At the culmination of four years study and two masters degrees — through which I had the privilege to learn from some of the best minds in our field — I was frustrated. The practical difficulty of coming to terms with the vast existential challenges of our era, many of which may come to challenge our cultural survival, often pushes design to opt for myopic, more easily marketed, or unrealistic solutions. My thinking is preoccupied with the reality of accelerating inequality, rampant environmental injustice, and design stasis in the face of climate change that demands tactical adaptation.
In the Spring 2014 Advanced Project Design Studio I was fortunate to benefit from the wise mentorship of Professor David Meyer, who gave me free reign to explore the potentials of our practice in a tradition of art through rigor. The result was simultaneously a design project, a study through painting, and perhaps, humbly, poetic.
Landscape architecture must help our communities confront the coming challenges of our era with ever decreasing resources. Respect, restraint, and honesty should be valued above the panacea solutionism which has been a trend of practice in recent years. The 16th Street Station studio project addresses a site in a neglected corner of poverty-stricken West Oakland. Here, disenfranchised communities are being displaced to accommodate a growing high income workforce while sea level rise and particulate pollution disproportionately affect the same neighborhoods. An abandoned and collapsing historic (1912) Beaux Arts train station sits in an empty field upon toxic bay fill, aside one of the largest freeways in the country (I-80). How can Oakland remediate this building, declared too expensive to repair, while also improving air quality in heavily impacted neighborhoods, and creating a park that pays homage to this grand building? Minimalism and a preference for maintenance before formal design strategies, guides the project.
Currently, the existing site is guarded 24/7 by a city funded private security guard. The project inverts this defensive approach and instead proposes that a caretaker live on site, acting as an advocate for the landscape. The site is thus maintained in an early French agrarian tradition of productive forests, but is wholly modern in its planting approach and intents.
The project seeks to ameliorate the major environmental and social challenges to West Oakland. Sustainability is found in the mitigation of particulate pollution, phytoremediation of the soil, and the preclusion of scheduled high-end development which would irreparably change neighborhood character. The plan acknowledges demonstrable shifts in the landscape over time, with a drainage plan that assumes an eventual marshland landscape where mature trees become rampikes and a living clock for a community threatened by rising tides. The plan encourages community participation with elements constructed by local craftspeople using materials found on site.
The 16th Street Station proposed design has been well-received and hopefully contributes to the expansion of the perceived limits of our practice. I was honored to receive recognition from the American Society of Landscape Architects with an Honor Award in General Design, 2014. I remain indebted to the faculty at the CED who challenged me to expand the limits of my practice and encouraged me to remain true to the larger philosophies I hold as a designer.
The Dean’s Advisory Council — an evolution of the CED Alumni (CEDA) board of directors which had served the college since 1990 — has grown to a diverse group of 26 alumni and friends who act as close advisors to the dean and ambassadors of the college.
“I appreciate CED’s focus on designing an integrated educational experience that acknowledges the critically important challenges associated with shaping the environment, whether through physical or policy means, as the world becomes ever smaller. I am honored to be part of the Dean’s Advisory Committee and am happy to support the work at CED through this involvement.”
— Lydia Tan, B.Arch ’83
Senior Vice President, Development for the Western U.S., Bentall Kennedy
Members of the Dean’s Advisory Council — which include such notable alumni as San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell, Johnson Fain founders Scott Johnson and William Fain, SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, Walt Disney Company Director of Health Management Barbara Wachsman, and SWA Group Chairman John Wong — represent a range of professions and geographies and comprise not only graduates from the three departments within CED, but also notable leaders from outside the college. The Council was originally chaired by Bob Lalanne and the current chair is Sylvia Kwan. Membership in the Dean’s Advisory Council is by invitation of the dean of the college.
While Advisory Council members pledge an annual contribution to the CED Annual Fund during their three-year term of service, their greater impact comes from bringing their professional expertise to help CED leadership shape activities, programs, and facility development; and inspiring others in the CED family to make contributions in support of these endeavors.
Advisory Council members generously give their time and talent, often going above and beyond, with significant in-kind and pro-bono support to build the CED community, help students, and aid the dean in making improvements to Wurster Hall. Maintaining and nurturing the CED community is essential to the prosperity of the college. Members in New York and Los Angeles go out of their way to coordinate or host both intimate events and large-scale programs, allowing alumni outside the Bay Area to network and continue their relationship with CED.
“The Dean’s Advisory Council is a tremendous way for me to remain connected to Berkeley — important both personally and professionally as a way to keep Disney on the cutting edge of architecture, urban/environmental planning. Having direct exposure to Dean Wolch and other Cal faculty is an absolute dream and allows me to remain up to date about Cal and my professional community. We love to hire Wurster grads at Disney and the Council is a great way to stay informed about what that next generation’s values and interests are.”
— Barbara Wachsman, M.C.P. ’83
Director of Health Management, The Walt Disney Company
Providing professional internships within their firms and supporting internship programs is another endeavor where Council members are an invaluable resource. Internships programs, such as CED’s On-SITE, allow students to enhance their education with practical hands-on experience in firms while introducing these organizations to some of the brightest and most determined design students soon to enter the market. Advisory Council members also enrich the student experience by conveying their knowledge and professional expertise through accepting faculty invitations to speak at classes, participate in reviews, or by making the significant financial commitment to sponsor a studio course.
