Dean’s Advisory Council

In 2010, after celebrating the 50th anniversary of CED, Dean Wolch approached a small group of dedicated and caring alumni and friends of CED to ask their help in advancing the strategic goals of the college through their professional expertise, counsel, and connections.

The Dean’s Advisory Council — an evolution of the CED Alumni (CEDA) board of directors which had served the college since 1990 — has grown to a diverse group of 26 alumni and friends who act as close advisors to the dean and ambassadors of the college.

“I appreciate CED’s focus on designing an integrated educational experience that acknowledges the critically important challenges associated with shaping the environment, whether through physical or policy means, as the world becomes ever smaller. I am honored to be part of the Dean’s Advisory Committee and am happy to support the work at CED through this involvement.”

— Lydia Tan, B.Arch ’83
Senior Vice President, Development for the Western U.S., Bentall Kennedy

Members of the Dean’s Advisory Council — which include such notable alumni as San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell, Johnson Fain founders Scott Johnson and William Fain, SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, Walt Disney Company Director of Health Management Barbara Wachsman, and SWA Group Chairman John Wong — represent a range of professions and geographies and comprise not only graduates from the three departments within CED, but also notable leaders from outside the college. The Council was originally chaired by Bob Lalanne and the current chair is Sylvia Kwan. Membership in the Dean’s Advisory Council is by invitation of the dean of the college.

Advisory Council members
Advisory Council members (clockwise from left) Brian Dougherty, Lydia Tan, Ricardo Capretta, Vishaan Chakrabarti, William Fain, Gray B. Dougherty, Kofi Bonner, and James R. Crawford.

While Advisory Council members pledge an annual contribution to the CED Annual Fund during their three-year term of service, their greater impact comes from bringing their professional expertise to help CED leadership shape activities, programs, and facility development; and inspiring others in the CED family to make contributions in support of these endeavors.

Advisory Council members generously give their time and talent, often going above and beyond, with significant in-kind and pro-bono support to build the CED community, help students, and aid the dean in making improvements to Wurster Hall. Maintaining and nurturing the CED community is essential to the prosperity of the college. Members in New York and Los Angeles go out of their way to coordinate or host both intimate events and large-scale programs, allowing alumni outside the Bay Area to network and continue their relationship with CED.

“The Dean’s Advisory Council is a tremendous way for me to remain connected to Berkeley — important both personally and professionally as a way to keep Disney on the cutting edge of architecture, urban/environmental planning. Having direct exposure to Dean Wolch and other Cal faculty is an absolute dream and allows me to remain up to date about Cal and my professional community. We love to hire Wurster grads at Disney and the Council is a great way to stay informed about what that next generation’s values and interests are.”

— Barbara Wachsman, M.C.P. ’83
Director of Health Management, The Walt Disney Company

Providing professional internships within their firms and supporting internship programs is another endeavor where Council members are an invaluable resource. Internships programs, such as CED’s On-SITE, allow students to enhance their education with practical hands-on experience in firms while introducing these organizations to some of the brightest and most determined design students soon to enter the market. Advisory Council members also enrich the student experience by conveying their knowledge and professional expertise through accepting faculty invitations to speak at classes, participate in reviews, or by making the significant financial commitment to sponsor a studio course.

Advisory Council members
Advisory Council members (clockwise from left) David Friedman, Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, Jackson Hseih, Scott Johnson, Tom Mead, Michael Lin, Sylvia P. Kwan, and Chris Kent.
Advisory Council members
Advisory Council members (clockwise from left) Gabriel Metcalf, Michael Painter, Fred Blackwell, Barbara Wachsman, Paul Woolford, Joseph O. Wong, John Wong, and Judd Williams.

Generous pro-bono and financial contributions by Advisory Council members ensure that Wurster Hall facilities meet the needs of current and future students and faculty. Members have played an important role in helping improve Wurster Hall — contributing to the Gallery, first and second-floor lobbies, Flex Studios, and the Digital Fabrication Lab which houses new digitally controlled equipment. The new Materials Store, where CED students can purchase fabrication supplies, was also realized through the generous financial support of a Council member.

