From the Dean: CED Frontiers

Jennifer Wolch
Jennifer Wolch Enlarge [+]

The College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley was founded in 1959 on the radical premise that the new field of environmental design was fundamental to the future of urban settlement. This premise is as valid today as it was then. But many of the specific challenges facing cities were not on our radar in the 1950s — nor were the sorts of challenges facing public higher education today.

With this context in mind, in 2012 CED launched a collaborative strategic planning project to map a future that inspires us to respond to the demands of our time. This process articulated our vision and values, and created a roadmap for distinction and impact: CED Frontiers. I’m delighted to share the highlights of our plan in this issue of FRAMEWORKS.

CED’s 21st Century Vision, Values and Goals

The College of Environmental Design provides leadership to address the world’s most pressing urban challenges through rigorous research and scholarship, design excellence, innovative pedagogy, open debate, craft and skill-building, critical and theoretical practice, and insights from both the academy and professional practice. Within this broad vision, we value:

  • Excellent and accessible public higher education
  • Sustainable design, planning and urbanism
  • Aesthetic quality, craft, and technological innovation
  • Visionary yet pragmatic design practice
  • Critical pedagogy and cross-disciplinary learning
  • Social, economic, and environmental justice
  • Ecological and public health
  • Local-global engagement and activism
  • Respect for place, community, and diversity
  • Ethical professional practice and research

Moving forward, we aspire to achieve six key goals:

  • 1. Claim the Berkeley difference, building on our heritage of design and planning activism
  • 2. Embrace diverse standpoints, experimenting with new ways to understand and embrace social difference
  • 3. Bridge intellectual fault lines, crossing the boundaries of established disciplines to create new knowledge
  • 4. Span local and global, linking multiple scales of understanding, activism, and practice
  • 5. Assess environmental design performance, related to adaptation, resilience, and sustainability
  • 6. Transform professional practice, from today’s best practices to practices for the future

Six Game-Changing Initiatives

Our vision, values and goals set our course, and concrete initiatives allow us to achieve them. Together, the CED community identified “game-changing” initiatives that are: clear and actionable; mobilize human and physical resources; lead to institutional transformation; and promote recognition of CED’s leadership. They aspire to extend the impact of our research and creative practice, create inclusive and cross-disciplinary pedagogy, and transform our home in Wurster Hall to encourage collaboration and the sharing of new ideas.

EXTENDING THE REACH OF RESEARCH & CREATIVE PRACTICE

Initiative 1: Research Impact

To better support research at CED, this initiative would assist the Center for Environmental Design Research (CEDR) and the Institute for Urban & Regional Development (IURD) to broaden their reach and influence, grow faculty involvement and participation, and improve our capacity to communicate research results and creative accomplishments. Major action: New associate dean for research to coordinate and disseminate research.

Initiative 2: Design and Technology Lab

To spur design innovation at CED, this initiative proposes a design and technology lab for design experimentation, product and materials research, rapid prototyping, and CAD/CAM innovation. Such a lab would also attract partners and become a venue for professional dialogue. Major action: Establishment of CED Design and Technology Lab.

CREATING INCLUSIVE & CROSS-DISCIPLINARY PEDAGOGY

Initiative 3: Diversity Platforms

This initiative will enhance the cultural life of the College by developing co-curricular programs (such as cultural events, student-led courses, and public interest charrettes) to introduce students to the relational, interconnected and hybrid nature of increasingly globalized identities. Major actions: New curriculum and events focused on diversity, identity, and the built environment.

Initiative 4: Curriculum Crossroads

To promote interdisciplinary work within CED, this initiative will create all-college curriculum, debates, joint research, and curated conversations that span intellectual fault lines, build disciplinary and geographic bridges, and address contemporary and future problems. Major action: Super-studio opportunities for all CED students integrated into curriculum.

BUILDING COMMUNITY SPACES & COMMON GROUND

Initiative 5: Flex Studios

This initiative focuses on redesigning studio space with flexible, movable furnishings and collaborative space, to provide multiple platforms for creativity, research and design collaboration, and to allow learning spaces to serve as better models for collaborative professional practice. Major action: CED Campaign for 21st Century Studios.

