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Journey to Hestercombe

Posted on by Emily Vigor

This past October I had the opportunity to take a leave of absence from my position at the EDA to work with a small architectural archives in Somerset, England. Having lived in London during graduate school, I was excited to return to the UK and experience a completely different side of the country away from the bustling metropolis.  My stay in the village of Yarlington was an idyllic introduction to the English countryside, nestled between the equally scenic towns of Castle Cary and Bruton, and in close proximity to numerous points of interest including Bath, Stourhead, Salisbury and Stonehenge (which I first spotted during a surreal moment waking from a nap on my way from the airport).    

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Prior to my trip, Waverly had pointed out that I would be only a short drive from Hestercombe Gardens, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. The EDA has drawings for this project in the Jekyll collection, and knowing that I was so close to one of her gardens inspired me to make the journey there, which was no small feat. Having never driven in the UK prior to this trip, I had to quickly acclimate to numerous roundabouts, driving without GPS (who knew paper maps still existed!), and of course sticking to the left side of the road (for which Beyoncé’s song ”Irreplaceable” with the lyrics “To the left, to the left” proved to be essential).

Before my visit I had been put in contact with Philip White, founder of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, who put me in contact with head gardener, Claire Greenslade. She was able to tell me more about the intricacies in working with a heritage garden, specifically the difficulties in keeping color in a garden that was only designed for summer, as well as tracking down the original plants outlined in Jekyll’s design. Last year she was able to find a bulb for an iris that was thought to be extinct, and are now happily planted in their intended locations.

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Photograph

At Hestercombe I learned that the garden by Lutyens and Jekyll was actually the third to be created at the site, following 13th and 18th century gardens, the latter of which is a Victorian garden reminiscent of the wild and rambling landscape at Stourhead. All of the gardens have been restored in the last 25 years, and were opened to the public in 1997 after 125 years of being closed.  Hestercombe House has also been recently opened to the public, after serving as the headquarters for the Somerset Fire Brigade from 1953-2006. It now houses a contemporary art gallery and artist residency space.

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Photograph
Photograph

Though my visit coincided with one of the grayest days I experienced while in the UK, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent walking through these gardens. The efforts to restore this rich site help it to shine regardless of the weather. If you happen to find yourself in this part of England, please consider taking the time to visit.


form follows: First Student Furniture Design Competition Takes Place

Posted on by Emily Vigor

The Environmental Design Archives recently hosted form follows, our first furniture design competition. Announced December 1, 2015, the competition to design a chair was open to all students in the College of Environmental Design. Whether for interior or exterior use, the criteria included a precedent that required students to visit the Archives to look at selected collection materials from a variety of periods and styles to inspire their entry. Students were required to submit a small model (no larger than 7”x7”x7”) and two printed posters to communicate the intent of their design. The top three designs would receive a cash prize and a stipend to build their chairs to full scale in the CED Fabrication Shop.

Students visiting the Archives

The idea for this competition was born during a brainstorming session for our upcoming furniture design exhibition in the Environmental Design Library opening on June 1, 2016. Cailin and I were interested in exploring a new way to engage students with our collections. She had participated in a furniture design competition at Cal Poly as an undergraduate, and the idea to hold a similar competition based on interactions with our collection materials was an obvious conclusion. We asked members of faculty and staff with a background in furniture design to judge the competition, and were incredibly fortunate to have Richard Hindle (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning), Galen Cranz (Professor of Architecture), Ronald Rael (Associate Professor of Architecture) and Paul Mirocha (Senior Fabrication Mechanician) participate.

Reception and judging

Students visited the Archives from December 2015-February 2016 to view selected collection materials as a starting point for their chair design. Their designs could include elements from multiple projects, and were judged on four criteria:  interpretation relationship to the body, its use-in-context, craft, and feasibility. Judging took place during a reception on February 18, 2016 in the Wurster Gallery after 12 students presented their designs to members of CED and the broader community.

