising ways of going over, under, through and around the Wall.
Ultimately, the Wall separating Mexico and the US will come down. Walls always do. The Wall won’t work because the third nation has strong connective tissue that cannot be undone. The third nation is the place where binational lives and values are being created – organically, readily, and without artifice. It is the place of being and becoming between our two nations.
What should be done about the Wall that so rudely interrupts the third nation? The Berlin Wall was torn down virtually overnight, its fragments sold as souvenirs of a calamitous Cold War; and the Great Wall of China was transformed into a global tourist attraction. Left untended, the US-Mexico Wall would collapse under the combined assault of avid recyclers, souvenir hunters, and people offended by its mere existence. Nevertheless, we should preserve sections of the Wall to commemorate that fraught moment in history when the US lost its moral compass.
In this Fall 2012 issue of FRAMEWORKS, I am pleased to offer some important news of the college. First, Deborah Berke, the New York City-based architect widely recognized for her design excellence, scholarly achievement and commitment to moving the practice of architecture forward in innovative ways, has been selected as the first recipient of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design inaugural 2012 Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Professorship and Prize. I could not be more delighted, for Deborah Berke exemplifies everything this prize is meant to celebrate. The excellence of her craft, her creative approach to sustainability, and her willingness to mentor women in the field and share her ideas and expertise make her the perfect person to receive the inaugural Berkeley-Rupp Prize and Professorship.
The Berkeley-Rupp Prize and Professorship, a $100,000 award made possible through a generous bequest to the campus by alumna Sigrid Lorenzen Rupp, is to be awarded biennially to a distinguished practitioner or academic who has made a significant contribution to promoting the advancement of women in the field of architecture, and whose work emphasizes a commitment to sustainability and the community.
Deborah Berke is founder of the New York City-based architecture firm Deborah Berke Partners, and is also an adjunct professor of architectural design at Yale University. Please save the date: Deborah will deliver a public lecture the evening of January 28 at Wurster Hall Gallery at the opening of an exhibit of her work.
Turning to faculty news, over the past three years, generous donors have endowed four professorial chairs, through $1 million gifts matched by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. I am delighted to report that Associate Professor of Architecture C. Greig Crysler has been appointed the Arcus Chair in Gender, Sexuality, and the Built Environment. Named after the Arcus Foundation, a private philanthropic organization founded by Jon Stryker, the chair builds on the work of the Arcus Endowment he established in 2000. Energetically led by Greig, the Endowment has sponsored a rich program including research grants and awards, installations and exhibits, and a visiting scholar-in-residence program.
Greig’s research focuses on the history of architectural theory, and the role of architecture in processes such as nationalism, globalization, and the cultural politics of difference. His books include, Writing Spaces: Discourses of Architecture, Urbanism and the Built Environment, 1960–2000 (2003) and he is co-editor, with Stephen Cairns and Hilde Heynen, of the Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory (2012). Greig, who served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies from 2008–2012, offers courses at the intersection between architecture, ethics and activism.
Lastly, I am happy to report that CED has embarked on an ambitious strategic planning exercise. The College of Environmental Design, founded in 1959, was premised on a shared vision and deep commitments to social responsibility, a place-based approach to design, and allowing students to shape their educational experience. With generous state resources, CED faculty went on to build specific disciplinary strengths and pedagogical models that together became the enduring signature of the college. Fast forward to today, and it is clear things have radically changed. New challenges face cities and regions around the world. Faculty have new interests, intellectual frameworks and methodological tools. Different sorts of careers are open to those with a CED degree. And with less than 11% of UC Berkeley’s revenue coming from state general funds, the financial context of UC Berkeley and hence the college is very different compared to 1959.
With these dynamics in mind, I asked the CED faculty last spring to undertake a strategic plan for the college. The basic charge was to address three fundamental questions: What new societal problems, intellectual arenas, and design challenges should we tackle in the future? How should our pedagogy change to reflect these new directions? And how can we maintain both academic excellence and access to a CED education?
The faculty response was enthusiastic and positive. Together, we are committed to producing a brief, elegant statement of vision and values developed on the basis of input from faculty, alumni, students, and staff. We will also establish a series of concrete, funded initiatives that will move us from vision to implementation. In the process, we aim to invent a college culture and practice for the 21st century.
At first glance, the shimmering, suburban rim of the American metropolis might seem haphazard compared to the tightly organized urbanism of the center city. Nonetheless, all landscapes, once closely examined, present a deliberate logic. Among those seemingly baffling yet actually decipherable suburban scenes are the offices of corporate management.
Pastoral capitalism results from the intersection of three forces: the structure of corporate management; decentralization of American cities; and the dominance of a pastoral aesthetic. These forces convened to produce three interrelated suburban forms: the corporate campus, the corporate estate, and the office park. These landscape types, with their distinct layout of buildings, parking, driveways, and surround, materialized to serve a particular stratum of the corporate hierarchy.
In the 1940s and 1950s, corporations such as AT&T, General Electric, and General Motors devised the corporate campus to valorize the industrial scientist and validate the use of science for profit. The corporate campus became a strategic management tool, attracting scientists and facilitating technological discovery. Modeled on the American university landscape, it contained office and laboratory facilities surrounding a green space or quadrangle, encircled by a drive, and peripheral parking. The corporate campus spearheaded the move of white-collar work out from the city center. It is a genre of corporate building that persists to the present day.
In the wake of corporate campuses, large firms built the corporate estate for top management. Such suburban headquarters evolved through three canonical projects: the 1954 General Foods headquarters, the 1957 Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters, and the definitive 1964 Deere & Company Administrative Center. These sites, and those that followed, testified to the prestige of executive status and acted as a stand-in for the myriad dispersed properties of global corporations. With 200 or more scenically designed acres and a sweeping entrance drive culminating at a central building complex, the sites were broadly appealing. Corporations used the image of suburban headquarters as public relations tools in communicating with employees, local residents, stockholders, competitors, and bankers.
Created by speculative real estate developers in the 1950s, the office park provided a lower cost, flexible alternative to the corporate campus and estate. The office park housed third-tier corporate management, “back office” functions, small local and corporate service businesses, and start-up technology corporations, particularly in a specific version of the office park, the research park. Besides market pressures, office parks appeared because of shifts in the fiscal management of suburbs, new zoning regulations in suburban jurisdictions, and the construction of federally funded transportation corridors. Office parks provided building facilities surrounding by ample parking and framed by a concise scheme of parkways, parking lot berms, and landscape frontages. As the most widespread and large-scale type of suburban corporate landscape, they proved particularly useful to corporations in volatile economic times, as they could easily expand and contract personnel and offices.