One of the most essential contributions the Advisory Council makes is in supporting the dean in strategic planning. Members played an active role in developing the 2012 Strategic Plan, supporting the implementation of a road map that will be the touchstone for planning and fundraising for the next 5 to 10 years.

In addition to their fundraising support for several key initiatives built into the strategic plan such as Flex Studios — the campaign to update Wurster’s studios with multiple platforms for creativity, research, and design collaboration — the Dean’s Advisory Council is also called upon to encourage others to give to the CED Annual Fund.

Over the last several years, this group’s commitment to the CED Fund has made a significant difference to the college. An essential resource as CED faces critical issues that challenge today’s public educational institutions, the CED Fund provides the college with crucial support for a variety of activities, including educational programming and opportunities such as lectures, exhibits, and international studios; the research efforts of our outstanding junior faculty; and CED’s Career Services, an office dedicated to helping our students launch their professional careers.

Contributors of $1000 or more to the CED Fund become members of the Wurster Society. For the past three decades, members of the Wurster Society have provided leadership gifts to meet high-priority needs and to allow CED to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

“I am honored to serve on the Dean’s CED Council in an effort to stay engaged and help support the Wurster Hall community. I owe so much of my own success to Berkeley and CED that it is a pleasure to help sustain its great future.”

— Vishaan Chakrabarti, M.Arch ’96
Principal, SHoP Architects, Professor, Columbia University

“We applaud the incredible efforts that the Dean’s Advisory Council has made on behalf of CED, the successes they’ve achieved, and their essential role in helping ensure that the college can meet the needs of current and future students” said CED Dean Jennifer Wolch. “The personal friendships that develop from Advisory Council collaborations are one of most rewarding aspects of my service as dean.”

“Being a part a of the Dean’s advisory committee is both an honor and fulfilling. It gives me an opportunity to stay connected to the school in a meaningful way and make a contribution to its continued success. Jennifer’s leadership has been great for the school and I am grateful for the opportunity to help.”

— Fred Blackwell, M.C.P. ’96
CEO, San Francisco Foundation

Current members of the Dean’s Advisory Council include:

  • Kofi Bonner, Regional Vice President, Lennar Urban
  • Fred Blackwell, CEO, San Francisco Foundation
  • Ricardo L. Capretta, President, Capretta Properties Inc.
  • Vishaan Chakrabarti, Principal, SHoP Architects/Holliday Professor of Real Estate, Columbia University
  • James R. Crawford, Partner, Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP
  • Brian Dougherty, Founder, Dougherty and Dougherty Architecture
  • Gray B. Dougherty, Partner, Dougherty and Dougherty Architecture
  • William Fain, Founder, Johnson Fain
  • David Friedman, Principal and Chairman, Forell/Elsesser Engineers
  • Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, Founder, Hernandez-Eli Architects
  • Jackson Hsieh, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking, Morgan Stanley
  • Scott Johnson, Founder, Johnson Fain
  • Chris Kent, Principal, PGA Design
  • Sylvia P. Kwan, Founder, Kwan Henmi Architecture/Planning
  • Michael Lin, Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial Services
  • Tom Mead, Vice President of Construction Management, Equity Residential
  • Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director, SPUR
  • Michael Painter, President, MPA Design
  • Lydia Tan, Senior Vice President, Development for the Western U.S., Bentall Kennedy
  • Barbara Wachsman, Director of Health Management, The Walt Disney Company
  • Judd Williams
  • John Wong, Managing Principal and Chairman, SWA Group
  • Joseph O. Wong, Founding Principal, JWDA
  • Paul Woolford, Design Director, Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK)

“I have really enjoyed contributing to the Dean’s Advisory Council. In return it has given me a lot. My understanding of the college’s educational focus has been broadened and clarified. I also have a much better appreciation of the expertise of the faculty. After each meeting/event I find my mind spinning with ideas — reminiscent of being a student again.”

— Chris Kent, M.L.A ’93
Principal, PGA Design

“The Advisory Council exposes me to the accomplishments of CED’s faculty and students, as well as the college’s initiatives and aspirations; it’s invigorating. I am emboldened to make meaningful contributions to the professional trajectory of our young alumni and strengthen the CED community in New York, where I practice.”

— Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, B.Arch ’02
Founder, Hernandez-Eli Architects

“The UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design is of vital importance to our Northern California design community; it creates a place for critical thinking and discourse, and fills our design studios with emerging talent. Our practices depend upon UCB to fill this role, and as such it’s been a privilege to serve on the Dean’s Council at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. It’s an honor to be able to give something back in return.”

— — Paul Woolford

The Diverse Faces of CED

One of the core missions of the College of Environmental Design is to provide access to an extraordinarily fine university education and college experience, regardless of the financial circumstances of the students we recruit, teach and mentor. Part of this mission is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to come to CED. At the undergraduate level, for example, we have particularly sought to increase access for students of color, as well as those who come from low income households, are immigrants, or are the first in their families to go to college.

These efforts have been led by Susan Hagstrom, Director of Undergraduate Programs, and Renee Chow, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs. Several strategies have been important. They include aggressive recruiting via the CED website, social networking, and visits to high schools and community colleges. Adviser Omar Ramirez serves as Undergraduate Diversity Officer, working with campus on larger student recruitment strategies. And, since peer-to-peer relationships are always persuasive, Susan and her advising team created the CED Admissions Ambassadors Internship Program, that mobilized current CED undergraduates to speak to high school and community college groups, talk to prospective students, and chat with them on the web.

CED students
Enlarge [+]

The results have been striking: CED is now home to UC Berkeley’s highest percentage of students coming from households of modest means, indicated by their eligibility for Pell Grants, as well as the highest percentage of historically underrepresented minority students and many immigrant and first generation college students. In 2012-13, 48% of CED undergraduates received Pell Grants, 16% above the campus average. Our unique student body creates a rich and vibrant community within the College of Environmental Design. Also enlivening our community are growing numbers of out-of-state and international students.

UC Berkeley’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Program insures that students coming from families with modest household incomes ($80,000 or less), do not pay tuition or fees. But the financial constraints of many CED students present distinct challenges for them: according to UC Berkeley’s Financial Aid Office, in 2014, the average family income of CED Pell Grant recipients was under $25,000. And, because CED offers design-based majors, our students face additional costs. They need an up-to-date computer that can run design and animation software, and are also required to purchase modeling, building and art supplies and to print and plot (in 2 and 3 dimensions) to complete their projects and their degree programs. Architecture majors, for example, spend on average more than $3600 per year (excluding books or computer). This amount constitutes 15% of the average family income of CED students who receive Pell Grants.

New CED Digital Fabrication Lab
New CED Digital Fabrication Lab Enlarge [+]

Thus almost half of our 570 undergraduate students struggle to cover both their living expenses, and the added costs of a CED education. This situation directly impacts their performance in school. As one student wrote to us, “Coupled with costs for model-making materials, each project becomes an extremely expensive endeavor. It not only takes hard work and dedication to thrive in the major, but also the ability to afford printing and material costs.” Sometimes students are forced to make untenable choices; as another student explained: “Due to limited amounts of personal funds, I have had to choose between paying for materials or lab fees, or paying for living expenses. In the past, I have chosen to pay for groceries and rent instead.”

As dean, I am committed to doing my utmost to deploy existing resources, and generate new resources, to insure that no student is compelled to go hungry in order to succeed at CED. So, we have created an Access Fee Waiver Program for Pell Grant recipients. This program offsets a portion of facility access, use and printing fees. While this existing financial waiver program is helpful, we know it is not enough. In an effort led by Assistant Dean for Infrastructure and Information Technology Patty Mead, and our Fabrication Shop Manager Semar Prom, with an Innovation Award from the UC Berkeley Office of Equity & Inclusion, we are also opening a Materials Store. At the Materials Store, students will be able to conveniently purchase a range of course-related materials and supplies, at reasonable prices; some of the proceeds will go to enlarging our Access Fee Waiver Program.

If you would like to contribute to either of these efforts — by providing Access Fee Waivers ($500 each) or supporting the Materials Store — please contact me at Wolch@berkeley.edu.

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!

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.

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.

