History of Campus and Area Architecture And Design Explored in New Exhibits
By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
Four new exhibits offer unprecedented glimpses of the designing of the campus and of Bay Area bridges, as well a look at the evolving world of architecture.
Two exhibits already are under way at the Berkeley Art Museum, and a third begins there later this month. The fourth is on display at the Doe Memorial Library's Bernice Layne Brown Gallery.
The museum programs lay down blueprints for examining the history of the campus's design, changes in that design that loom in the new millennium, and architecture's own creative evolution.
"Nowhere in the world is there a more intriguing juxtaposition of the architecture profession at the turn-of-the-millennium with the profession at the turn-of-the-last-century than in the three shows at the Berkeley Art Museum," said Harrison Fraker Jr., dean of the College of Environmental Design. The effect is to create "a critical tension that spans the century," he said.
The Doe Library event, "Bridging the Bay -- Bridging the Campus," features a wide range of contemporary and archival materials relating to the region's bridge building, currently a hot topic undergoing intense public scrutiny and planning.
"These exhibits offer an interesting way for people to start thinking about architecture ... (and) open up a lot of dialogue and conversation," said Constance Lewallan, senior curator at the Berkeley Art Museum.
Timing of the programs coincides with the winding down of one era and beginning of another.
The "Roma/Pacifica" exhibit, which began in December, reconstructs the process of the Phoebe Hearst International Architectural Competition held in 1898-99 to compose a master plan for Berkeley.
Museum patrons can see drawings, original documents, preparatory studies and historical photographs, much of which was pulled out of storage for the first time in more than 100 years.
"The Roma/Pacifica exhibition captures grand visions by the leading turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts architects in priceless original archival drawings," Fraker said.
Meanwhile, Berkeley is entering the early stages of a major design phase, drawing up a master plan for its physical future. The Berkeley Art Museum also is formulating plans to respond to seismic challenges of its current home. Results could entail new design and construction, or renovation.
Also on display since mid-December is "Equal Partners," an exhibit exploring the work of 15 architectural firms founded and directed by female-male partners, including two firms from the San Francisco Bay Area. The show was curated by Smith College and is touring the country.
The sexual dynamics of architecture have changed since the days of Julia Morgan, one of America's first female architects. Although she built Hearst Castle and assisted John Galen Howard on the Hearst Mining Building and Bernard Maybeck on the Phoebe Hearst Gymnasium at Berkeley, Morgan was turned away from American architecture schools and studied instead in Paris.
"Equal Partners," which foregrounds the way women figure in contemporary architectural practice, "captures the brilliance of detailing and the poetry of improvisation and construction," said Fraker.
Complementing "Equal Partners" is "2x2: Architectural Collaboration," an exhibit that takes a look not just at designs but the collaborative processes at eight less established firms. It starts Jan. 22 and runs through April 16.
The show examines various types of relationships involved in successful architecture practices. They include bonds between sisters who are firm partners; architects and clients; and architects and contractors.
Featured firms include one from Berkeley, two from San Francisco, two from the Los Angeles area, and three from New York. Two faculty members from the College of Environmental Design -- Raveevarn Choksambatchai, an assistant professor of architecture; and Rene Davids, an associate professor of architecture; and their respective partners -- are featured in the exhibit.
Lewallan said that while architecture programs have proven popular at the Berkeley Art Museum, they often challenge visitors by presenting architecture in an artistic context.
To aid that process, exhibits include models, blueprints, photos, videos, discussions, lectures and, in some cases, CD-ROMs that guide museum patrons on a simulated walk-through of buildings and give a physical sense of their space and layout.
Roma/Pacifica will be accompanied by several lectures by Gray Brechin, a specialist in California history, environment and architecture. He worked with curator Robert Judson Clark on the exhibit.
Curators for the "Bridging the Bay-Bridging the Campus" are using blueprints, photos, maps, books, drawings, artifacts and other materials to showcase Bay Area bridge design and construction. In addition to examining plans for the Golden Gate, San Francisco-Oakland, Carquinez, Antioch and Dumbarton bridges, the program features documents detailing bridge projects in the region that were never built.
Exhibit materials were retrieved from campus libraries including the Bancroft Library and those in engineering, earth sciences, environmental design, transportation studies, the Water Resources Center and the Institute of Governmental Studies.
A virtual exhibit will run concurrently at (www.lib.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/bridge).