By Waverly Lowell, Curator
A package for the Archives was dropped off in the Dean’s office last week. On the outside was the note “letters from Willis Polk to his Aunt Daisy.” Willis Polk, a prominent, if contentious, San Francisco architect died in 1924 and his successor firm left archives and furniture to UC Berkeley in 1934. [figure 1]
While working for the California Historical Society in the early 1980s I preserved five Willis Polk clipping scrapbooks and learned that he had a younger sister Daisy. The last volume had a number of clippings about her and the rest of the clippings were torn out. I always wondered what had happened to Daisy. So I knew that Daisy was not his aunt, but his sister and eagerly opened the package.
Inside were postcards from Aunt Daisy, photographs of Willis Polk, Daisy de Buyer, and their father W.W. Polk, photographs of Willis Polk’s projects, and a copy of Architecture News (Jan 1891). Willis Polk (1867-1924) [fig 2] was born in Jacksonville, IL, to carpenter Willis Webb Polk. He had two siblings, Daniel and Daisy (1874-1963) [fig 3]. Polk entered into partnership with his father and brother opening the San Francisco office of Polk & Polk (1892-1894). Neither Willis nor Daisy had children, so it was likely that Alice had been Dan’s child. I called the person who donated the material and asked him how he came to have it. He explained that his mother had purchased a house in Fresno and found this envelope in the attic. He took it home when he cleared out her house following her death as he found these historical artifacts interesting. After a few years he decided the material belonged in an archives, found that EDA had a Willis Polk collection, and dropped it off.
The story of Daisy’s life would make a great movie. She was trapped in Europe at the outbreak of WWI [figure 4] and became active in French relief efforts including working with future president Herbert Hoover on Belgian Relief. [fig 5 daisy] After the war, Mrs. W. H. Crocker of San Francisco used her personal funds to rebuild the village of Vitrimont which had been nearly destroyed and put Daisy in charge of the project. [fig 6 -postcard]. While at Vitrimont, Daisy's car broke down and General de Buyer, who lived nearby at Nancy, happened to be passing and lent assistance. From this chance meeting, “romance bloomed” and the couple married the following year. [fig 7- crocker telegram] For her relief and rebuilding work, Daisy was awarded the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise (Silver) in September of 1919, and the following year was created a Chevalier in the Order of the Legion of Honor. She was known as Un Ami de France. Following her husband’ death after only two years of marriage, Countess Daisy de Buyer relocated to Paris which became her principal residence. She wintered in Paris, travelled, and spent her summers in the family chateau in Nancy. She is buried in in her husband's family cemetery at Besancon.
Daniel Polk had a daughter Alice (1907-1960) who remained close to her aunt Daisy. [fig 8 March 1957] One of the news articles reports that Daisy gave her niece a trunk of family photographs and papers! [fig 9] Sadly, Alice Polk Kegley was killed in a car accident after which her husband Charles (Carl) Smith Kegley (1897–1979) moved to Fresno. This is one example of how historical treasures can arrive at the archives through a roundabout route and added to existing collections at the Environmental Design Archives.
For more information please see https://archives.ced.berkeley.edu/collections/polk-willis
A short trip to the Netherlands this summer gave me the chance to see some long-time favorite buildings in their native context. This travel also fired my imagination as to the possibilities of human-scale architecture and landscape, expressed through pedestrian and bicycle friendly infrastructure, easy transportation, and community gardens.
People often think of bicycles when they think of the Dutch and it’s easy to see why: there are bikes everywhere, as well as the infrastructure to accommodate them. Upon exiting Amsterdam Centraal Railway Station, you cannot miss the sea of bicycles.
There is even a “garage” with multiple levels, as clearly there is no more room at street level.
If you exit out the back of the station, there are floating bike parking lot barges, some with double-deck racks.
There are bikes everywhere – and not just used for personal transport. This delivery bike was seen in Da Costabuurt, a neighborhood West of central Amsterdam.