CED 50th Anniversary Spring Program: Visualizing the Future of Environmental Design

Ananya Roy, Teresa Caldeira, Paul Collier, and Jennifer Wolch
Professor Ananya Roy Ph.D. ’99, Professor Teresa Caldeira Ph.D. ’92, Oxford University Professor of Economics Paul Collier, and Dean Jennifer Wolch after Collier’s lecture about integrating poor countries into global society. (Photo: Adrianne Koteen)

The spring 50th Anniversary celebration shifted its focus to the problems that could not have been foreseen when the College of Environmental Design was founded fifty years ago. Over a four day series of lectures focusing on global dynamics and sustainability challenges, the CED community began planning for the next fifty years.

On Wednesday, February 3, Oxford University Professor of Economics Paul Collier was our first keynote speaker with a talk on his groundbreaking research on “the bottom billion.” A billion people live in countries that have fallen far behind the rest of humanity. He then addressed how, over the coming decades, these societies can develop.

In introducing Collier, City and Regional Planning Professor Ananya Roy said, “These issues of global poverty are of central concern to many of us here at UC Berkeley, and they also constitute an important challenge to the disciplines and professions that make up the College of Environmental Design.”

Dana Cuff; Janine Benyus
Left: Dana Cuff; Right: Janine Benyus, President and Founder of the Biomimicry Institute, discussed the use of natural and biological structures as a guide for design. (Photo: Adrianne Koteen)

So, all that Berkeley has spawned, all the College of Environmental Design continues to generate, is the springboard from which this next era will grow. And, I agree with all four speakers, who in some way or another point to some kind of tipping point, a bottleneck, that represents our moment historically, and why we can move forward. Each one of the speakers had solutions, that kind of optimism, for the next CED to consider. Whether it’s Collier’s notion of credible hope; or nature’s inspiration as ecological performance standards, not just formal standards; a re-centering of our attentive focus, an amazing concept that’s hard to linger on; and, of course, the urban restructuring of a physical nature that’s inherent and intrinsic to the urban restructuring of an economic nature.

— Dana Cuff

Collier established his theme for the day as design for the poorest of the earth. “If not you, who?” Collier asked the audience about helping redesign Haiti. “It’s both vastly important in itself and it’s paradigmatic of this whole class of societies at the bottom.”

President and Founder of the Biomimicry Institute, Janine Benyus, spoke the following evening to an audience of more than five-hundred people. She grounded her speech on her understanding of biomimicry, the science and practice of asking, “How would nature solve this design challenge?”

Interim Chair of the Department of Architecture, Professor Gail Brager, introduced Benyus with the story of Benyus’s journey from nature writer to a leading theorist. “Over the course of ten years, between 1983 and 1993, Janine wrote five books about wildlife and animal behavior. As she learned more and more about how well animals create, manage, and adapt to their environments, a funny thing happened. She became more and more bothered by her observations about how poorly human beings do the same thing. And that angst that she felt turned out to be a very good thing for all of us, because she turned that combination of frustration and curiosity into a new direction of research.”

Benyus’s speech underscored the highly optimistic sense of the series of keynote addresses with her outlook on the possibilities of sustainable, naturally harmonious design. “Interestingly in the next thirty years, eighty percent of the buildings in this country are either going to be remodeled or built new,” she told the capacity crowd at the I House Chevron Auditorium, “So you guys are going to be building larger nests.”

The final keynote speech on Friday, February 5, was entitled, “Designed to Hesitate: Consciousness as Paying Attention” from University of Chicago Emerita Art Professor Barbara Maria Stafford. Stafford pulled from several fields in her fascinating lecture. The speech began a discussion between the mind-science of the humanities and the brain-science of neurobiology, which will hopefully lead to developments in both fields.

City & Regional Planning Professor Michael Dear introduced Stafford to the audience. He quoted his and Stafford’s mutual friend and colleague Hilary Schor, “Barbara Stafford is a visionary and a prophet. The others who follow write the laws. You can make what you will of that, but you can see what she meant when you see Barbara’s presentation.”