Pastoral capitalism restructured the metropolitan landscape of American cities and accounts for well over half the office space in the U.S. Corporate campuses, estates, and office parks became American norms and as companies moved overseas, they replicated these homegrown patterns. Eventually international corporations imitated their American counterparts and occupied places such as Silicon Fens in the United Kingdom, Telecom Valley in Southern France, and the Singapore Science Park. Now, Indian software companies attempt to keep the brainy in Bangalore by building corporate campuses.
Because landscapes of pastoral capitalism are engrained in the fabric of low-density, auto-dependent suburbs, they present an obvious target of re-design as we confront the challenge of a post-peak oil metropolis. Rethinking sprawl might begin most effectively with the forms and uses of corporate campuses, estates, and office parks, especially their vast parking lots, roadways, and bucolic greenspaces. In so doing, they can be transformed into places that are both dense and connected, an essential step in building sustainable metropolitan regions.
The evening was introduced by CED’s new dean, Jennifer Wolch. She informed the audience of CED’s long history, and defined the College’s function as an institution. “(William) Wurster wrote, ‘Our first duty is toward our students, of course, but we have another and very pressing duty. That is our duty to California, as a fast-growing and increasingly urban state, and we must serve her well in creating beauty, preventing disorder, and making the best use and preservation of her natural resources. Hills, water, land, and forests must all be carefully conserved as the structures of man compete for the space they occupy.’”
Professor of Architecture Paul Groth followed Wolch, introducing Dell Upton, professor and chair of UCLA’s Art History Department. Groth commended Upton for his distinguished career and original research and publishing.
Upton’s lecture, titled “Architectural History and the CED Idea,” traced the role of Architectural History in relation to the conception of CED. Upton expounded on Wurster’s idea of CED by saying, “Part of the insider/outsider discourse in architecture is that architectural education should be both integrative and disruptive.”
Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning Mike Tietz brought Sir Peter Hall to the stage. He said, “Peter is probably the preeminent scholar and historian of planning and urbanism perhaps in the world today.”
Sir Peter Hall, Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning who currently teaches at University College, London, continued the enlightening retrospective on CED’s past fifty years with his talk, “Planning Past and Future: Early 21st Century Reflections.”
“I would like to commemorate the college as an example of what a college truly is and should be,” Hall told the crowd, “and that is an assemblage of scholars pursuing their individual lines of research, but in a form of deep exchange of ideas and knowledge. That is what CED was founded to do fifty years ago and so triumphantly continues to do today.”
In a special ceremony, UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer awarded Professor Emeritus of Architecture Sam Davis with The Berkeley Citation, Berkeley’s highest honor to its faculty. The honor is given for distinguished or extraordinary service to the University. The Berkeley Citation remains confidential prior to being awarded, which made for a touching scene as Davis was called to the stage. Breslauer read some of the nomination letters received for Davis. Professor of Architecture Mary Comerio wrote, “His work on housing the homeless demonstrates the importance of social responsibility and ethical professional practice as an example for our college and university.”
The evening concluded with a lovely reception outside in the Wurster Hall Courtyard.
On Saturday, the celebration continued with two engaging panel discussions. Russ Ellis led the first panel of emeriti professors, including Clare Cooper Marcus, Stanley Saitowitz, and Michael Teitz, in a conversation about the historical and philosophical roots of CED’s approach to design and planning education. Harrison Fraker then led a panel of some of our most accomplished alumni, including Ray Kappe, Carol Galante, and Mario Schjetnan, in a discussion of the impacts of CED on the professions.
I think the abiding sense I have at the end of this morning is how we reconcile the CED vision, what this college was founded for 50 years ago, and what it continues to practice, with the changes that occur in the outside world, which have been, as we’ve seen in various presentations, so profound over half a century.
— Sir Peter Hall
The Professors Emeriti Panel, “History and Traditions of Design Activism,” focused on the development of CED as an academic institution and a place for creative endeavor. Professor Emerita Marcus succinctly put it near the end of the panel, “We should be getting people out of Wurster Hall. As teachers, I think we need to get out of this building — sorry to those who currently teach in this building, as I did for most of my life — and get out into the real environment … and teach something different. Be creative in how we teach.”
The second panel, featuring some of our most gifted alumni out in the environmental design fields, was titled “Legacies of Environmental Design Education at CED.” Carol Galante, of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Ray Kappe, founder of the Southern California Institute of Architecture; and Mario Schjetnan, founder of Grupo de Diseño Urbano, discussed how their time at the CED helped them develop the ideas and impulses that led to their success.
“We had one studio in which landscape, planning, and architecture came together to do a project — A Planning Study of Berkeley,” Ray Kappe spoke of his time at Berkeley. “And that was one of my best experiences here. This one (project) was really very, very important to me.”
Sir Peter Hall returned to give the Concluding Remarks for the fall program. He said he had a hard time summing up an incredibly rich set of discussions. He did so marvelously, though, with some final reflections about understanding how differently things were done fifty years ago as compared with today.
“What are we up to in CED?” Hall asked the audience. “What should we be up to? All that I’ve heard this morning tells me, and I’m sure it’s told you, that the essence of what CED is for, is to really understand the relationship between people, nature, and buildings.”
“I think the abiding sense I have at the end of this morning,” Sir Peter Hall said, “is how we reconcile the CED vision, what this college was founded for 50 years ago, and what it continues to practice, with the changes that occur in the outside world, which have been, as we’ve seen in various presentations, so profound over half a century.”
On Sunday, the celebration continued beyond Wurster Hall with expeditions to locations around the East Bay and Napa Valley. Alumni and faculty led tours of their projects that focused on innovative design, affordable housing, environmental planning, historic preservation and other aspects of sustainability.
The Napa tours included visiting the Parduxx Winery, built by Gould Evans | Baum Thornley, Inc. The tour was led by the firm’s principal, Douglas Thornley, and showcased the traditional agricultural building complex plan with a unique ten-sided fermentation facility, that was inspired by the form of traditional round barns.
The other Napa tour visited Opus One Winery, built by Johnson Fain. Principal Scott Johnson led the group through the 70,000 square foot, low-profile structure, exploring the dual role of iconic structure and functioning winery. Johnson highlighted the role of the architecture as an expression of the wine made there.
Among the several engaging East Bay tours was the visit to William Wurster’s Greenwood Common. The tour was led by Waverly Lowell, author of Living Modern: A Biography of Greenwood Common. Participants on this tour learned the history of how the buildings and landscape came to be and toured three of the exceptional houses and gardens.
