Celebrating 100 Years of Landscape at Berkeley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Lalanne: Building Real Value for CED

As UC Berkeley and other universities across California struggle with the challenge of state disinvestment, Bob Lalanne (B.A. Architecture, 1978) sees new opportunities to create long-term value for the campus and is working hard to support that effort.

Bob not only has strong ties to UC Berkeley—both his parents attended the university and his two daughters are Berkeley students and members of the Cal women’s club lacrosse team—but also a tremendous appreciation for the skills he acquired as a CED student and Cal athlete. “The diversity, competition, opportunities, incubation of ideas—always questioning or asking why—the intellectual powerhouse of faculty across multiple disciplines was very special.”

Bob and Millicent Lalanne
Bob and Millicent Lalanne Enlarge [+]

As president of The Lalanne Group, a San Francisco-based real estate development company, this multi-disciplinary approach has been the foundation of his success as a developer of some of the Bay Area’s best-known real estate projects. A career spanning more than 30 years has fostered his passion for creating high-quality, mixed-use urban infill projects. He has developed over 1,000 housing units in the Bay Area, some of which are anchored by Falletti Foods, Safeway, and Whole Foods.

Bob’s desire to take the knowledge he gained at Cal and in his career to create lasting value for CED and the university led him to become involved in giving back almost 15 years ago. Realizing the revenue-generating opportunity Cal possesses in its significant non-academic real-estate holdings, Bob became chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation’s Finance and Administration Committee. He also currently chairs the Real Estate sub-committee which he created and is the first head of the College of Environmental Design (CED) Advisory Council. In 2010, Bob and his wife Millicent co-chaired CED’s 50th Anniversary Gala, reflecting their status as generous and longstanding benefactors of the college. In addition to CED, the couple created the Lalanne Family Scholarship for Men’s and Women’s Athletics at Cal and are Builders of Berkeley.

Continuing their commitment to CED, Bob and Millicent have recently made a generous pledge of $1 million, matched by the Hewlett Foundation, for the creation of the Robert J. and Millicent C. Lalanne Chair in Real Estate Development, Architecture and Urbanism. Acknowledging the historic role of the architect as master designer-builder now challenged with complex issues of finance, market economies, sustainability, smart growth, social and cultural transformation, and technological innovation, the Lalanne Chair will address the need for the broad perspective, interdisciplinary knowledge and leadership skills to solve these new urban development challenges.

CED Dean Jennifer Wolch praised the Lalannes’ many significant contributions. “We’re extremely grateful to Bob and Millicent for their generous pledge and incredible support of CED. Along with this gift, the time and talent that Bob has devoted to CED and Berkeley will create a truly lasting legacy.”

The creation of the Chair was inspired by Bob’s own experience—and that of his fellow developers, urban planners and architects—and his conviction that successful place-making demands a broad base of knowledge and the ability to collaborate in an array of fields including design, planning, real estate finance, building operations, public policy, economics, law, engineering, construction and social science.

The Lalanne Chair will serve as a bridge to the fields within the College of Environmental Design as well as other UC Berkeley schools and colleges, in particular the Haas School of Business and its real estate program, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the College of Engineering and the Berkeley School of Law.

Bob acknowledged the foundations of his achievements explaining, “At Berkeley you learned to be a self-starter, an advocate, to reach high, to make a difference all in the context of an extremely intellectual environment with great access to great minds. It was a privilege to be a part of it.”

Apples & Wages

Apples & Wages, an undergraduate urban planning studio project, presents a program to increase food security and employment in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco with a job-training program that offers skill development and employment experience in food preparation and distribution. Taught by Andrea Gaffney and Kimberly Suczynski Smith, the students Dylan Crary, Heather Do, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, and Christina Tanouye come from a wide range of disciplines including urban studies, business, architecture, and political economy.

Team Pride
Team Pride – Apples & Wages Student Team prepares for their final studio presentation. From right to left: Christina Tanouye, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, Dylan Crary, Heather Do. Enlarge [+]

The Story from the Students

The final studio presentation of “Apples & Wages” came a long way from the scattering of ideas that developed at the beginning of spring semester. For the final studio project, our team tackled the broad assignment of creating an innovative economic development proposal for the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. The assignment asked us to propose a long-term plan and a short-term, immediate action in which to test our long-range plan.

