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College of Environmental Design sponsors mountain hut design contest

– North Americans trekking into the wilderness typically favor the tent for shelter, while much of the rest of the world leans toward the large, communal mountain hut.

The first method is thought to contribute to environmental degradation; the second uses 19th century models that need more advanced technology and a focus on environmental preservation.

The solution?

A new contest sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley's College of Environmental Design aims to find out through an international search for a prototype design for a 60- to 80-person wilderness base camp for overnight stays high in California's Sierra Nevada.

The Palisades Glacier Mountain Hut Competition, open to students and professionals, is offering a $10,000 first prize for the best plan that integrates advanced construction technology and innovative design with environmental preservation.

The winning design is expected to lead to a contract to build the mountain hut with an estimated construction budget of $1.5 million. The clients will be the non-profit David Brower Memorial Mountain Hut at the Palisades Glacier Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

The competition project site is near the trailhead leading to the mile-long Palisade Glacier, the largest glacier in the Sierra.

Harrison Fraker, dean of UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, said the competition is looking for innovative concepts of building and design "which will represent a new standard for environmental and social responsibility - and be a model for how to live wholly integrated within the natural processes of a challenging, yet fragile place."

Teaming with the College of Environmental Design to make the competition possible is the Wiener Family Fund for Public Architecture and Landscape. The organization has established a fund for competitions and events that emphasize social equality and environmental sustainability along with design excellence and technological advances. All design entries are for projects for public spaces.

San Francisco attorney Jay Wiener established and chairs the Wiener Family Fund to continue a commitment to progressive modern architecture that was initiated by his family. The family includes Samuel G. Wiener and his cousin William B. Wiener, early regional masters of architecture in the United States.

The fund's goals also reflect Jay Wiener's experience as an avid mountain climber and competitive Nordic skier.

The deadline for entries is Dec. 5, 2003. Winners will be announced on Dec. 19, 2003, and a design contract will be issued to the winning team in January 2004. Construction is expected to begin around June 2004.

For more information about the competition and how to register, visit the contest Web site.