Another of the other fascinating tours highlighting CED’s influence on East Bay architecture was Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. This tour was led by the building’s designer, Craig W. Hartman, who is a partner at Skidmore, Owens, and Merrill. With a building form based on an inner wooden vessel contained within a veil of glass, the tour showed, the design conveys an inclusive statement of welcome and openness as the community’s symbolic soul.
The other East Bay tours included a trip to Strawberry Creek Park in Berkeley, which was led by Professor Matt Kondolf and Jane Wardani, with commentary from Carole Schemmerling and Roger Leventhal. Members of the CED community also took a boat trip, led by Caltrans Engineer Brian Maroney, to the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island.
A final group visited the Salt Flats in the South Bay. CED Professor and kite photographer Cris Benton, along with microbiologist Wayne Lanier, led a three-mile hike to their favorite spot at the South Bay salt ponds, an unassuming drainage ditch they have dubbed “The Weep.” At the Weep, Cris got out his kite and showed how he captures surprisingly beautiful images of the landscape using the wind and a homemade remote for his camera. Meanwhile, Wayne set up his field microscopes to inspect the amazingly diverse creatures that create the colors and textures we see in Cris’ aerial photos.
The celebration concluded on Sunday night with a reception at The David Brower Center in Downtown Berkeley. The building’s competition-winning design builds upon the inherent richness in the combination of affordable housing, environmental education, and a venue for the intersection of art and ecology. This reception and talk was hosted by Daniel Solomon, Principal at WRT | Solomon E.T.C. Architecture & Urban Design, the firm behind the Brower Center.
From September 25–December 22, 2009, an exhibit curated by Professor Raymond Lifchez with the assistance of Carrie McDade entitled, Environmental Design/A New Modernism: 50th Anniversary of the College of Environmental Design, 1959-2009 graced the Volkmann Reading Room in the Environmental Design Library. The exhibit focuses on seminal moments from 1959 to 2009 in the evolution of the CED founders’ vision, whereby teaching, research, and practice were informed by the social and natural sciences. In recent decades, this vision has come to include the computer sciences. It features original drawings, photographs, documents, books, and artifacts drawn from the Environmental Design Archives, the Environmental Design Library, the Bancroft Library, the University Archives, IURD and CEDR, and private collections.
It was possible for such a humanistic tradition to emerge because those who founded the college held a commitment to an integrated view of education and had a high tolerance for each other’s approaches. With the exception of Catherine Bauer, the founding members were raised locally and rooted in the Bay Area experience: William Wurster had his roots in Stockton , T. J. Kent and Fran Violich grew up in San Francisco, Vernon DeMars in Oakland and Garrett Eckbo in Alameda; after an exposure to East Coast schools all embraced modern architecture’s social agenda. They practiced regionally; several of them worked prominently in the field of low-income housing, others, as founders of Telesis in 1939 and motivated by an appreciation for the Bay Area’s exceptional beauty, reacted against the mindless urban development that accelerated in the decades after WWII. As mentors they pointed out that no matter the size of an individual designer’s contribution, it was possible to act intelligently with an eye on the larger environmental, social and political context.
In the 1960s, the college attracted a large number of faculty members from further afield, especially in the field of urban planning and design. Donald Appleyard, who came from MIT together with Roger Montgomery, who came from Washington University in Saint Louis, both started to offer an interdisciplinary urban design curriculum to graduate students from all three departments.
Urban design as a tie between the three departments became the college’s hallmark and over the last four decades a group of urban designers with roots in design practice shared an interest in research and teaching that led to a normative stance, emphasizing more the prescriptive, “what should be,” and less the descriptive, reflective mode, emphasizing the “what is.” The colleagues I am thinking of include Don Logan, Dan Solomon, Christopher Alexander, Clare Cooper Marcus, and Sam Davis, who taught at Berkeley when I joined in 1976. Allan Jacobs came to Berkeley at about the same time. During Richard Bender’s time as CED Dean, Donlyn Lyndon, Randy Hester, Michael Southworth, Elizabeth Deakin and Linda Jewell joined; Nezar Alsayyad came to the faculty after he completed his PhD with Spiro Kostov; René Davids and Renée Chow, Louise Mozingo and Walter Hood joined during Roger Montgomery’s tenure as Dean. Mark Anderson, Elizabeth MacDonald, Nicholas de Monchaux, Paz Gutierez, Karl Kuhlmann and Ron Rael are the most recent members of the faculty with a dedication to urban design.
Academic groups need jolters. Peter Hall jolted the group saying that increasingly the form of urban regions would need to be studied; Manuel Castells pointed the group towards a major shift in how society uses space. The information age had changed how people interact socially at all levels. Two decades earlier Mel Webber jolted the members of the group with his thesis that local place was growing less important as society was becoming more and more placeless. The polemics of the discussion made students in the simulation laboratory work on a film Webberville versus Applelandia. In one community, the curtains are drawn to keep out the glare as residents communicate with their peers in faraway places; in the other community, the residents erect barricades in the streets to protect against traffic, environmental degradation and for greater social justice.
Not unique to Berkeley, there still exists a healthy tension between those who view material space relative to socioeconomic dimensions and those who view the experience of place as an inspiration for design. It is therefore important to reflect on the power of direct experience, and the power of abstractions as something that education can bridge. If more bridges between the two modes of thinking, planning and design can be made, the college can confidently face the next 50 years.
The Environmental Simulation Laboratory, founded in 1972 by Appleyard, provides such a bridge. Ahead of its time, it was built on the premise that it is possible to bring parts of the city into a laboratory in order to experiment with changes to urban form. Throughout history and across disciplines simulations have been used to forecast conditions that might become reality. The applications of simulations are broad and have grown in engineering, design and planning as well as navigational training, medicine and education. Fundamentally, two types of simulations are possible: existing and future urban conditions can be explained as concepts or as experiences. When computational techniques became available in the 1970s, conceptual simulations received a major boost. A decade later, with the advent of digital image processing, the sensory or perceptional forms of simulations advanced. By now, animations, virtual walks or drives through photorealistic settings have become commonplace. But with such advancements it is important to remember that simulations remain abstractions of reality. What is selected from reality, and what is left out, can significantly influence the outcome of simulations, thus the future form of cities.