Like many good planners, we started our project with extensive background research and numerous site visits. We scanned the study area for possible economic development opportunities that were not directly addressed in the planning studies that we had researched. The corner stores and street culture of the Tenderloin caught our attention as a significant economy, about which we wanted to learn more.

We recorded existing land uses in great detail, noting the businesses and organizations present in the neighborhood. We noticed a disparity in the pricing of fresh food at the corner stores, so we created a map and pricing index to reflect the community’s access to local sources of fresh food. We documented activities on the street and talked with long-time Tenderloin residents to better understand the needs and issues in the neighborhood. From census and planning research, we learned about the high unemployment rate within the working age population of the Tenderloin community. As part of our land use research, we noted Single Resident Occupancy Hotels (SRO’s) as the predominant housing type; there are no kitchens in SROs.

The site visits allowed us to think on our feet and helped us arrive at our idea to propose a job-training program that could also provide access to fresh, healthy food. The idea is surprisingly simple: we propose the creation of a central kitchen where fresh produce could be prepared into healthy meals through the jobs training program, and then sent throughout the Tenderloin on mobile food carts.

Throughout the development of our project, we looked at a variety of precedents and case studies to provide the proof-of-concept for our proposal. We found some excellent examples of programs and organizations at work in the Bay Area and California, from which we developed a kit of parts for our proposal. We also identified a series of funding opportunities and local organizations that might be interested in further developing our idea.

After the final studio presentation, our instructors encouraged us to present “Apples & Wages” to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and through this exposure, we took advantage of submitting our idea to San Francisco’s Online Ideas Competition for Food Security in the Tenderloin over the summer. Talk about good timing! The jury loved our proposal and we won an internship at the Hub, a social venture incubator space, where we will continue developing our project to turn “Apples & Wages” into a real program for the Tenderloin. Thinking back on all those late nights spent at Wurster Hall, we are tremendously excited to see how all our hard work will truly give back to the community.

Food Cart Placement Strategy
Food Cart Placement Strategy – Food carts are located and moved throughout the Tenderloin during the day to attract a variety of user from Market Street and within the neighborhood. Enlarge [+]
Development Program Structure
Development Program Structure – The program structure builds on basic literacy and math skills to develop professional food service and business management skills. Enlarge [+]
Fresh Food in the Tenderloin
Fresh Food in the Tenderloin – Field research showed that there was a scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Tenderloin district. Enlarge [+]
Leveraging Community Assets
Leveraging Community Assets – Building on existing community resources in the food justice and job training sectors the Apples & Wages program leverages existing resources to achieve their goals and objectives. Enlarge [+]
Opportunity Sites
Opportunity Sites – Through a site evaluation study of vacant property, proximity to community services and housing the team strategically placed (1) a central kitchen, and food carts on (2) Jones and Turk and (3) Eddy and Leavenworth. Enlarge [+]
Produce Cart on Jones + Turk
Produce Cart on Jones + Turk Enlarge [+]
Street Festival on Ellis between Jones + Taylor
Street Festival on Ellis between Jones + Taylor Enlarge [+]

John Wong: Making Cities Livable

Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace
Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace Enlarge [+]

Whether it’s designing a garden or the groundscape for one of the world’s tallest structures, for John Wong (B.A. Landscape Architecture, 1974) there are three things that characterize the role of landscape architecture: creating a space where people can interact, inspiring sustainable innovation and defining a sense of place.

As managing principal and chairman of SWA Group in Sausalito, John Wong is an internationally renowned landscape architect with an impressive portfolio of prominent and sustainable projects throughout the world, from new communities and cities to public plazas and gardens. He is most recently recognized for his expertise in designing the groundscapes for super-tall structures—an area that now comprises over half of his practice. In addition to creating the ground planes for the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Shanghai Tower, scheduled to complete in 2016, he is also currently working on designs for Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which will rise to an estimated 1000 meters in 2017.

Burj Khalifa aerial view
Burj Khalifa aerial view. Photo by David Gal, SWA GroupEnlarge [+]
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan Enlarge [+]

Designing for tall buildings poses a unique challenge: to connect an imposing structure with the existing fabric of the surrounding area to create an interactive environment that makes people’s lives better. Wong is a strong believer in the sustainable benefits of high density, multi-use tall buildings with habitable open areas. He views sustainability in both ecological and human terms and sees landscape architecture as the discipline that can have the most profound impact when it comes to solving one of today’s biggest problems—how to make cities more livable.