Initiative 6: Networked Spaces

Creating additional collective social and public spaces, this initiative will serve to build CED identity; promote cross-unit, cross-cohort, and cross-cultural interaction; curate student and faculty design work; and build shared cultural spaces for intellectual and professional debate, design exploration, collaboration and sociality. Major action: New café/patio space and redesigned review spaces.

The strategic planning process generated a wealth of ideas and proposals, productive disagreements, and new commitments to collaborate and innovate. Stay tuned as the plan unfolds, and CED moves onward and upward!

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.

Prizes, Professorships, and (no small) Plans

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.

Deborah Berke
Deborah Berke Enlarge [+]

The Berkeley-Rupp Prize and ProfessorshipThe 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.

C. Greig Crysler
C. Greig Crysler Enlarge [+]

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.

Wurster Hall
Coming Soon in 2013: Berkeley Circus and Soiree Enlarge [+]

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.

CED and the Occupy Movement

The Occupy Wall Street movement, and its cousins that have emerged in cities across the country, arrived on the UC Berkeley campus last fall in the form of “Occupy Cal.” Students set up small camping tents outside Sproul Hall in front of Savio Steps, named for the famed free speech activist, Mario Savio. Police, in a scene involving protester-police conflict and violence, ultimately removed the tents stirring controversy across campus.

In the wake of the tent removals, College of Environmental Design students led by students from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning hung a large sign reading “OCCUPY PUBLIC SPACE” in full view off Wurster Hall’s 10th floor. To draw attention to the role of design in social change, they also created a unique intervention intended to provoke and amuse.

CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]

Since tents in front of Sproul Hall were banned, the students filled two tents with helium balloons, floating them on long lines, along with an enormous sign reading “OUR SPACE”. Marching down from Wurster Hall in an exuberant procession, they tethered the hovering tents and sign high in front of the Sproul Hall doors. I too was out there in the cold with our students, their floating tents, and their comic signs such as “Frank Lloyd Fight!” We had an animated conversation about social justice and the future of public universities like Cal.

CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]

Back at Wurster Hall, some of the students, enrolled in a graduate seminar on public space taught by Professor of Architecture Margaret Crawford, were eager to engage in a discussion about the role of public space in social protest and change. We immediately decided to organize a panel discussion, creating a locus for more serious, academic dialogue.

So, on December 1st, students packed the new Wurster Gallery to hear faculty members Ananya Roy (City & Regional Planning), Walter Hood (Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning), and Margaret Crawford (Architecture) and MLA graduate students Rob Tidmore and Chris Torres debate questions of design activism, the meanings of public space, and the serious social, political and economic issues raised by the Occupy movement. It was an electric evening of tough questions and rapid-fire exchanges among panelists and participants.

The challenges that our university and college face are rooted in the political and economic dynamics driving the Occupy movement. The entire campus community understands this. Today’s students and faculty all know that activism is a vital and cherished part of this university’s heritage, but knowledge about the strategies and tactics that actually build movements must be learned anew. We must always begin with the substantive issues, and thus along with other Cal Deans, I have worked to organize a series of campus-wide forums to explore issues of social inequality and opportunity, taxation and citizenship, the economics of higher education, and the public character of public universities. Student and faculty organizations in turn are rapidly beginning to map out strategies for mobilization and identifying political pathways for change.

The creative and powerful intervention designed by CED students went viral, astounding people all across campus. I realized anew how proud I am to be part of the College of Environmental Design and to have the chance to help CED build on its historical legacy of activism, and fight for a more just future.

PS: You can see local news coverage of the CED student intervention online.

CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]
CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]
CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]
CED and Occupy Enlarge [+]

Photos: Alex Schuknecht, Cary Bass, Darryl Jones

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”

CED Update

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

Reconstruction of the bench that originally graced North Gate Hall (The Old Ark)
Using fragments left from the original bench as well as archival photographs and personal memory, Caitlin Lempres Brostrom (M.Arch 1990) and her father, Van Maren King (B.Arch 1964) developed measured drawings for the reconstruction of the bench that originally graced North Gate Hall (The Old Ark). The bench represents a piece of the folklore of the Department of Architecture. It also represents a symbol of the community that William Wurster forged when he brought four disciplines together and made the, then new, College of Environmental Design. Caitlin and her husband, Nathan Brostrom (Vice President, University of California) funded the project envisioning it as a symbol of community and continuity. The bench was made last summer entirely from reclaimed redwood timbers and was built by an undergraduate student, Chris Lesnett, with the mentorship of Paul Morrison in Wurster Hall’s shop.
From left to right: Harrison Fraker, Mario Schjetnan, Jennifer Wolch, Clare Cooper Marcus, Sir Peter Hall, Dell Upton, Carol Galante, Richard Bender, Michael Teitz, Ray Kappe, Russell Ellis. (Photo: Eric Gillet)

Programs

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.