Barbara Stafford; Manuel Castells
Left: Barbara Stafford, Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of Chicago, spoke about design and consciousness in her lecture at International House; Center: Professor Manuel Castells, Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communications & Society at USC, spoke about reinventing urbanism in a time of economic crisis. (Photos: Adrianne Koteen)

Stafford’s lecture focused on the difference between “voluntary and involuntary attention.” Building on breakthroughs in the neurosciences, Stafford argued that contemporary technological media — the use of cell phones, for example — erode the part of the brain designed to allow for conscious, voluntary attentiveness. She proposed a “pedagogy of attentiveness,” challenging the education system to stimulate the part of the brain which “hesitates,” and therefore, reasonably solves problems.

On Saturday morning, USC University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communications & Society Manuel Castells reopened the discussion on the future of CED. His talk, “Reinventing Urbanism in a Time of Economic Crisis,” engaged the crowd with the legendary academic’s thoughts on what can be learned from the current economic meltdown.

CED Dean Jennifer Wolch introduced Castells. She said, “To say that Manuel is prolific and prodigious does not actually quite capture the situation.” She then listed several decades’ worth of accomplishments before adding, “Professor Castells is the world’s foremost theorist of the power of communication.”

Dana Cuff with Michael Dear and Jennifer Wolch.
Left to right: Professor Dana Cuff (Ph.D. ’82), Director of cityLAB at UCLA, with Professor Michael Dear and CED Dean Jennifer Wolch.

Castells aroused the morning crowd with his thoughts. “So there is a way of reinventing urbanism,” he said. “The ideas are there. The political will of literally millions of people are there. But, it’s also important to study these connections between ideas and practice. And in that sense the College [of Environmental Design] has been and, I hope, will be important. The College can continue to reinvent urbanism … This is the College that has been at the forefront of rethinking the ways we live in cities and beyond for generations.”

Castells’s speech was followed by a panel, “Futures of Environmental Design Education at CED.” The panel featured some of CED’s most engaged junior faculty, recent alumni, and graduate students. Among those who spoke were: Allegra Bukojemsky, Landscape Architect and Leader at Biohabitats, San Francisco; John Cary, Executive Director at Public Architecture, San Francisco; Susanne Cowan, Ph.D. Candidate, Architecture, and Graduate Student Instructor; Bill Eisenstein, Executive Director, Center for Resource Efficient Communities, UC Berkeley; Malo André Hutson, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning; Ron Rael, Assistant Professor of Architecture; and, Renee Roy, Ph.D. Student, City and Regional Planning.

Speakers at the CED 50th Anniversary Symposium: Visualizing the Future of Environmental Design
Speakers at the CED 50th Anniversary Symposium: Visualizing the Future of Environmental Design. Left to right: Assistant Professor Malo Hutson (MCP ’99), Allegra Bukojemsky (MLA ’02), Bill Eisenstein (Ph.D. ’05), Susanne Cowan, John Cary (M.Arch ’03), Professor Dana Cuff (Ph.D. ’82), Professor Manuel Castells, Assistant Professor Ron Rael, Renee Roy, and CED Dean Jennifer Wolch. (Photo: Adrianne Koteen) Allegra Bukojemsky
Alumna Allegra Bukojemsky (MLA ’02)

The panel showcased CED’s potential to stay at the forefront of research and practice during the next fifty years. “We think of ourselves as problem-solvers,” John Cary explained as his view of CED’s function. “One of the opportunities we have, that Prof. Castells and others have talked about, is to identify problems and propose solutions, and really, I think, that’s something, employed or not, we have the opportunity to do.”

Dana Cuff capped the spring program with a talk on the importance of the optimism established through the series of speeches and panels. She elegantly looked back over the past four days, with the conclusion that CED “may be the best site to build back into the world a role for design.”

Gail Brager, Janine Benyus, and Jennifer Wolch.
Left to right: Interim Chair of the Department of Architecture Gail Brager, President and Founder of the Biomimicry Institute Janine Benyus, and CED Dean Jennifer Wolch. Michael Dear and Mike Tietz
Professors Michael Dear and Mike Tietz

“The city is really our mutual project,” Cuff observed, “and I want to emphasize the word ‘project’ here, where landscape architecture, planning, and architecture are necessary because none of us can do it alone. It’s the commitment here to social, historical, and technological research combined with the force of design that will turn that research and action into new solutions.”