Will the simulated world behave in very much the same manner as the real world? The answer to this question is important for urban designers, who use simulations to explore the implications of policy on the form of cities. If response equivalence between simulated and real world experiences cannot be guaranteed, simulations would have no credibility, could be misleading and should not be used in decision making processes. Knowledge about response equivalence falls into the realm of psychology. Kenneth Craik, one of the pioneers in the field of environmental psychology, collaborated with Appleyard in the early years to measure people’s responses to simulated scenes and compare them to responses after an experience of the real world. Answers to the equivalence question involved a large scale validation project sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Residents and nonresidents were randomly selected to tour a suburban environment complete with shopping centers and office parks, followed by the screening of a virtual drive through the same area. Some subjects saw one and not the other, some saw both in the sequence described or vice versa. The experiment concluded that simulations can be surrogates of a real world experience. This meant, ideally, that the simulations should not be presented in static form, but as dynamic animations, produced in a manner that comes close to human experience, moving through space and time. The experiment also acknowledged that subjects who were unfamiliar with the setting reported close to equivalent experiences after the real world tour and after watching a tour of a virtual, simulated world, or vice versa. But for subjects familiar with the real setting, the equivalence of the two experiences was not as strong. For them the real world setting had social meaning that could not readily be simulated. Thus the validation experiment touched upon findings made about the same time, first in geography and later in the field of psychology, claiming that place in cities, neighborhoods and landscapes takes on meaning based upon people’s memory, attachment and dependencies.
The validation project also confirmed a number of earlier theories, first J.J. Gibson’s ecological theory that reminds us of perception’s dynamic process, which operates under constantly changing conditions and frequently in motion over time. As well as Egon Brunswik’s probabilistic theory: The observer builds up a repertoire of probabilities that provides likely conclusions by combining trustworthy clues to give an educated guess about the true nature of a situation or place.
Admittedly, for the everyday user of simulations, perceptional theories would be of limited use, if it were not for the fact that simulations are produced in a highly politicized milieu. Change in cities will always be associated with controversy. Especially when large projects are considered, proponents and opponents rival for public attention, appeal to decision makers and will treat information about change selectively, emphasizing its benefits or detriments depending on who is preparing the case. For an outsider, the credibility gap appears obvious and the difference in the portrayal of the real and the imagined can at times be comical, but for the actors involved the matter is deadly serious, because much can be at stake. Therefore, anybody interested in reducing the credibility gap for the benefit of a more open debate would call for a special commitment among those who produce simulations. Simulations should be representative of the changes that a new project will impose on the conditions that exist and on possible future conditions — ideally, they should consider cumulative change — without exaggerating or diminishing the impacts of change. The modeling should be open to accuracy tests. Realistically, such work could not be expected from proponents or from opponents, but could only be performed by individuals outside the controversy, for example, at research universities.
Modeled after the Berkeley lab, several such laboratories have emerged. For example, in the 1990s the Berkeley laboratory became the model for laboratories at Keio and at Waseda Universities in Tokyo. Here the rationale was developed for exemption from national planning law and introduction of special area planning controls for several Tokyo neighborhoods, including the famous Ginza district; earlier in the 1980s, a new laboratory in New York shaped regulations for Times Square, Television City, the Upper East Side and for West Way. The latest of this type of simulation laboratories was built in 2007 at the Milan Polytechnic with the purpose of examining the insertion of large scale projects into the still largely horizontal cityscape. In these laboratories, simulations are made to support the process of reasoning; modeling turns an abstract idea and transforms it towards the realm of the concrete. Not yet reality, but through simulations urban form and the associated conditions become more understandable. Models allow for greater clarity, and simulations are useful for explaining urban conditions to those who may not otherwise understand the implications of decision-making, such as politicians, community representatives, and the news media — thus the public at large. Simulations alone cannot claim to deliver judgment about good performance, fit or compatibility; the evaluators will make such judgments, but simulations make possible an open, public discussion among evaluators about the magnitude, pace and nature of change, its perceived degree of faithfulness to a recognized tradition — authenticity — or, a conscious break with tradition — a new beginning.
With the advent of Geographic Information Systems, perceptual simulation can be combined with spatially referenced data. For example, the attempt by the San Francisco business community to find sufficient land to accommodate 10 million square feet of additional office space is such an abstraction. The Berkeley Simulation Laboratory has a 30-year tradition to show whether and how that much floor space will fit into what is already there. Many contemporary examples for simulation applications come to mind. In California, as population grows, we need to simulate a type of community that is designed to reduce green house gasses consistent with Senate Bill 375.
Simulation is a bridge between concept and experience. At the CED we are in the process of opening a new bridge to visualize spatial data at the metropolitan scale. We are calling this new type of laboratory a Global Metropolitan Observatory. It originated out of a strategic initiative proposed to the Chancellor when the faculty were asked to brainstorm about the contribution Berkeley could make to solving the most urgent problems of the new millennium. Our response was a study center with the focus on sustainable metropolitan form. The new observatory will continue Berkeley’s tradition. It speaks to the strength of an educational tradition, when it is carried on by others, when it evolves and when it resonates in professional cultures different from those places where it originated.
I wanted it to look like a ruin that no regent would like.… It’s absolutey unfinished, uncouth, and brilliantly strong.… The Ark, for instance, is a ripe building; it has been lived in; it’s been used; it’s been beaten up.… It’s arrived. Our building will take twenty years to arrive.
— William Wilson Wurster, 1964 Oral History in the Bancroft Library
This history was written in 1984 when the twenty years Wurster had given the building to arrive had passed, leaving it lived in, used, and beaten up. Somewhat later it was found seismically unsafe, a verdict that was not the fault of the architects or builders who had complied with the codes, but because changing standards had made the codes themselves inadequate. The seismic retrofit that followed took three years and altered the interior, mainly by increasing the shear walls on the ground floor and enabling a welcome remodeling of the library.
So the building had a second coming. But my task here is not to assess its re-arrival. The intention of this article is the same now as it was originally: to answer the basic questions about the origins of the college and how it was named and to describe the programming and the design process of the building. These issues were important because this was not just another college on the UC Berkeley campus; it was the world’s first educational institution to be dedicated to the study of environmental design.
The motivation for the college evolved during the 1930s and the early 1940s. This tumultuous period brought together professionals in the design and planning fields in unaccustomed ways to consider strategies, which had previously appeared to have no future, for a future with an apparently limitless horizon. One example of this kind of collaboration was the Farm Security Administration, a Depression-born federal agency with a regional office in San Francisco where young architects, landscape architects, and planners designed new communities for California’s migrant farm workers. Vernon DeMars was among the architects; he later participated in the design of Wurster Hall.