Selected projects from the Archives and student submissions

The first, second, and third place winners Hannah Cao, Rex Crabb, and Micaela Bazo will have until April to construct their full-size chairs, which will be displayed during Cal Day in the Wurster Gallery on April 16, 2016.

This was a fruitful learning experience for the Archives. We were thrilled to have nearly 50 students visit to look at collection materials. Many of these students had never been to the Archives before, and this interaction was a great way to introduce them to what we do and reinforce that we are a resource that can assist them in their studies. It was fascinating to see the multitude of ways in which students interpreted these historic projects, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to host this competition again with a new subject and new archival materials to inspire innovative designs!


American Archives Month

Posted on by Emily Vigor

Did you know that October is American Archives Month? Created by the Society of American Archivists in 2006, it gives archivists the chance to tell people that about the work we do. As you know, the Environmental Design Archives strives to raise awareness of the significant architectural and landscape heritage of Northern California and beyond through collecting, preserving, and providing access to the primary records of the built and landscaped environment for our region. Access is always our end goal since we want these important records to be used for school projects, scholarly research, or professional and personal study. Providing access is so important because it makes this history live on, saves landscapes and buildings, and educates future users. Sometimes all that remains of the designed environment are the photographs and drawings.  The EDA reaches out  through our website, physical and online exhibits, publications, programs, and reference and outreach services.

Collection before processing...
And after!

Throughout the month of October, we welcome you to participate in American Archives Month by asking us about our work in the EDA using #AskAnArchivist.  Have you ever wanted to know how we conserve historic drawings? Or wanted to hear about the time an archivist got to travel to a castle in Austria to pack up a collection? Or wondered how any of us ended up in this profession? We would love to hear from you! Send us questions through social media using #AskAnArchivist!

Robert Royston helps answer this horse's questions about his design!

Down the Rabbit Hole: (Miss)Adventures in Wikipedia

Posted on by Emily Vigor

Last month, the EDA participated in #wikiD, an event that coincided with International Women’s Day (March 8) to help write women designers, architects, and all those involved in the creation of the built environment into Wikipedia. We heard about the event through ArchiteXX, which sought to increase an internationally diverse listing of women on Wikipedia. This inaugural event was spurred by Despina Stratigakos’s Places essay, “Unforgetting Women Architects: From the Pritzker to Wikipedia,” which pushes for the importance of ensuring the presence of women architects in online histories – and the challenges in making this happen.

Mai Arbegast, Maggie Baylis, Alice Carey
Mai Arbegast, Maggie Baylis, Alice Carey

Though Wikipedia may seem an unauthorized resource for promoting these women, it is often the top listed link for a Google search and one that is clicked on frequently. This site has become important for public awareness, especially for minorities and underrepresented populations. In her article, Stratigakos comments on the importance of the internet for preserving the cultural record. She quotes Mia Ridge “A historian might spend decades undertaking research in archives and writing up discoveries in scholarly journals, but if the work does not have a presence online — and, specifically, a presence that is not behind a paywall — it is all but invisible outside academia.  As Ridge states, ‘If it’s not Googleable, it doesn’t exist.’ And because Wikipedia articles usually show up first in Google search rankings, intervening on the site is especially important in establishing online visibility.”

 In the archives world, we often “crawl” websites to capture and preserve the information published at a given time. When certain voices aren’t seen or readily accessible at the top of a Google search (and let’s face it, we’re all guilty of only paying attention to the first items listed in our own Google searches), it underlines the assumption that certain groups have not participated in the profession, especially among a younger generation that relies heavily on the internet for research.

The EDA has published pages for our collections on Wikipedia before, and have found it to be a useful tool in reaching more diverse populations. I’ve published several in my 2 years at the archives – however, they’ve all been for men. The process is fairly strait forward: you write about a person’s life, and supply references to back up your statements in an attempt to make the published article verifiable; you load an image of the person, and maybe a few for their projects to add a visual element to the page; and you submit it for editing and publication. In the past, my articles have all passed Wikipedia’s editing and publishing review that occurs after the initial submission.

