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New Book Chronicles 100 Years of UC Berkeley’s Architecture Department

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After a decade of research, interviews, and editing, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design has just published Design on the Edge: A Century of Teaching Architecture, 1903–2003, a book chronicling the history of the University’s Department of Architecture.



After a decade of research, interviews, and editing, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design has just published Design on the Edge: A Century of Teaching Architecture, 1903–2003, a book chronicling the history of the University’s Department of Architecture, announced Jennifer Wolch, dean of the College of Environmental Design.

From its unofficial beginning on a San Francisco ferryboat to its current status as a nationally recognized program, the Architecture Department at the University of California, Berkeley, played a significant role in American architectural education. Faculty and alumni from the UC Berkeley Architecture Department have profoundly influenced architectural thought, practice, design, education, and the built environment of the San Francisco Bay Area. Design on the Edge provides insights into the history and development of the department that included such notables as John Galen Howard, William Wurster, Catherine Bauer Wurster, Erich Mendelsohn, Christopher Alexander, Joseph Esherick, Spiro Kostof, Sim Van der Ryn, Dell Upton, and Marc Treib, as well as more recent rising stars such as Michael Bell and Lisa Iwamoto. From its inception, Berkeley’s architecture program enrolled women and minorities; recently, more than 50% of its graduates have been women. Discover how Berkeley’s Architecture Department became the national model for incorporating social responsibility and environmental sustainability into design and design education.

By assembling a wide array of informal reflections, scholarly essays, and writings from a variety of past and current students, staff, and faculty, Design on the Edge will appeal to a broad audience of people interested in architecture, pedagogy, the creative process, and the built environment of California. Its hundreds of photographs and drawings and readable text will engage and entertain.

The images below may be downloaded and used for reviewing or promoting Design on the Edge: A Century of Teaching Architecture, 1903–2003. Copyright for these images is held by the Regents of the University of California. Please credit the Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley, unless otherwise noted. Non-promotional use requires written permission from the Environmental Design Archives.

The Ark was designed by John Galen Howard

For its first 50 years, the UC Berkeley Architecture Department was housed in a small, shingled building that everyone called the “Ark.” It was designed by well-known Bay Area architect and founder of the department, John Galen Howard, in 1906.

Students from 1928

Architecture students in the Ark, 1928.

Picture Courtesy of Prof. Emeritus Richard Peters.

William Wurster, a well-known Bay Area architect, was invited by the UC Architecture Department to bring the program into the “modern” era. He’s pictured here (right) in 1952 with Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus in Germany and later an instructor at Harvard University. (Courtesy of Prof. Emeritus Richard Peters.)

Architecture "1N"

As the new dean of the Architecture Department, William W. Wurster invited innovative and forward-thinking architects and designers to reinvigorate the program and shape a new curriculum. Here, students stand with their projects from Charles Eames’ new course “1N” in 1954.

Picture Courtesy of George Kostritsky.

Well-known European Modernist Erich Mendelsohn, pictured here with his students, taught at UC Berkeley from 1948-1953.

A Beaux-Arts Approach circa 1930s

Student work changed significantly over the years, from a Beaux-Arts to a Modern approach. Note the difference between a 1930 drawing of a “swimming club” (above) by student (and later architecture professor) Vernon DeMars and the image below…

A Modern Approach circa 1961

… of a 1961 drawing of a “professional-commercial center” by student George Winnacker.

Wurster Hall

Having outgrown the Ark, the Architecture Department in 1964 moved to its current home in Wurster Hall. During the first weeks of occupying Wurster Hall, the department had to close its doors more than once because of student civil rights protests on campus.

Courtesy of Prof. Emeritus Claude Stoller.

Over the years, many world-class designers and educators have made their mark on the department either as lecturers or as visiting instructors, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, and Buckminster Fuller, pictured here (center) collaborating with UC Berkeley students and faculty on his “Fly’s Eye” project.

Photo by Maria Moreno.

Architecture students in the famously colorful stairwell in Wurster Hall, 1999, just prior to the building closing for a major seismic retrofit.

More Information

This article was originally published in the May 21, 2010 issue of the CED News


Waverly Lowell
Tel: 510-643-5655
FAX: 510-642-2824

Elizabeth Byrne
Tel: 510-643-7323
FAX: 510-642-8266

About the authors

Waverly Lowell is the curator of the Environmental Design Archives and author of Living Modern: A Biography of Greenwood Common (William Stout Publishers, 2009). She has consulted with design firms and directed the California COPAR survey which resulted in the book Architectural Records in the San Francisco Bay Area: A guide to research.

Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne is head of the Environmental Design Library at UC Berkeley. She has been an art and design librarian for more than 40 years

Betsy Frederick-Rothwell is a graduate of the UCB Architecture Department and a former archivist for the UCB Environmental Design Archives. She is currently a preservation specialist for the U.S. General Services Administration.

Book Details

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-13: 9780981966731
Product Dimensions: 9-1/4″ x 11-1/4″
Price: $72 (including tax)
Purchase at:
Proceeds support the Environmental Design Archives


Press Release [.doc] | Product Description [.doc] | Book Cover [.jpg]




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