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Monthly Archives: 05/2016

Environmental Design Archives: A Teaching Collection

Posted on by Christina Marino
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The archives in Wurster Hall following the move to Wurster Hall  ca. 1967

William W. Wurster founded the Environmental Design Archives (then the Architectural Archives) in 1953 as a teaching collection, in response to the recommendation of eminent architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock. Sixty-three years later the Archives holds true to its original mission by giving research assistance and instructional sessions to students from the College of Environmental Design, the University of California, and national and international centers of learning. 

Students use the Archives with classes that visit the EDA for instruction sessions, individually for term papers, and independently for inspiration.

Class instruction sessions usually last one hour and involve Archives staff and Faculty collaborating to identify targeted collection material for students to examine and discuss as a group in the EDA’s reading room. For example each year, instructor Dawn Kooyumjiam brings in her “Landscape Plants: Identification and Use” students to examine plant books and planting plans from the EDA’s vast collections. Studying the archival material helps students develop and hone their drawing techniques which can be seen in their end of semester pin-ups, featured below:

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close up of final tree drawings from Landscape Plants students

For some courses such as the History of Art Department's ”American Architecture: The U.C. Berkeley Campus”, Department of Architecture graduate seminar “City of Memory”, and the History of Art Department's Mellon funded graduate seminar “Berkeley Collects” - students spend the entire semester conducting research using the EDA’s collections for writing papers, leading campus architectural tours, designing exhibitions, and giving presentations.

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view of exhibition pamphlet featuring archival objects from the eda, from the "Berkeley collects' class who curated the "Papyrus in the Crocodile" exhibition

More than 300 students use the Archives each school year. To get a sense of what students are taking away from their experience at the EDA we have incorporated a survey component to instruction sessions. The survey project has been an extremely informative process, yielding valuable information about what students are taking away from one-time archival instruction sessions at the Environmental Design Archives. This information continues to inform the material that is pulled for class visits, and how information about the Archives’ resources is presented verbally and through handouts. For more information on the survey project, see the Students in the Archives blog post.

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Student presenting her design at the chair COMPETITION

Students also use the Archives outside of course work. In the Fall of 2015, the Archives hosted the first annual student furniture competition that required student participants to use the Archives’ material for inspiration and precedent for their own chair designs.The students work will be included in the upcoming furniture exhibition Form Follows: Design at a Smaller Scale which will be on view in the Environmental Design Library opening June 1. For more information on the competition see the blog.

The Environmental Design Archives is open by appointment only Monday thru Friday. Reference inquiries can be directed to designarchives@berkeley.edu or 510.642.5124.