This was not the case with the three articles the EDA tried to publish for Mai Arbegast, Maggie Baylis, and Alice Carey. Cailin, Chris and I each took on the responsibility of creating a Wikipedia entry for these women, starting at the beginning of March to coincide with Women’s History Month. After reading Stratigakos’s article, we were prepared for the very likely possibility that our entries would be rejected or questioned. In other women’s history events, editors found that new entries on women were questioned more frequently for the sources referenced and the significance of the topic than those of their male counterparts.

Each of us experienced a variety of issues in getting our submissions published: the significance of these women was questioned, as were the resources referenced; the image copyright needed to be verified through a formal letter to Wikipedia; and even when published, certain pages retain a disclaimer at the top warning the reader that the article is written in a manner which “promotes the subject in a subjective manner.” These hurdles were new to us, and were not something we had ever encountered when submitting articles to Wikipedia for men in our collections. While we attempted to work with Wikipedia to revise our articles to fit their guidelines for publication, our drafts were repeatedly rejected. It was only after each of us had revised our articles 3+ times, and in one case contacted Wikipedia to work with their live help desk, that we started to see progress in our articles going live. As of this writing, all three articles have been approved though it took a month to do so – a hindrance that could deter other users from continuing to push for publication.

Above: Donald Olsen's Wikipedia page (not submitted by EDA) with one paragraph and resource, and no image. Below: Mai Arbegast's Wikipedia page with disclaimer, despite the longer article with numerous references and images.

The real issue at hand is that we want to utilize as many resources as possible to reach the broadest community possible, and Wikipedia is one of the main ways to do this. It's also an important way to expand awareness of underrepresented groups of people and increase their presence online. We strive to promote a diverse and accurate portrayal of the participation of all groups in the field of architecture, and want to be accurate in the broader world of the internet as well. While this process has been rife with frustration, we will continue to submit to Wikipedia but with an increased awareness of what it means to click that top link in our next Google search.


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Groundbreaking for the University of California, Santa Cruz

Posted on by Emily Vigor

“It must be magnificent in conception, daring and forthright in its architecture – but gentle be the hand it lays upon the land.” – Thomas Church, 1966 memo

Santa Cruz is known for many things: its counterculture, boardwalk, surfers, and banana slugs; the fog, mountains, and ocean; and, of course, the academic institution nestled in a picturesque environment. 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus. The story of how the campus was created is one of collaboration and admiration for the natural landscape.

The need for a new campus was realized in the late 1950s, and by the next decade the Regents of the University of California set out to designate a central coast site for a new campus to meet the growing needs of the university system. After reviewing several locations, the 2,000-acre Cowell Ranch site was chosen in March of 1961. This idyllic landscape with its towering redwoods overlooking the curve of Monterey Bay was chosen as a sort of “Western Walden Pond.”[1] In February 1962, the newly appointed Chancellor, Dean E. McHenry, pulled together a team of architects to plan the design for the new campus. Headed by the architect John Carl Warnecke, it included the firm Anshen & Allen, architects Theodore C. Bernardi (partner in the firm of Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons) and Ernest J. Kump, as well as Thomas Church, who would oversee the landscaping needs for the campus. McHenry decided that each college should be designed by a different architect “in order to reflect its character as a unique collection of students and scholars with its own particular emphasis.”[2]

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Bernardi, Anshen, Kump, Warnecke, McHenry and Church at the Cowell Ranch site, c. 1961.

Their long-range development plan was presented to the Regents in September 1963, and construction began on Cowell College, the humanities college on campus, in October of 1965. The campus was designed to grow slowly with a series of small liberal arts colleges on the UCSC site, adding one almost every year from 1965 until 20 colleges had been built.[3] McHenry and Clark Kerr, president of the University of California, wanted the campus to be constructed in a manner similar to Oxford or Cambridge, with each college being a self-contained unit with its own dormitories, classrooms, and dining hall, a student center, library, and faculty offices. This design was favored, as a way of trying to meet individual students’ needs for identity and belonging within a group.