In his winning competition proposal for the Suzhou Industrial Park Central Business District, Wong highlights not only the beautiful natural location, but also the connection between ecological and social environments. The project is organized along a central urban axis, Suzhou Corridor, surrounded by five distinct rings of landscapes and pedestrian walkways that unify the landscape and the architecture while providing intimate encounters with the environment. The design links dispersed neighborhoods and creates a lively outdoor mall connecting commercial and residential developments.

John Wong, Managing Principal & Chairman, SWA Group
John Wong Enlarge [+]

Wong was attracted to the field of landscape architecture because of its holistic approach to solving today’s environmental and urban problems—connecting a variety of disciplines including architecture, engineering, urban planning and transportation with an understanding of natural systems. As landscape architects are called upon to bring ideas to life on a much larger and more complex scale, he feels this collaborative approach will become increasingly important. And as sustainability continues to demand innovation, this is where landscape architecture can have the greatest impact.

Wong’s design for Guthrie Green in Tulsa is a showcase for sustainable innovation. With the idea to create a beautiful “outdoor living room” to encourage rejuvenation of the emerging mixed-use neighborhood, SWA transformed a 2.7-acre truck loading facility into a vibrant community gathering space for artists, urban professionals, students, and visitors. SWA took advantage of the natural geothermal energy and abundant sun to create a high-performing system including photo-voltaic panels and a grid of 500-foot deep geothermal wells that help offset the park’s energy demands and provide heating and cooling for adjacent buildings.

As the 100th anniversary of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley approaches in 2013, Wong appreciates what he gained from his experience there and what he sees the college continuing to provide: a big picture, multi-disciplinary approach that opens the mind and brings a fuller understanding of the challenges and possibilities for the future. As a new Cal parent—his daughter is at the College of Natural Resources—he’s pleased that she’ll be exposed to these critical thinking skills that will be even more highly prized in the future.

Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma
Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma. Photo by Jonnu Singleton, SWA Group Enlarge [+]

Dry to Wet: A Network for All Ages

In their second year participating in Vertical Cities Asia, the 5-year series of competitions focused on high-density urbanism in Asia organized by the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment, two student teams from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design were presented with the theme, “Everyone Ages.” This year’s competition sought innovative design solutions for a balanced environment for high density urban life addressing the complexities of a rapidly ageing society. Each year, a one square kilometer territory is chosen, with teams challenged to design a visionary and holistic community for 100,000 residents. The solution must incorporate areas for work and recreation with the residential component allowed to comprise only fifty percent of the total site area. This year’s site was located in Yongshan, part of Seoul Metropolitan City, Republic of Korea.

The CED teams, led by Professor of Architecture René Davids, aimed to address the needs of all, removing the barriers created by age, social and family structure, and physical mobility.

Revitalizing the connection to the river through landscape integration and optimizing views, Team A’s entry, Succulent City, embeds a dynamic and productive natural network into the existing urban context. Integrating rainwater collection, grey water filtration, recreational public space and herbal healing practice into a branching building/landscape system, the network weaves into the existing urban fabric at the ground level and extrudes vertically into programmatically efficient, branching towers. The interaction and transition between wet and dry systems permeates the city at every scale, from the urban to the individual.

Inspired by the human aging process, Succulent City nurtures a relationship with the environment through sinuous bioswales and filtration basins that continuously and seasonally evolve, while respecting and responding to the diurnal fluctuations of contemporary urban life. Sculpted by the natural forces on site such as sunlight and wind, and by cultural influences such as feng shui and family relationships, this organic network is oriented along commercial routes to optimize accessibility for everyone.

The building network of towers, ground, and sky branches is thoroughly integrated with the wet and dry landscape, serving all ages with a gradient of mixed-use programs. Views of the river, accessible vertical swales that wrap the buildings, and ground branches that form a familiar commercial continuation of the existing streets, encourage residents and visitors to form a culturally and ecologically dynamic relationship with the landscape.

Succulent City’s approach to the Vertical Cities Asia challenge preserves the deep connection to the site’s historic and contemporary water systems, presenting a dynamic and revitalizing solution that changes, grows and adapts to the evolving needs of its urban population.