Carmel Friesen and Jennifer Wolch at the CAA Charter Gala
Carmel “Candy” Friesen and Jennifer Wolch at the CAA Charter Gala on April 24, 2010 at the San Francisco Ferry Building.
CAA Excellence in Achievement Award is presented to Carol Galante; CAA Excellence in Service Award is presented to Carmel Friesen
Left: CAA Excellence in Achievement Award is presented to Carol Galante, M.C.P. ’78, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing Programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Right: CAA Excellence in Service Award is presented to Carmel “Candy” Friesen ’50, Founder of the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design.

Research

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.

Room 101 renovation
Room 101 is renovated and fully equipped with a new AV system, new comfortable tablet-arm chairs as well as an architectural installation of construction materials. The wall of materials is an educational tool for inspiring young designers. Architect Anne Fougeron and her staff redesigned what was an utterly outmoded and depressing space, transforming it into a contemporary classroom space the students and faculty have enjoyed this semester and will enjoy for years to come. (Photos: Eric Gillet)
Room 101 renovation
Room 101 is renovated and fully equipped with a new AV system, new comfortable tablet-arm chairs as well as an architectural installation of construction materials. The wall of materials is an educational tool for inspiring young designers. Architect Anne Fougeron and her staff redesigned what was an utterly outmoded and depressing space, transforming it into a contemporary classroom space the students and faculty have enjoyed this semester and will enjoy for years to come. (Photos: Eric Gillet)

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!

Rendering of New Wurster Hall Gallery
Rendering of New Wurster Hall Gallery by Fougeron Architecture.
CED Dean Jennifer Wolch thanks Cynthia and Norm Dyer
During a visit to Wurster Hall, CED Dean Jennifer Wolch thanks Cynthia (’58) and Norm Dyer (M.Arch. ’59) for their planned gift towards an undergraduate scholarship in Architecture.

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.

Opportunities in New Form Generation

Where does meaningful built form come from? What generates form that inspires the imagination, becomes memorable, and enriches our lives?

Questions like these have challenged the planning and design professions for millennia. Spawning much theorizing, especially over the last half century, this questioning has reached a level of urgency because powerful new digital design tools allow us to generate form previously unimaginable.

Harrison S. Fraker Jr.
Systems Recombinatio by M.Arch. student, Emergent Esherick Studio, Instructor: Tom Wiscombe Enlarge [+]

New computer software (like Maya and Rhino) enable the transformation of spatial geometries according to a set of “rules” or algorithms, generating emerging forms which would have been almost impossible to imagine without the computer and which gain meaning from an understanding of the steps of their serial emergence. The formal order and spatial geometries of previously separate building components, like skin and structure, a stair and floor support, the desired affinities between program spaces, etc., can be considered together. Their geometric “DNA” can be programmed to interact through a series of feedback “instructions” to produce a new “hybrid” spatial synthesis–a new combinational form.

Just as it is only possible to digitally conceive of these forms, the ability to construct such forms is only possible through the digitally guided manufacturing of their pieces. Through the computer, the object is not only the end result of its own generative history, but also its construction depends on the embedded geometric “DNA” in its digital record-process and products (in both thinking and making) have become co-joined.

At the same time as digital modeling tools have spawned a whole new wave of experimental form making, Building Information Modeling (BIM) software is making it possible to conduct detailed analyses of building performance on multiple levels. The software allows the three-dimensional construction of a virtual building. It assembles the building into “intelligent” three-dimensional “objects,” (like a wall, floor, roof or skin) which can be assigned physical properties, such as structural characteristics, thermal and light transmission values, acoustical characteristics, and cost, to name a few. By assigning specific properties to the building components or “objects,” it becomes possible to run powerful dynamic situation models. A building’s dynamic interaction with climate, its mechanical system operation and energy performance, its structural behavior, its acoustic qualities, its first cost and operating costs, and many more operations, can be simulated in real time. Different options can be tested. It allows for rapid prototyping of different alternatives with input from multiple consultants. Work on the evolution of a design can proceed almost simultaneously because changes and adjustments are propagated through the system automatically. All of these capacities, while available, are still relatively difficult to operate without extensive experience with the software and knowledge of building systems, but their promise is revolutionary for the profession and education.

