The Art Museum's Interactive Urban Planning Exhibit Takes a Look at
Social, Physical Aspects of Redesigning Cities
by Fernando Quintero
In 1955, Berkeley became the first city in the United States to develop an urban master plan.
Forty years and several thousands more residents later, the City of Berkeley is once again taking a forward looking approach in updating its blueprint for living by working cooperatively with the campus and the residents--including students--who live here.
Innovative urban design projects at home and throughout the nation are the focus of "Urban Revisions: Current Projects for the Public Realm," a new exhibit on view at the University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive through July 16.
Using drawings, video and computer programs, the multimedia exhibit examines the physical and social aspects of contemporary city redesign by some of today's most visionary architects, urban designers and city planners.
In addition to an interactive display on Berkeley's master plan update that invites community input, the exhibit will also include a local section with design ideas for an Oakland neighborhood park by Walter Hood, professor of landscape architecture at Berkeley, and a plan-it-yourself section of the Telegraph Avenue-Southside area in the lobby of the UAM/PFA Theater Gallery through April 16.
Presented by the Telegraph Area Association and the Southside Task Force, "Revisioning Southside/Telegraph" is a display of concepts, visions and ideas for the future of the vibrant and historic neighborhood.
A large wall covered with maps of the area and photographs of key sites invites visitors to record their ideas on improving the common city-university ground. A "Visionary Berkeleyans" section offers thoughts and images from such local residents as Chancellor Tien and Berkeley Symphony Music Director Kent Nagano.
Community members will also be invited to present their ideas on local land use projects during Thursday evening planning sessions led by designers and community leaders.
"This exhibition is a tremendous opportunity for the community to define the future of this area," said Rita Hardin, executive director of the Telegraph Area Association. "We want to be broadly inclusive in our planning and encourage as many people as possible to participate."
Michael Dobbins, campus director of planning, calls the interactive aspect of the exhibition "an opportunity for people to remake their own environment."
Senior Planner David Duncan added that the exhibit also provides an acknowledgment to the extraordinary level of civic involvement among Berkeley residents.
"One of the things that makes this place unique is the level of public concern over this city," he said. "Although it often has a contentious look to it, you don't get that kind of care and sharing of information anywhere else."
Dobbins and Duncan agreed that grassroots design and community based planning are being recognized as effective ways of bringing together a community's physical, intellectual and economic resources for neighborhood revitalization efforts.
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the exhibition provides insight into the history and process of urban design and examines the various roles of the architect, planner and the community in the reshaping of cities.
"One of the museum's primary goals in presenting 'Urban Revisions' is to provoke awareness about the impact urban design and planning has on all of us and to provide some ideas in a visual form about possible strategies and solutions," said UAM/PFA designer Nina Zurier.
"This has a particular relevance to people in the Bay Area as we consider transportation issues such as the Cypress extension in Oakland, the expansion of I-80 along the Berkeley waterfront and the extension of BART. Local urban planning issues include the military base conversions of the Presidio, Treasure Island and Alameda Naval Station as well as reconstruction of areas affected by the Loma Prieta earthquake and Berkeley/Oakland Hills fire."
Eighteen projects in the exhibition come from nine cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, New York City, St. Louis, New Haven, Boston and Portland. Projects from Canada and Switzerland are also presented.