More information about the competition:

  • http://www.verticalcitiesasia.com/?q=competition
  • http://www.ced.berkeley.edu/departments–programs/arch/arch-202-spring-2012-davids.htm

Student Team

Team A members Aine Coughlan, Kristen Henderson, and Ekaterina Kostyukova are all part of the M.Arch. program in the Department of Architecture at CED.

Why Walls Won’t Work

US-Mexico Boundary Survey Map, 1853, Tijuana section.
US-Mexico Boundary Survey Map, 1853, Tijuana section. LINEA DIVISORIA ENTRE MEXICO Y LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS, Colección Límites México-EEUU, Carpeta No. 4, Lámina No. 54; Autor: Salazar Ilárregui, José, Año 1853. Mapoteca “Manuel Orozco y Berra,” Servicio de Información Estadistica Agroalimentaria y Pesquera, SARGAPA. Reproduced with permission. Digital restoration by Tyson Gaskill.Enlarge [+]

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.

Ancient boundary monument No. XVI was a simple pile of stones (early 1850s?)
Ancient boundary monument No. XVI was a simple pile of stones
(early 1850s?). Jacobo Blanco. Memoria de la Sección Mexicana de la Comisión Internacional de Límites entre México y los Estados Unidos que Restableció los Monumentos de El Paso al Pácifico. 1901. Enlarge [+]
Monument No. 258,1851
Monument No. 258,1851. This was the first point (punto inicial) established by the boundary survey following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The photograph was taken during the last decade of the nineteenth century after the original marble monument had been renovated, and fenced to prevent further vandalism. Jacobo Blanco. Vistas de los Monumentos a lo Largo de la Línea Divisoria entre México y los Estados Unidos de El Paso al Pacífico. 1901. Enlarge [+]
Monument No. 185, c. 1895?
Monument No. 185, c. 1895? The monuments erected during the second boundary survey at the end of the nineteenth century were made from iron. Jacobo Blanco. Vistas de los Monumentos a lo Largo de la Línea Divisoria entre México y los Estados Unidos de El Paso al Pacífico. 1901. Enlarge [+]

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.

Border fencing during 1990s Operation Gatekeeper era, near Campo, California
Border fencing during 1990s Operation Gatekeeper era,
near Campo, California. The first modern-day attempts to fortify the boundary line began in the mid-1990s with Operation Hold-the-Line in El Paso, and Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego. The fencing was constructed from left-over aircraft landing mats from the War in Vietnam. Copyright © 2002 Michael Dear. Enlarge [+]
The “Primary Fence” at San Luis Colorado, AZ, 2008
The “Primary Fence” at San Luis Colorado, AZ, 2008. This latest fortification is made from steel manufactured in Vietnam, and includes two noteworthy features: a “lock box” in which a boundary monument is contained; and (at left) a gap that allows passage under the fence. Copyright © 2008 Michael Dear. Enlarge [+]

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.

The “caged fence” outside Mexicali/Calexico, 2008
The “caged fence” outside Mexicali/Calexico, 2008. The new fortifications are manufactured from diverse materials, but recent forms appear to favor some possibility of seeing though to the other side. The fences are invariably built on US soil to ensure ease of access and maintenance, but as a consequence they also conceal and isolate the boundary monuments. In this image, the fence swerves to accommodate a boundary monument. Copyright © 2008 Michael Dear. Enlarge [+]

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.

Ancient Monument No. 1 at El Paso
Ancient Monument No. 1 at El Paso. This border location is especially noteworthy for its complete absence of fortifications. From the left, panel 1 shows the Casa de Adobe, restored headquarters of Mexican Revolution leader Francisco Madero; panel 2, a bust of Madero; panel 3, the berm (with a sign) marking the boundary between the two nations; and panel 4, the ancient monument no. 1. Collage by Michelle Shofet. Copyright © 2011 Michael Dear. Enlarge [+]
Monument 122A, viewed from the Avenida Internacional in Nogales, Sonora
Monument 122A, viewed from the Avenida Internacional in
Nogales, Sonora. A fortuitous vertical stacking of boundary infrastructure portrays the “deep archeology” of the line. The top panel reveals present-day electronic surveillance apparatus; below this is the 1990-era Operation Hold-the-Line fencing; in the third horizon is a monument from the late 19th-century boundary re-survey; and at its base lies a concrete retaining wall that has been spray-painted with symbols of birth and death characteristic of ancient Mesoamerican cultures. Collage by Michelle Shofet. Copyright © 2003 Michael Dear. Enlarge [+]

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.