Paradoxically, these revolutionary digital modeling tools only enhance, rather than negate, the last 50 years of theorizing about the generation of form. In surprising ways, they collapse or layer multiple theoretical propositions on top of each other and afford the possibility that they be reconsidered together. However, some theoretical practices have obvious affinities.

In his introduction to Diagram Diaries titled “Dummy Text, or the Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture,” Robert Somol argues that the diagram has replaced the sketch as the primary generator of form. In contrast to Christopher Alexander’s “patterns” and Robert Venturi’s iconographic fragments, Somol points out that Peter Eisenman’s axonometric diagrams are self-referential; their subject is the emergence of their own form. He explains that Eisenman seeks to create an architecture that is beyond the organization of the program (Alexander) and free from associations (Venturi). Whether this is possible is a highly contested theoretical question. Nonetheless, Eisenman’s experiments, his “cardboard architecture,” highlight that understanding and meaning can come from formal diagrammatic operations–the serial tracing of a building or landscape’s emergence.

Clearly, the parametric generation of form through digital modeling tools shares many characteristics with Eisenman’s diagrammatic operations (not surprisingly, Eisenman’s practice has now become digital). It presents a puzzle; a sense that the form has been produced by a series of operations and has been driven by a hidden “code” that begs discovery. The end result fascinates by challenging us to imagine its prior conditions. The form engages our conceptual imagination.

The idea that built form can have a diagrammatic emergence–that it is a phase in a phase-change process, is not a new idea. It can be traced back to insights about time and perception in both simultaneous (synthetic) and serial (analytical) cubism. It owes a greater debt, however, to the inspiration of the landscape and ecological succession, where everything is “in the making.” It was made visible by Lawrence Halprin in his RSVP Cycles, but further when he asked participants in his workshops “to draw the process which created a place.” The idea of time and process, as manifest in any site being a phase in a phase-change process, is central to current landscape-design discourse. But, it also begs many questions.

Harrison S. Fraker Jr.
DIGITAL WEAVE: SFMoMA Installation from Prof. L. Iwamoto Graduate Seminars & Studio: CAD/CAM TRANSLATIONS Enlarge [+]
Harrison S. Fraker Jr.
DIGITAL WEAVE: SFMoMA Installation from Prof. L. Iwamoto Graduate Seminars & Studio: CAD/CAM TRANSLATIONS Enlarge [+]

It eventually leads to other theoretical propositions beyond Eisenman’s. If form has a diagrammatic emergence beyond a static decorated diagram or collage, how do you know what phase in the process is optimal and represents the design that should be built? (a question posed by Michael Speaks). Can transformational operations lead to a formal “conclusion?” Do the transformative operations apply to the whole building (as in Eisenman’s projects), or can they be applied to parts “fixed,” against which the transformations are read? (See the work of Holl, Herzog & de Meuron). Other questions emerge such as: Where do the parametric algorithms come from? What different orders do they reference? (See Venturi’s iconographic associations). Is it inevitable that we read a previously unimagined parametrically generated form against its prior type (Colquhoun’s typology and design method)? What about the site and context? Can they be thought of as having their own emergence? If so, can the phases in their emergence be reconstructed, imagined or diagrammed? (“Contextualism,” Frampton’s “critical regionalism,” Halprin’s hidden processes). Can such diagrams reveal new insights, or hidden potentials, where a design idea can engage these “givens” to produce a new combination form? Also, what about the program–why should its “patterns” (Alexander, ironically Koolhaas’s Seattle Library) be excluded from the diagrammatic operations? All of these questions and their theoretical backgrounds may help answer the question about what phase in a phase-change to choose.