In the fall of 1939, a group of San Francisco architects, landscape architects, and city planners formed a new organization called Telesis. According to Fran Violich, a founding member who later had the first joint appointments in the faculty of Landscape Architecture and City and Regional Planning in the College of Environmental Design, Telesis members believed in “the use of a comprehensive, planned approach to environmental development, the application of social criteria to solve social problems, and team efforts of all professions that have a bearing on the total environment.”
As the organization expanded to include lawyers, artists, photographers, civic leaders, and other concerned citizens, it inspired a similar organization in Los Angeles with the same name. Through the fourteen years of the formal existence of Telesis the membership actively applied its philosophy to planning and development issues confronting the metropolitan area around the San Francisco Bay. Following World War II, the group’s members were absorbed into the mainstream of professional practice. Some of them joined University of California faculties.
If the concept of environmental design took shape collectively over a period of time, the idea of a college dedicated to the concept came, mainly, from William Wurster. By his own account, he had it in mind before coming to Berkeley as Dean of the School of Architecture in 1950. The idea of having one administrative entity for professional fields devoted to the physical environment made good sense to Wurster. His professional and personal life had been laced with close associations with landscape architects and city planners as well as members of his own profession of architecture. Although Wurster had not been active in Telesis, he took what its members did seriously. He also began to take seriously Catherine Bauer, a nationally known housing expert, who was a visiting lecturer in the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. In 1940 they were married and later went to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Bill spent 1942–1943 as a fellow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture. While there he persuaded the members of the architecture faculty and the institute’s administration to recognize the School’s city planning division as a full-fledged, co-equal department. The new entity was named the School of Architecture and Planning.
Meanwhile, back in Berkeley, studies focused on establishing a department of city planning in the 1930s and 1940s finally bore fruit in the postwar decade. Established in 1948 with T. J. Kent, Jr. as chairman, the department was housed in one of the campus … temporary wartime buildings. A year later, when Warren Perry resigned as Dean of the School of Architecture, Wurster succeeded him. Kent and Wurster were good friends and shared an interest in the interrelationship of their respective fields. Their collaboration was crucial to the founding of the College of Environmental Design.
No written record of Wurster’s first ideas for the college exists. His statement describing the college, which appeared in the booklet announcing the programs for the fall and spring semesters of 1960–1961, was written more than a decade after he became dean of what would be the college’s largest department:
Each of these departments (City and Regional Planning, Landscape Architecture, and Architecture) developed independently (on the Berkeley campus.) But all three of them, with their many distinguished graduates now scattered all over the world, have played important roles in one of the great revolutions of our time: the effort to integrate practical needs with science, technology, and art in the design and organization of the man-made environment, an international movement to which California has made important contributions in all three realms.… As the responsibilities in each professional field have broadened and deepened, the need for mutual contact and understanding has become more apparent.
Although the concept of the college implied an interdisciplinary structure, the intention was not to train an all-purpose professional who would address the movement as a whole. Rather the task was to strengthen the departments and the liaisons between them through joint appointments and interdisciplinary courses. The students would then have the opportunity to mix and match studies in their chosen areas while being part of the whole picture in the natural way that physical proximity implied.
It took a while for this picture to be composed. Jack Kent recalled that after Bill and Catherine returned to Berkeley in 1950, where she was a lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning, a luncheon group formed to discuss issues of the built environment. The group met once a week and also went on field trips led by members from the different fields. Kent observed that, “We got together in the best of all possible ways because no one was pushing a special point of view.”
Some members of this informal group also belonged to the City and Regional Planning department’s Faculty Group, which was responsible for governing the department during its formative years.
Soon after assuming his academic duties in Berkeley, Wurster wrote to President Gordon Sproul suggesting that the departments of Architecture, City and Regional Planning, and Landscape Architecture be linked together. Sproul responded by writing to Jack Kent, “… wondering if we really wanted to do this thing since everything was going so well.” Kent then suggested forming a committee composed of members of the three departments and called by the acronym ACPLA. The committee met regularly for four years, and although there was considerable interest in grouping the departments in a new college, no one took responsibility for formulating a definite proposal.
When Kent returned from his first sabbatical in 1955 and found the issue of the college unchanged, he assembled background reports from the different departments and created a proposal. He also drafted legislation for the departments and the academic senate to consider. During his chairmanship of the ACPLA in 1956–57, the committee produced a proposal to establish a College of Environmental Design, which was submitted to the chancellor’s review committee in April 1957. The proposal had reports from the three departments that covered the histories of the fields and the work of the university in them and evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed college.
Architecture was the only department that noted no disadvantage serious enough to mention in the report. It was not only the oldest department, having been in existence since 1906 and designated a college in 1957, but also had by far the largest number of students and faculty. During his deanship Wurster had joined the undergraduate program to the graduate School of Architecture to create a college. To combine the departments of City and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture with Architecture in some mutually acceptable manner was a reasonable strategy for gaining university recognition for the design professions as a whole. Still, the other departments were wary of having their own distinctive fields subordinated to the older and larger field of architecture.
All three departments had ties to other disciplines in the university. Landscape Architecture, housed in Agriculture, was also related to Forestry and Conservation. City Planning had two main branches, physical planning and public administration. The social science fields were also related. Since the academic backgrounds of more than half of the eight faculty members were unrelated to design fields, some of them were concerned that their joining the design fields would be taken as a move away from their fields of interest.
The issue of the new college’s name was not the simple proposition that we might suppose. While the report from Architecture did not state the name, the reports from the other departments made a point of mentioning it. Landscape Architecture proposed that a name be chosen, “which is indicative of the common goal and function of the three departments rather than of the departments themselves.” The City and Regional Planning department members expressed the hope that the new building would be designated the Environmental Design building from the outset and not be named for the department that happened to have the largest faculty and student body. “We are aware that this issue may not be considered by some to be a matter of major importance, but we think it essential that the equal status of the three professional fields be clearly expressed.”
In fact, Jack Kent had proposed the name for the college because the term, “environmental design” had often been used by the Telesis group and was considered appropriate by its former members. However, it had no historically accrued values for the majority. Within the College of Architecture, the term provoked hoots and snickers. It sparked such indignation among professionals in the outside world that Wurster felt constrained to set up what he called a “professional committee” to meet with him and the faculty about matters of mutual concern. When it turned out that what the committee considered to be of mutual concern was mainly the organization of the new college, Wurster disbanded the committee. Even so, at a confrontational meeting at the Clarement Hotel in Berkeley, members of the profession voiced their disapproval of the name along with other aspects of the proposed college.
In the beginning, Wurster and his wife, Catherine, had not favored the name because they thought it was pretentious. But when the uproar failed to produce another name, “environmental design” stood by default.