Recuerdos/Souvenirs, 2012
Ronald Rael, Recuerdos/Souvenirs, 2012. The border fence is memorialized as a play space. Courtesy of the artist. Copyright © 2012 Ronald Rael. Enlarge [+]

Design for Urban Places

The interdisciplinary Graduate Group for the Design of Urban Places was established in 1996, and offers the Master of Urban Design degree, a one-year post-professional program that draws students from across the globe.

Last spring Dean Wolch and the Graduate Division, invited Dennis Frenchman (MIT), Darren Petrucci (Arizona State University), and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris (UCLA) to conduct an external review of the program. The Graduate Group invited them to present their perspectives on the future of the field at a symposium held during their visit.

Donlyn Lyndon concluded the symposium with remarks excerpted here.

Today’s discussion has confirmed the vitality of the urban design field, and posed questions for urban design education.

The original rationale for the UC Berkeley Master of Urban Design program was that “[M]ore and more land is developed in patterns that we know to be dehumanizing and wasteful, our core cities continue to decline. Repair of the country’s urban infrastructure is an increasingly important priority and patterns of transportation and energy consumption demand restructuring…. there is an urgent need for designers who are able to work effectively in teams across a large range of scales and with a well-developed understanding of urban places and the interdependencies of the fabric of buildings, landscapes, public ways, and the social interactions that shape them.”

What are the moves that Urban Designers make? They open paths, draw connections, give imaginable form for processes of development. They give measure to goals for the ways that cities can become, helping cities and residents navigate possibilities. They create the underlying structures through which cities and investors deploy their resources.

How do we channel those forces and their latent potential into worlds that are better, have consequence in the lives of generations, capture and release mental energies? How can we know when we are building places that will bring joy and understanding—or when they will loom as hollow symbols of power and nightmares for the underprivileged?

We need to make urban design education effective in recognizing what and who we are, how the natural world enfolds us, how and where we consume resources, what will provide inhabitants with both satisfactions and opportunities. And we must learn to do it at varying spatial scales. We need to learn to take action, be persuasive, understand reservations, and forge new perspectives.

A one-year program is neither the beginning nor the end of an urban designer’s education. It is, rather, a turning point in understanding and imagination.

Today, design ideas are communicated differently than in the past, and the social and environmental consequences can be more adequately assessed. Remarkable advances allow us to conceive forms and relationships not easily imaginable and more closely track the impacts of our actions.

But where does this lead? Rather than lead, it spreads, consumes, absorbs and mystifies, sometimes even clarifies and exhilarates. We are in danger of losing our way, or rather “ways”—for such complexity cannot be subsumed within one way of proceeding. Many ways are needed, or else we may miss larger transformations taking place beyond our reach.

There are compelling arguments for expanding our attention to underserved people, incorporating new ways of thinking about space, form, materials and digital opportunities, and inventive ways to help students design in fresh, creative ways.

There have also been cautions. Novelty can put a gloss on forms and relationships that are inherently destructive, or can tear the fabric of understandings and affections people have for their surroundings. Cultural norms and economic factors affect understanding and tolerance of change. Many have little chance to root their affections in place, or enjoy their immediate surroundings.

Cities have been designed to enable the efficient exchange of goods and the opportunities for work, typically giving priority to the automobile, and sapping the energies arising from concentration and accessibility. We need to learn again how to make walking and seeing and pausing and veering a part of the choreography of cities, building our bodies and spirits, making the physical world more accommodating, and providing room for initiative and possibility. These are things that urban design, physical design properly imagined, can provide.

Whatever else we may do, we must make cities and places that perform for the public good, where people can grasp opportunities and forge lives with significance. Cities that all can inhabit in a full, satisfying and productive way.

Everyone Needs Fresh Air!

In the Summer of 2011, the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley had the privilege of being among a small number of distinguished international universities invited by the National University of Singapore to compete in a 5-year series of urban architecture competitions, Vertical Cities Asia. The competition focuses on the pressing issues of rapidly developing Asian cities, each year highlighting one primary quality-of-life issue, and sited in one exemplary Asian city. This first year’s theme was Everyone Needs Fresh Air, for a project in Chengdu, China.