The answer to how one integrates all of these questions may also reside in the integration of these three-dimensional parametric modeling programs with BIM. Imagine that, as the 3D modeling programs spin out new spatial and material forms, BIM could provide empirical performance evaluations to help choose a preferred iteration. In this way, the environmental performance, the ecological footprint as a form generator, for example (see Olgyay, Fitch), can be integrated with other issues of form generation, including other theoretical propositions about the site, program, structure and construction referenced above. Thus, through the computer, theoretical design speculations and empirical analyses come together, enhancing the evaluation of a preferred solution. While we are still a long way from achieving full integration, we are getting closer and partial integration is already feasible. In the meantime, as the projects that follow illustrate, we are in an exciting time of experimental form generation. Each of the projects, along with some of the most notable examples of contemporary practice, are engaged in finding ways to make the diagrammatic generation of form not only have meaning within its own referential system, but also to create broader meanings beyond their internal logic. Finding those strategies and connections to broader meanings is as emergent a search as the diagrammatic operations themselves. For the promise of integrating 3D parametric modeling and performance simulation to enhance the generation of meaningful form, the practitioners and faculty involved in each must join forces in a concerted effort.

Harrison S. Fraker Jr.
Underfloor Air Distribution Design Guide by Fred S. Bauman Enlarge [+]

Berkeley in the World

This is a time of unprecedented globalization. While globalization is not new, the scale and intensity of global flows of capital, labor, innovation and information is perhaps unmatched in the history of the world-system.

Equally striking is the emergence of global social movements, global campaigns and global alliances that seek to address issues of poverty and inequality. Indeed, the start of the 21st century has been marked by the globalization of responsibility for the human condition – from human rights to environmental crisis to disease to extreme poverty. What is UC Berkeley’s role in this bold, millennial moment? This is precisely the question that led to the recent establishment of the Blum Center for Developing Economies on campus. How can UC Berkeley train the next generation of global citizens to tackle, in inspired but responsible ways, the world’s pressing problems? In doing so, how will they better understand their place in the world and thus remake the future of America?

But it is important to ask yet another question: what is the role of urbanists, urban planners, urban designers, architects, environmental planners and landscape architects at such a global moment? I do not ask this question simply because urban planning is my professional calling card. I believe that this question has urgency for all those concerned with globalization, its promises, and its stark inequalities. After all, the 21st century will be not only a global century, but also an urban century. Cities are, and will be, a key space of economic development and of material and symbolic citizenship. The “right to the city” will be one of the most important human rights of the 21st century. What role will urban professionals, scholars and activists play in articulating this right to the city? How, in particular, will CED train the next generation of “insurgent” architects and planners?

Let me simply share one lesson that I draw from some of the classes, seminars, studios and workshops that a few of us have been organizing and leading in CED: the act of planning and designing is fundamentally an ethical and political act. We can claim we are neutral technocrats or well-meaning artists, but neither guise fully captures the extent of our impact or paradoxically the impotence of our plans. We produce space. And we do so in a world that, despite what the gurus of globalization would have us believe, is not flat. The production of space thus implicates us in the structural logic of urbanization and urbanism; in the political fields of power and powerlessness; and in the unequal, and often unjust, landscapes of cities and regions. The ethical question is how we choose to participate in the production of space. Are we the consultant who plans the redevelopment of a slum and in doing so fiercely opposes evictions, the one who negotiates resettlement and compensation for slum-dwellers, or simply the one who follows our client’s script? Are we the planner who is commissioned to create a new city for a global elite and in doing so insists the city has to be open and inclusive for all classes, the one who revels in the high-style architecture we can design, or the one who rejects the commission?

During this past semester, I have watched students in the Nano City Super Studio admirably struggle with these issues. How will they convince their clients that a vibrant and just city is one whose value derives from more than simply valuable real estate and global connectivity? How will they make tangible and visible these alternative forms of value, those that are less commodified and lucrative than property capital? How will they plan for the villagers who live on the edges of the site, who are subsistence farmers and eager to sell their land and stop farming? Will they, as benevolent planners, preserve these villages as quaint relics of a lifestyle that the villagers themselves refuse, or will they imagine a different future for the relationship between city and countryside? Most important, the students have known that the answers to these questions are not technocratic or aesthetic but rather ethical and political. While they have been able to utilize their technocratic and aesthetic expertise, this expertise has been shaken and disrupted by the sheer social reality of the site, that encounter between the villager aspiring for a better life and the UC Berkeley student desperately desiring to do the right thing. The site haunts the studio and this is the way it must be – this always tense ethical and political relationship between expertise and social reality, university and community. We mediate this relationship as “double agents,” often complicit in the production of space but also hoping to subvert the cruel calculus of this production.