This hurdle out of the way, the legislation worked its way through the various committees in 1956–57 and was approved by the Academic Senate in 1959. The issue of the name surfaced for the last time with proposals for the new building. A faculty memo from Wurster dated October 12, 1961 was headed, “Name, if any, for the Environment Design Building.” In it, Wurster discussed the names of two possibilities, John Galen Howard and Bernard Maybeck — both architects — had been suggested to him. No names relating to the other disciplines were mentioned. The memo closed with the statement, “This action should never be a hasty one, and it is proposed to let the matter go as it is with no man’s name, but these words might start the discussion.” In hindsight, Wurster’s failure to muster another name for the new building seems prophetic since when he retired, in 1963, the building was named for himself and Catherine.
To design an educational environment for professions whose work was designing the physical environment was not a typical architectural challenge. Wurster approached it with a zeal that came from not only from the opportunity at hand, but also from the memory of a project that he had orchestrated at MIT during his deanship there. Lawrence Anderson and Vernon DeMars, a visiting professor, directed a student research project that led to a faculty housing project sponsored by the New England Life Insurance Company. When the university and the company asked Wurster to advise them on the selection of architects for the project, he told them that he had hired the brightest and most capable architects for his faculty at MIT.
As a result, Vernon DeMars, Robert Kennedy, Carl Koch, Ralph Rapson, and William Brown, Jr. were hired to design the building, a twelve-story apartment building for MIT faculty, now known as 100 Memorial Drive.
Wurster then left his brightest and best alone to create the design. However, as DeMars recalled, since no one was put in charge, no one took the lead for fear of being judged a prima donna. After some thundering on Wurster’s part the team got to work, but consensus came slowly. Finally, Rapson was delegated to draw up the final scheme. The result was a widely published building design that won several awards. The halting beginnings were forgotten, and Wurster was convinced that a team of un-like-minded architects could produce a brilliant design.
In the late 1950s, when the question of selecting architects for the new college building on the Berkeley campus arose, DeMars had become chairman of the architecture faculty and had opened an office with Donald Reay in Berkeley. They had joined Donald Hardison in a competition for the new student union complex, which they won.
DeMars was Wurster’s first choice for the team of architects being assembled to design the College of Environmental Design. Two other strong candidates on the faculty were Donald Olsen and Joseph Esherick. From Wurster’s point of view the important thing was that the three candidates had totally different points of view. A distrust of unanimity led him to constantly stress variety in the faculty. He said he wanted, “strong people, each with a different slant.… The school should present a rough place with many cracks.” DeMars conjectured that he and Esherick were chosen for their different degrees of humanistic leanings while Olsen represented a formalist perspective that would correct any overly romantic tendencies.
In the beginning, Donald Hardison was on the team because, as Esherick put it, “Bill didn’t think that any of us could do the construction drawings.”
According to Clark Kerr, UC Berkeley’s first chancellor who became president of the entire university in 1958, the administration was reluctant to approve the appointment of three faculty members for the design of this major building. Design by committee had inherent difficulties in achieving consensus. These difficulties might be compounded because the architects would not have the useful immunity to inside pressures that outsiders enjoyed. But Wurster countered, successfully, that not hiring the faculty team would be a vote of no confidence in the level of skills in the department at the very moment when they could be used most appropriately. Besides, this was a unique opportunity.
Kerr appointed a faculty building committee to advise the architects on departmental needs. Members of the committee were: Francis Violich from City and Regional Planning, George Simonds from Architecture, H. L. Vaughan and Robert Tetlow from Landscape Architecture, Lucretia Nelson from Decorative Arts, and Helen Worden, who represented the university library system. Louis Demonte, the campus architect, served as the liaison between the faculty committee, the team of architects, and Elmo Morgan, the university vice president who was the official client for the building. Serving as both an administrator and an architect, DeMonte ran what he described as a three-ring circus.
The 137,972 square feet allocated for the building was apportioned to the departments according to the needs stated in their programs, which were the result of intense bargaining within the departments and among the faculty representatives. Location issues had to be resolved within the context of decisions about the site of the building and its place in the overall campus planning process. In the 1956 Long Range Development Plan, major new campus developments such as the student center, the art museum, and dormitory complexes were located on the south side of the campus where few large or important buildings were located and more open space existed than on the north side. The consolidation of campus precincts devoted to related disciplines was a priority. Music, art, and anthropology were located in the southeast corner of the campus where a nearby site was under consideration for the art museum. During his participation in the Campus Planning Committee, Wurster had come to believe that the new college would benefit from proximity to the humanistic disciplines of anthropology, art, and music. More importantly, a site large enough for the new building would exist if College Avenue, which ran through the campus, was closed and some miscellaneous structures and tennis courts were removed. By the time the architects were selected, the south site had been determined.
To preserve the open space that gave the campus its park-like setting, the Long Range Development Plan also stated that buildings should cover only twenty-five per cent of the land. Since this decision made tall buildings or tower elements inevitable, the skyline and the location of these elements became important issues. A large building that would mark a gateway to the newly important southeast campus precinct was a logical decision.
Wurster favored a tower element for the new building. Another important feature that he and others favored was a courtyard. A most cherished feature of the “Ark” (as the old Architecture building was called) was the brick-paved court where social and ceremonial events took place. The new building’s court was meant to express continuity with the old setting, to be the symbolic heart of the new college building.
The team of architects and the faculty building committee went to work in the fall of 1958. Those who participated recalled that the two years of bi-weekly meetings resembled the deliberations of the representatives of clans who had agreed to occupy the same turf, but wanted the internal boundaries made clear. The foremost problem was allocating space for the departmental components. The architecture department and the library wanted locations on the north side of the building, the former to have a favorable exposure for the studios, the latter to avoid the damaging effects of sunlight on the books and other printed matter. The landscape architecture representatives also favored the north side, because an adjacent open space could be used for demonstration gardens. This idea was abandoned when the Melvin Calvin Building was sited in the area.
The location of the department offices was a critical issue. Although grouping the offices together expressed the spirit of the college, the departments wanted their faculty offices and support spaces located nearby. The different sizes of the departments resulted in a plan which, even though it worked in some ways, was unacceptable to the smaller departments because it had them all be lined up facing the architecture office.
Lengthy committee meetings gradually produced a workable plan. The most vocal committee members, Lucretia Nelson from the Decorative Arts department and Helen Worden from the library, won acceptance for their plan. Other plans were never formulated. Issues of department identities came up so often that Esterick suggested that the college issue department T-shirts.