Urban residents often experience increased access to economic, social and cultural opportunities but also have to tolerate pollution, reduced access to air and light, and higher stress levels. The project presents an opportunity to rethink the development of the contemporary city.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Urban residents often experience increased access to economic, social and cultural opportunities but also have to tolerate pollution, reduced access to air and light, and higher stress levels. The project presents an opportunity to rethink the development of the contemporary city.

The ancient and rapidly developing city of Chengdu offered a unique challenge for radical new vertical density, requiring close study of a broad range of natural, technological, and cultural conditions. Competing schools marshaled interdisciplinary student teams of architects, landscape architects, planners and urban designers with a goal of developing provocative solutions for a dense urban community of 100,000 people.

Early design investigation included travel to China to study the city of Chengdu, and seminars and meetings with faculty and researchers from Tongji University, Sichuan University, and The Sichuan Institute of Architecture and Urban Design. The design process required significant thought as to structure, program, systems and urban function as an integrated design problem inviting many avenues for creative solutions.

The environmental strategy is comprehensive. It ranges across all scales and takes advantage of local conditions and the building’s height.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]The environmental strategy is comprehensive. It ranges across all scales and takes advantage of local conditions and the building’s height.

Student teams presented their work, which was judged during the week of July 5th in Singapore, at an international symposium on vertical city design. Judging was based on five criteria: sustainability, quality of life, feasibility/buildability, cultural/environmental appropriateness, and technical innovation. Although the UC Berkeley team did not garner the competition prize, their work was well received, and the experience was of great value.

More information about this project:

Team “B”
City|Building

Team Members:

  • Fang Huan
  • Mengxi Wu
  • Phi Tran
  • Michael Song
  • Alexandra Harker
  • Warner Brown
  • Zach Streitz
“Air Quality” Green Belt
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]“Air Quality” Green Belt
Facade as Dynamic Biofiltration Element
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Facade as Dynamic Biofiltration Element
Ventilation and Humidity Harvesting Systems
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Ventilation and Humidity Harvesting Systems
An integrated network dynamically controls temperature and pressure differentials throughout the city. As such the city functions as a part of the local ecology and landscape, as a small mountain. It is a smart mountain capable of optimizing its climate and energy use to suit both the needs of its inhabitants and its surroundings.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]An integrated network dynamically controls temperature and pressure differentials throughout the city. As such the city functions as a part of the local ecology and landscape, as a small mountain. It is a smart mountain capable of optimizing its climate and energy use to suit both the needs of its inhabitants and its surroundings.

Wudadao

Imagine working on the revitalization of a 500 acre historic district in China—in a city that just demolished all of its courtyard compounds within its original walled city. Last year, this was the task for fourteen M.Arch students in their final year of study.

The City of Tianjin is China’s third economic development zone (with Shenzhen and Pudong being the first two) providing the nation’s economic and political power to both build and eradicate large swaths of the city. Throughout Tianjin, evidence of splintering urban design and architectural practices are evident—widening of roads and deep building setbacks, retail malls with their own interiorized marketing logic, iconic skyscrapers that add little back to their local context, and rows upon rows of rubberstamped housing blocks. While progress measured by standards of living and the ever changing skyline are palpable, the unique conditions that form the identity of Tianjin are being lost. There is a homogenizing of urban experiences within and between Chinese cities.

Section showing project site between the new city and the historic district.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Section showing project site between the new city and the historic district.

Our project site was Wudadao, or Five Main Streets, located within the inner city and as yet undeveloped due to its isolation from the major networks of the city. This separation is rooted in the original settlement of this district by the British during the concession era of the city. The long streets and gridded blocks occupied by an eclectic mix of small scale buildings are rapidly being surrounded by large scale, coarse grained, object oriented developments. At the invitation of the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), the research seminar and studio explored urban paradigms that recognize that we live horizontally, rethinking habits twentieth century habits of considering buildings as vertical containers.

October 2011 field work in Wudadao. (Left to right:) directions to Wudadao; lilong housing; early morning; the influx of cars; the old and new.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]October 2011 field work in Wudadao. (Left to right:) directions to Wudadao; lilong housing; early morning; the influx of cars; the old and new.