Generous pro-bono and financial contributions by Advisory Council members ensure that Wurster Hall facilities meet the needs of current and future students and faculty. Members have played an important role in helping improve Wurster Hall — contributing to the Gallery, first and second-floor lobbies, Flex Studios, and the Digital Fabrication Lab which houses new digitally controlled equipment. The new Materials Store, where CED students can purchase fabrication supplies, was also realized through the generous financial support of a Council member.
One of the most essential contributions the Advisory Council makes is in supporting the dean in strategic planning. Members played an active role in developing the 2012 Strategic Plan, supporting the implementation of a road map that will be the touchstone for planning and fundraising for the next 5 to 10 years.
In addition to their fundraising support for several key initiatives built into the strategic plan such as Flex Studios — the campaign to update Wurster’s studios with multiple platforms for creativity, research, and design collaboration — the Dean’s Advisory Council is also called upon to encourage others to give to the CED Annual Fund.
Over the last several years, this group’s commitment to the CED Fund has made a significant difference to the college. An essential resource as CED faces critical issues that challenge today’s public educational institutions, the CED Fund provides the college with crucial support for a variety of activities, including educational programming and opportunities such as lectures, exhibits, and international studios; the research efforts of our outstanding junior faculty; and CED’s Career Services, an office dedicated to helping our students launch their professional careers.
Contributors of $1000 or more to the CED Fund become members of the Wurster Society. For the past three decades, members of the Wurster Society have provided leadership gifts to meet high-priority needs and to allow CED to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.
“I am honored to serve on the Dean’s CED Council in an effort to stay engaged and help support the Wurster Hall community. I owe so much of my own success to Berkeley and CED that it is a pleasure to help sustain its great future.”
— Vishaan Chakrabarti, M.Arch ’96
Principal, SHoP Architects, Professor, Columbia University
“We applaud the incredible efforts that the Dean’s Advisory Council has made on behalf of CED, the successes they’ve achieved, and their essential role in helping ensure that the college can meet the needs of current and future students” said CED Dean Jennifer Wolch. “The personal friendships that develop from Advisory Council collaborations are one of most rewarding aspects of my service as dean.”
“Being a part a of the Dean’s advisory committee is both an honor and fulfilling. It gives me an opportunity to stay connected to the school in a meaningful way and make a contribution to its continued success. Jennifer’s leadership has been great for the school and I am grateful for the opportunity to help.”
— Fred Blackwell, M.C.P. ’96
CEO, San Francisco Foundation
Current members of the Dean’s Advisory Council include:
- Kofi Bonner, Regional Vice President, Lennar Urban
- Fred Blackwell, CEO, San Francisco Foundation
- Ricardo L. Capretta, President, Capretta Properties Inc.
- Vishaan Chakrabarti, Principal, SHoP Architects/Holliday Professor of Real Estate, Columbia University
- James R. Crawford, Partner, Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP
- Brian Dougherty, Founder, Dougherty and Dougherty Architecture
- Gray B. Dougherty, Partner, Dougherty and Dougherty Architecture
- William Fain, Founder, Johnson Fain
- David Friedman, Principal and Chairman, Forell/Elsesser Engineers
- Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, Founder, Hernandez-Eli Architects
- Jackson Hsieh, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking, Morgan Stanley
- Scott Johnson, Founder, Johnson Fain
- Chris Kent, Principal, PGA Design
- Sylvia P. Kwan, Founder, Kwan Henmi Architecture/Planning
- Michael Lin, Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial Services
- Tom Mead, Vice President of Construction Management, Equity Residential
- Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director, SPUR
- Michael Painter, President, MPA Design
- Lydia Tan, Senior Vice President, Development for the Western U.S., Bentall Kennedy
- Barbara Wachsman, Director of Health Management, The Walt Disney Company
- Judd Williams
- John Wong, Managing Principal and Chairman, SWA Group
- Joseph O. Wong, Founding Principal, JWDA
- Paul Woolford, Design Director, Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK)
“I have really enjoyed contributing to the Dean’s Advisory Council. In return it has given me a lot. My understanding of the college’s educational focus has been broadened and clarified. I also have a much better appreciation of the expertise of the faculty. After each meeting/event I find my mind spinning with ideas — reminiscent of being a student again.”
— Chris Kent, M.L.A ’93
Principal, PGA Design
“The Advisory Council exposes me to the accomplishments of CED’s faculty and students, as well as the college’s initiatives and aspirations; it’s invigorating. I am emboldened to make meaningful contributions to the professional trajectory of our young alumni and strengthen the CED community in New York, where I practice.”
— Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, B.Arch ’02
Founder, Hernandez-Eli Architects
“The UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design is of vital importance to our Northern California design community; it creates a place for critical thinking and discourse, and fills our design studios with emerging talent. Our practices depend upon UCB to fill this role, and as such it’s been a privilege to serve on the Dean’s Council at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. It’s an honor to be able to give something back in return.”
— — Paul Woolford