Consensus among the architecture faculty members was also elusive. DeMars recalled that, as with the MIT project, it was not clear to the members of the design team whether one of them should take the initiative in the design process or that they should participate equally. Although Wurster was aware that the three architects had very different perspectives, he did not see this as an impediment to production. “At least,” he affirmed, “they can work at cross-purposes together.” While Wurster did not participate formally in the design deliberations, he was the eminence grise whose wishes were taken seriously.
Esherick estimated that the two years of meetings about the building program had produced about twenty schemes. Not all were developed in any detail. However, an early scheme drawn up by Vernon DeMars in September 1959 showed the building as a set of differently scaled and articulated blocks around a generous court. But since this one and others proposed by DeMars exceeded the site boundaries, they were not successful.
DeMars’ duties as chair of the department consumed so much of his time that Donald Olsen and Joe Esherick assumed the task of creating a plan. Esherick recalled that the meetings had mostly produced frustration for the architects over how to mesh the parts of the program together. “ The way I saw it,” he said, “was that we each had different perceptions, and our means of expressing them were so different that we ended up talking about entirely different things.… So I tried to develop a common language with Don Olsen so that he and I would know what we were talking about. Don and I saw the planning issues as fairly concrete in terms of getting people through the campus and of the proper orientation of the elements of the building. Vernon tended to take a more formal or picturesque view.”
In the next series of schematic plans, Olsen and Esherick focused on the issues of circulation and orientation. One scheme had the studios, shops, and service areas in a big square tower element. This concept worked well because it provided a core for the elevator and stairs with considerable space around it. A large seminar room with a balcony occupied the top floor, an arrangement that was especially dear to Francis Violich because he thought that the designers and planners should have access to a lofty view of the building’s near and far surroundings. “But,” Esherick observed, “in addition to not working in other ways, it was a kind of dumb, square tower. Bill said square towers were ugly, so that was the end of that.”
Although progress was slow, major pieces of the plan were coming together. The departmental office locations on the second floor were settled. City and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture were on the north side along with the library. The dean’s office had a central location immediately accessible to the stairway and the entrance to the court. Architecture was next door in the second most obvious location, and Decorative Arts was down the hall to the south. Classrooms and studios were near their department offices except for the Architecture studios, which were stacked up in a tower on the north side to get the proper exposure. The sculpture studios, which had migrated to the new building along with the Decorative Arts department, occupied the south side of the building. The last major space, an auditorium to seat about 200 people, was still not anchored. Wrestling with pieces of the puzzle, Don Olsen had finally made a schematic plan that was acceptable to everyone involved.
Two elements which DeMars had tried to incorporate from the beginning of the planning period were still missing. The first was a grand, two-story stair hall, which he thought would be conducive to sociability because its location would bring faculty and students together. He also pressed for a landscaped atrium near the stair hall to enhance the meeting place. In retrospect, he concluded that his colleagues rejected these ideas because they were too romantic for the times. “The more I tried to push these ideas, the meaner and meaner the stair hall and atrium got.” There was also the issue of brick paving for the court. “We could have afforded brick.” he said, “The court of the old Ark was paved in brick. But beyond being considered sentimental, it was judged to be incompatible with concrete. So we have honest asphalt.”
With the approval of the final plan in 1960, design development could proceed. Since Donald Hardison had resigned from the team, it was necessary to find another office for the production of the working drawings.
Although the university had previously questioned whether small offices could carry out this task, the advantages in terms of continuity and rapid progress, of having the work done in the office of one of the team principals resulted in Esherick’s office being chosen to take charge. Esherick then organized a staff composed of George Homsey as the project manager and Richard Peters, Chester Bowles, D’mitri Vedensky, and Victor Torres. Weekly meetings were held with all the architects, but the design process took place largely under Esherick’s direction.
The building began to take shape with the decision to construct it of concrete inside and out, which reflected both the economics and the aesthetics of the times. However, as often happens within the subculture of architecture, the architects were also reacting to the contemporaneous design of another building, the Yale School of Architecture by Paul Rudolph, which had prompted Esherick to observe that, “You couldn’t even go to the men’s room without having a spatial experience.”
Wurster abhorred avant-garde design, “I want you to design a ruin,” he said, pounding the table for emphasis. His idea of a ruin was a building that had achieved timelessness through freedom from stylistic quirks, and although Wurster Hall has been labeled a Brutalist design, its architects have asserted that they were preoccupied with consistency in the use of materials and forms, not the Brutalist aesthetic. Their rigorous approach was akin to Louis Kahn’s idea of how a building might “become what it wanted to be. Unfortunately,” Esherick recalled, “we didn’t have the money that Kahn had for the Salk Center in La Jolla to do fantastically controlled concrete work. And the technology of color control in concrete was not what it is today. We were dealing with an unprecedented amount of concrete, and we had to have all the cement and the aggregates come from the one place; it is just not good to change the integrity of the structure.”
Isadore Thompson, the engineer for the building’s structural system, advised the architects on the use of both pre-cast and poured concrete. The pre-cast used some light-weight aggregate and was used in the sunshades and main exterior walls. Two-story pre-cast sections were lifted in place while the concrete was poured for the floors, the roof, both ends of the tower, and the east end of the south wing. The elevator core and stair towers were poured and became the sheer elements for seismic bracing. Since this was the largest building yet constructed that used pre-cast elements, the achievement of dimensional control above three stories was problematic. Yet this aspect of the structure was successful while steam-curing of the concrete, which was used to save time and reduce the number and expense of the forms, resulted in a crazed surface that had an unattractive appearance when wet.
As for the interior, Esherick acknowledged that, “We were thinking, probably unfairly, that this would be a building for architects and forgetting that a lot of other people would be in it. We also assumed that it would be inappropriate to design something with specialized environments because people’s attitudes and ideas change. So we just tried to deal with basic facts such as sun and wind. I regret that we didn’t have the money to make the library more special and that at the last minute we had to make the auditorium a deduct-alternate, which meant that it was never scheduled for construction.”
One aspect of the design that has been generally misinterpreted was the exposure of the ductwork and other mechanical equipment. Far from being an expression of style, it was a means of avoiding the tunnel-like corridors that a dropped ceiling concealing the equipment would have produced; it also provided high ceilings in the rooms. Esherick designed parts of the system. “Getting the ductwork neat and orderly was something I did because the mechanical engineers didn’t have any special feeling for it. If the ducts ran down the corridors, we could put the stringy stuff in the rooms. In the studios the main distribution is in the center so you have the feeling of a higher space around the periphery.” Having the mechanical equipment exposed also made maintenance easier and was useful in teaching.