As in all urban and architectural design, there were multiple and parallel research goals. One overarching objective was to develop tools of analysis and design that describe the relational, connective conditions of urban form. A corollary was a proposal for how to design “big” since many projects in China have large project sites. The group developed systemic design parameters that define urban continuities both internal and external to any site without pre-figuring architecture as building envelopes (objects). These parameters were tested for their ability to integrate the work of a group of architects—to develop density, identity with variety and the larger legibility of Wudadao within Tianjin. The analyses, systems, and designs were exhibited and reviewed in Wurster Hall in April of 2011.

(Left to right:) June presentation to TUPDI (Left to right:) Nicole Lew, Nancy Nam, David Dahl, Daniel Gasser, and Steven Brummond; Chengdu Biennale middle: Renee Chow, Daniel Gasser and alumna Doreen Liu in background; (Far right:) alumnus Yung Ho Chang in front of our exhibit.
Wudadao Enlarge [+](Left to right:) June presentation to TUPDI (Left to right:) Nicole Lew, Nancy Nam, David Dahl, Daniel Gasser, and Steven Brummond; Chengdu Biennale middle: Renee Chow, Daniel Gasser and alumna Doreen Liu in background; (Far right:) alumnus Yung Ho Chang in front of our exhibit.

Another objective was to define the architectural tactics that aid in revitalizing Wudadao. Toward this end, an urban network study identified differences between local blocks and streets that presented opportunities to connect the district to the rest of the city and guided a local architectural code. In addition, the need for residential density along the edge of the historic district to animate the district was illustrated by the design proposal. The findings and projects of the research group were presented by five students to TUPDI in June of 2011.

Chengdu Biennale: Exhibit designed by Daniel Gasser with Renee Chow; Video by Kirsten Heming. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew, Lot 10 Kirsten Heming and Katherine Cong.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Chengdu Biennale: Exhibit designed by Daniel Gasser with Renee Chow; Video by Kirsten Heming. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew, Lot 10 Kirsten Heming and Katherine Cong.

Individual research programs were also woven into the framework, in particular the collective potentials to capitalize on natural ventilation, storm water collection, and daylighting. In our proposal to the 2011 Chengdu Biennale whose theme was “Holistic Realms: Garden Cities,” we highlighted the project’s storm water system, treatment, collection, and urban parks. In a city where current and future water shortages are and will be extreme, water management is one key to a green city. The studio’s work has been on exhibition since late September and recently closed.

Chengdu Biennale: (Left to right:) Lot 9 Justin Short and Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; aerial view of Lot 7 David Dahl, Lot 8, Lot 9 and Lot 10 in the foreground.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Chengdu Biennale: (Left to right:) Lot 9 Justin Short and Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; aerial view of Lot 7 David Dahl, Lot 8, Lot 9 and Lot 10 in the foreground.

Our thanks to TUPDI for funding the research, in particular Mr. SHI Wujun, Dean; Ms ZHU Xuemei, Vice Chief Planner; and Ms JIANG Bei, urban designer and graduate of our Urban Design program. Our thanks also to the Department of Architecture Charles W. Moore Endowment for the Study of Place and to the Department of Architecture for the publication of our forthcoming research pamphlet.

Researchers included: YaOu Zhang, Hechang Chen, Won Shim, David Dahl, John Faichney, Benjamin Lueck, Nancy Nam, Nicole Lew, Justin Short, Daniel Gasser, Kirsten Heming, Katherine Cong, Hao Zhou, Steven Brummond.

The design propositions and tools are guided by on-going research on field relations by Renee Chow. Renee is Associate Professor of architecture and urban design and Principal at Studio URBIS, currently completing a book on the evolving forms of Chinese urbanism.

Systemic design parameters and the projects that emerged. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group seen from the west, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; design paramters from the east; individual designs and parameters; Lot 7 to Lot 10.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Systemic design parameters and the projects that emerged. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group seen from the west, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; design paramters from the east; individual designs and parameters; Lot 7 to Lot 10.

CED Update

Every day, there seems to be another news story about the dire state of higher education in California. With state government facing record deficits and the economy still struggling to recover, the University of California has been hard-hit with successive budget cuts.

UC Berkeley, despite its status as the system’s flagship campus, has not been exempt from resource reductions and staff layoffs. Funding from the state’s general fund now accounts for only about one-fifth of Cal’s budget; for the first time ever, both the share of funds from philanthropic support and the share from student fees exceeded contributions from the state. We are indeed living in interesting times!

Continue reading “CED Update”