UC Berkeley News


The first three monographs in the Berkeley|Design|Books series focus on California landscape design as practiced by four renowned professionals: Bernard Maybeck, Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, and Robert Royston. Future projects mining the campus's Environmental Design Archives will feature Geraldine Knight Scott, Gertrude Jekyll, and a cluster of homes in the Berkeley hills.

Showcasing California design
Monograph series draws on campus archives' vast holdings

| 11 October 2006

Professor Marc Treib has described one of designer Thomas Church's most famous works - his 1948 garden at the Donnell residence in rural Sonoma County (design drawing at top, pool detail at bottom) - as "a perfect contemporary world for indoor-outdoor living, arcadia achieved."
The rich tradition of California architecture and landscape architecture, and a stellar archival collection right here on campus, shine brightly in a new series of scholarly monographs, the Berkeley|Design|Books. Under the editorial supervision of Marc Treib, professor of architecture, the series mines the campus's Environmental Design Archives to study and richly illustrate under-explored subjects. Simultaneously, it is helping to make the archives - one of the nation's most extensive collections on architecture and possibly the best in the world on landscape design - "more exciting and accessible" while also "encouraging their use," says Waverly Lowell, the archives' curator.

Published by William Stout Publishers for the College of Environmental Design, the series was launched in 2004 with a pair of monographs: Maybeck's Landscapes: Drawing in Nature (written by Dianne Harris, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois) and Treib's "biography" of two famous gardens, The Donnell and Eckbo Gardens: Modern California Masterworks. In the former, Harris argues that if you look only at the buildings of the legendary California architect Bernard Maybeck, as many writings have done to date, you're only getting part of the story, because Maybeck also conceived elaborate planting plans for his buildings. This theme, notes Treib, reflects an overarching goal of the series, which is to take an "environmental" perspective on design topics, connecting the form and detail of buildings to the cultural and natural landscapes in which they're situated (as in the name "College of Environmental Design").

California architect Bernard Maybeck created the site plan for Berkeley's Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry (now called Starr King School), built in 1912-14.

Treib's previous publications include Thomas Church, Landscape Architect, an anthology spanning the entire career of this influential mid-20th-century landscape designer and one of the authors of the "California garden style" (eventually exported far beyond the Golden State). In the new monograph, The Donnell and Eckbo Gardens: Modern California Masterworks, he "zooms in" on a single Church project, his renowned 1948 garden at the Dewey Donnell residence, perched on a Sonoma County hillside. That garden, Treib says, is not only one of Church's finest (he designed more than 2,000 throughout his lifetime) but one of the great American mid-century gardens. The monograph also treats a second of Treib's "best mid-century garden" nominees, a project commissioned by Alcoa Corporation to demonstrate the possibilities of aluminum in the early postwar years. Landscape architect Garrett Eckbo (a Berkeley grad who chaired the campus's landscape-architecture department from 1963 to 1969) designed the demonstration garden for his own Los Angeles backyard, situating vegetation amidst trellises, screens, sunshades, pergolas, and other aluminum features.

Pixie Place, or Pixie Playground, in Mill Valley was a 1958 pro bono project specifically designed for young children by landscape architect Robert Royston.

Landscape architect Robert Royston has enjoyed a long career designing parks, zoos, regional land-use plans, cemeteries, public and private gardens and new towns, as well as a long association with the Berkeley campus (where he was student, teacher, and visiting lecturer). He is the subject of the series' third volume - about to be released - Modern Public Gardens: The Suburban Parks of Robert Royston, by University of Virginia professor of landscape architecture Reuben Rainey and Bay Area landscape architect JC Miller.

Treib notes that the San Francisco Bay Area remains an epicenter of modern regional architecture and modern landscape design, although that heritage has been relatively untreated in past writings in favor of the modern architecture of Southern California. Through the series, he and Lowell hope to shine a light on Northern California's contributions to the environmental-design field. Upcoming titles include monographs on Greenwood Common in the Berkeley hills (to be written by Lowell), on houses designed by former Berkeley professor Joseph Esherick, and on Geraldine Knight Scott (who taught planting design at Berkeley for many years and influenced many students through her teaching). Another study, further afield, will spotlight Gertrude Jekyll, a doyenne of English landscape gardening at the turn of the 20th century.

So far, the monograph series has been supported in part by grants from the Getty Foundation and the Graham Foundation. As long as there's energy and financial resources for the project, Treib says, the series "could go on forever; it's a vast collection."

The Berkeley|Design|Books can be purchased from William Stout Publishers at stoutpublishers@yahoo.com, or William Stout Architectural Books, found online at