When new, the mountain of concrete was crisp and, for the most part, well received as unquestionably contemporary. Wurster got his wish — no regent liked the building. In fact, Donald McLaughlin, who had served on the Campus Planning Committee with Wurster, remarked, apropos of the elegant renderings D’mitri Vedensky had made, “They should not have disguised that building with trees.”
Clark Kerr, then the university president, was shocked by the relentless repetition of concrete forms. Much earlier, during the design development phase, Louis DeMonte recalled teasing Esherick by asking him, apropos of the sunshades, if it took that much concrete to cast a shadow. At first, DeMars also questioned the use of just one material, but later he concluded that the concrete horizontals gave the building a sculptural unity consistent with its character. Esherick’s chief regret was the the university judged the building to be maintenance-free. Weak points such as the caulking were never checked or re-done when necessary.
If, as many think, the building did not age gracefully, there is no single cause. It was certainly appreciated for its capacity to withstand neglect and intensive use. While it took a beating, it kept the uncouth character that Wurster so admired; it did not become comfy like the lovable old Ark. As for fashion, the pendulum moved to the opposite side, and nostalgia for the days of rich materials and ornament prevailed.
As Wurster Hall weathered without mellowing, it reflected Wurster’s opinion that a school should be a rough place with many cracks in it. Perpetually unfinished, Wurster Hall was an open ended and provocative environment for teaching and questioning. As J. B. Jackson wrote:
Where beauty has to be sought out and extracted from a reluctant environment, the arts often seem to flourish best; wherever it exists in profusion and variety it is likely to be accepted as a condition of daily existence, a kind of birthright calling for no special acknowledgment.
— American Space, 1972
Extracting beauty from the environment is what the College of Environmental Design is about.
Anniversaries prompt us to reflect on our past, but they also have a way of enticing us to think about our future. Arriving in time for CED’s 50th anniversary allowed me, as the new dean, to become quickly immersed in the college’s history and people, and begin to build on our legacy and traditions to sketch out future directions. Big plans are now underway, with respect to academic programs, research, and enhancements to Wurster Hall to better serve our evolving needs. Let me share them with you.
— Jennifer Wolch
Sustainable Urbanism and Design. More and more of our students clamor for the intellectual understanding and technical tools needed to build new or transform existing cities and buildings to achieve critical sustainability goals. In response, the College is designing a new college-wide undergraduate major on Sustainable Urbanism and Design that we hope will serve students interested in building science, resource efficient landscape architecture and design, and sustainable city planning.
Summer [In]stitutes. CED has launched the Berkeley Summer [In]stitutes for post-baccalaureate students interested in environmental design careers. During three [In]stitutes — [In]Arch, [In]City, and [In]Land — over 200 students will convene at Wurster for 2 months of intensive study, emerging at the end of the experience with an understanding of the fields and a real live portfolio for graduate school.
Wurster Design & Innovation Studio. With colleagues from the Haas School of Business, and others across campus, CED has established a pilot studio on the 5th Floor of Wurster Hall, to jump-start a program in “Design Thinking” — the collaborative, interdisciplinary practice that many of us are familiar with, and that is increasingly vital to crafting new business concepts, innovative products, social ventures, communications strategies, and urban places in a rapidly changing world. Work started this Spring semester, with faculty and students creating a space for planning, sketching, project reviews, and coaching. We plan to offer short-courses, encourage start-up ventures and green product development, and make the Wurster Design & Innovation Studio accessible to collaborative projects.
Cool New Minors. In response to the fact that courses on geographic information systems, remote sensing, spatial statistics, and related technologies are scattered across campus, we have collaborated with several schools and colleges to develop a new undergraduate minor and graduate emphasis in Geospatial Data, Science and Technology. This will allow us to meet the burgeoning demand for GIS, and permit faculty to teach more advanced courses. And, in partnership with others on campus — in materials science, biotechnology, and elsewhere — we plan to establish a new undergraduate minor in Biomimetic Design, with guidance from the Biomimicry Institute, whose founder Janine Benyus was just named one of the world’s 27 most influential designers. This minor will introduce students to the way in which understanding natural process, materials, and architectures can be harnessed to revolutionize the way we construct buildings and the built environment.
Green Design and Finance. With the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the Haas School of Business, CED is creating executive education programs on financing green design for real estate finance, construction, engineering, and environmental design industry professionals. The emphasis will be on how real estate finance firms can make the business case for incorporating energy efficient designs, especially for retrofits.
Two new research centers have been established over the past year. The Center for a Sustainable California, led by Professor Robert Cervero, is initially focusing on the implications of California’s landmark law SB 375. This legislation requires localities to create land-use and transportation plans that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Center seeks to understand how local governments are responding to this challenge. The Center for Resource Efficient Cities, led by Professor Louise Mozingo, is a partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and funded by the California Energy Commission. The Center conducts research on how to design urban communities to reduce automobile trips, cool the urban heat island, infiltrate urban runoff and recharge groundwater.
Wurster Hall Updates
Wurster Hall got an anniversary present: a renovated CED Auditorium. Building on Stanley Saitowitz’ original design, the Auditorium was newly carpeted and got a fresh coat of paint, advanced audiovisual equipment was installed along with new lights, and the room was furnished with comfortable new tablet arm chairs. Moreover, other classroom space got some great upgrades, especially Room 101, which was remodeled tip-to-toe, due to the generosity of a CED donor. Maintaining Wurster’s industrial feel, the classroom boasts a wall-mounted display of building materials, high-technology computer technology, bright new seating, and energy-efficient globe lighting. Our fabrication facility — designed by James Prestini many years ago — is also being redesigned with the help of EHDD Architecture and Anderson and Anderson Architecture, to integrate the CAD/CAM equipment that is now so critical to the ability of our students to learn digital design and advanced fabrication techniques. And lastly, we are creating the first permanent exhibit space for the college — a 2,200 square foot space on the first floor, where we can have major exhibits, installations, and ongoing student juries. Fougeron Architecture has done the preliminary design. So look out for an invitation to the opening of the CED Gallery!
It is especially gratifying to me, in my first year as dean, to have met so many of our alumni and supporters. I commend you for your regular attendance at events, generous support of the college and quick response to our requests. Like you, I am amazed at the energy, purpose, and sheer brilliance of our students. I am also deeply impressed by the commitment of my faculty colleagues to their teaching and research and continually heartened by the expertise, creativity, and loyalty of the CED staff. We are all committed to the same purpose — the welfare of CED and its ideals, and to the greater good of public education in California.