Photograph

What was unique for the planning of the campus was the strict adherence to creating an architecture that fit into the landscape and not vice-versa. Church recommended building first at the ecotone, where the forest and meadow intersected, as a way of preserving the “ranch character” of the site and also providing a view of the university from the town of Santa Cruz below.[4] It was Church who posited that the design needed to fit the location, with buildings, roads, and color palettes chosen to work with the natural landscape and not alter it. In a letter to McHenry in the 1963 Long Range Development Plan, Warnecke wrote:

 

“The Plan conforms both to the unique philosophy set forth in the Academic Program and to the total and unusual demands of the beautiful site – the combination of which made possible the development of a scheme for a campus of great richness and diversity.”[5]

 

The original vision for UCSC continues to be maintained at the campus fifty years later. The foresight of the original design team continues to ensure the lasting beauty of the campus as it continues to expand.

UCSC 50th Anniversary website: http://50years.ucsc.edu/

[1] Gregory, Daniel. “U.C. Santa Cruz: Site and Planning.” AIA Journal. August 1979. Print. p. 34.

[2] p. 37.

[3] Stadtman, Verne A., “Santa Cruz,” The Centennial Record of the University of California. University of California Printing Department, Berkeley, CA. 1967, pp. 503

[4] Gregory, p. 37.

[5] Long Range Development Plan, University of California, Santa Cruz, September 1963.


Pure Form

Posted on by Emily Vigor

Edith Heath at workEveryone says food tastes better on Heathware.  As yet no scientific studies have been done, but during the past several months Emily and Jessie, along with a dedicated exhibition committee, have been combing through the files and folders of the Brian and Edith Heath Collection to assemble the latest show in the EDA exhibition series - A Handful of Clay: The Legacy of Edith Heath.

Edith Heath is best known for her exquisite stoneware and architectural tile. When she first arrived in California, right after the start of WWII, she and Brian would drive around looking for clay pits to gather raw materials to experiment with. Brian made her first potter’s wheel out of an old treadle sewing machine in their rented basement apartment in a Julia Morgan house in San Francisco. As much a chemist as a ceramicist, Edith paid close attention to the formula of her clay and glazes making her products stand out in the design community.

The couple started Heath Ceramics in 1944 with Edith as the creative genius and Brian as business manager. Her hand-thrown and jiggered stoneware gained notoriety for its style, quality, and durability. Her focus on simplicity and functionality made the ceramics applicable in both professional and personal spaces. The iconic notched ashtray was a standard in the homes and offices of many. Did you know that the notches were actually Brian’s design innovation? The dinnerware adorned the tables of families and restaurants, including Chez Panisse. And the tile was used in the built environment throughout the world, including the Norton Simon Art Museum, which won her a coveted AIA Industrial Arts Medal. 

Using archival treasures from the Heath Foundation, private holdings, and a variety of EDA collections, the exhibit highlights key aspects of her life and work. Memorable items include a coat made for Edith by Evelyn Royston, one of the smocks Edith wore while working in the studio, a painting of Brian by Edith and numerous samples of Heathware and tile. Included  are drawings illustrating the innovative Marquis & Stoller designed Heath Ceramics plant that continues to function as a working factory and showroom for the company today, and their barge home on the shores of Tiburon. The photographs and articles about the barge are an exciting window into the artistic community and lifestyle that Brian and Edith formed around them.

The exhibit opens on Thursday May 22 at 7:00pm in the Environmental Design Library with a much anticipated panel discussion led by Heath researcher Jennifer Doublet. Joining Doublet will be landscape architect JC Miller who will speak on the creative social circle that the Heath’s were a part of along with good friend landscape architect Robert Royston; and Winnie Crittenden, the niece of Brian and Edith and a long time employee of Heath Ceramics.

The exhibit is made possible by generous funds from the Heath Foundation and will be up through September 19. For information on library hours and directions please visit http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/hours or call 510-642-4818.