Besides bicycles and their paths, Amsterdam is crossed by trams and ferries. In some places, the trams have their own rights-of-way, lined with cycleways and sidewalks, of course.
Free pedestrian/bike ferries cross the IJ and link the North side of Amsterdam with the city center.
Transport to other cities in the Netherlands is easy via train, with frequent service on fast intercity trains.
We took a train to the town of Ede, and then a bus into the Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe, to visit the Kröller-Müller Museum, which is a beautiful museum of 19th and 20th century art set in a forested sculpture garden. The museum grounds are home to classic monumental sculpture, such as Sol Lewitt’s Six Sided Tower, as well as pavilions, such as Aldo van Eyck’s pavilion originally built in 1966 for a sculpture exhibition in Arnhem, but rebuilt at the museum in 2005.
The Kröller-Müller Museum has other pieces of ‘architectural sculpture’ such as Joep van Lieshout’s Mobile Home for Kröller-Müller from 1995
Via train we also visited the city of Utrecht, principally to see the buildings of Gerrit Rietveld. First stop, of course, was the Schröder House of 1924.
Not usually noted is that this small house faces an elevated freeway (behind the photographer in this picture). The land beyond the freeway was owned by Madame Schröder, and when the road was built, she commissioned Rietveld to build dwellings on the former farmland. These apartment buildings, known as the Erasmuslaan Houses, were built from 1931 to 1934.
We also visited Rietveld's 1928 Chauffeur’s House, with it’s finely patterned painted façade and bright red door.
Utrecht is home to many more Reitveld works; for example the 1960 Theissing house, and examples of his furniture at Utrecht’s Centraal Museum.
Back in Amsterdam, we took time off from architectural delights to visit a few of the community, or allotment, gardens known as volkstuinen. They are beautiful parks full of small land plots where the Dutch tend vegetable and flower gardens and get away from the city to relax in small cabins.
These allotment gardens are like miniature cities unto themselves – complete with miniature streets and canals.
Amsterdam manages to balance new large-scale architectural projects, such as the 2012 EYE Film Institute Netherlands by the Austrian firm Delugan Meissl architects, with more ‘traditional’ landscapes. Not twenty minutes by bike from the Eastern districts of the city, the farms and open spaces of Amsterdam-Noord, or Waterland, offer a timeless vision of the Dutch Landscape.
Text and Photographs by Jason Miller, CED Visual Resources Librarian
BY: WAVERLY LOWELL, CURATOR
Back from three weeks in Scotland. Following a short stop in London, I got to Glasgow for the Society of Architectural Historians annual meeting. It was great to hear papers presented by current and former students and faculty. One session focused on the architecture of the coal industry “the industry that drove industry". In the 1950s, 90% of all energy came from coal, and according to Dr. Oglethorpe of Historic Environment Scotland - April 24, 2017 was the first day no coal was burned in the UK for more than two hundred years. That Scotland had 300 coalmines was brought home on a visit to Chatelherault, (completed 1743) home of 5th Duke of Hamilton.
Although the hunting lodge designed by William Adam still stands [fig 1, 2 & 3] the Hamilton Palace, sometimes described as Scotland’s Versailles was demolished in part because the ground it stood on was unstable as a result of the coal mines underneath.
Following the conference additional tours and vacation spent visiting the island and highlands revealed a profound range of landscape and structures. The earliest of these the standing stones near the village of Callanish (Gaelic: Calanais) on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides erected in the late Neolithic era, and a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age and the Bronze Age Clava Cairns near Inverness. [Fig 4, 5].
We walked through a number of buildings on the isle of Iona, where it is said that St. Columba brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland. The abbey is the most elaborate and best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in Scotland’s western Isles. Nearby are the ruins of a nunnery. [Fig 6, 7]
Like the abbey on Iona, many of the windows of Glasgow’s Gothic cathedral, built from the late 12th century onwards, are comprised of clear leaded panes rather than colored ones. [fig 8-10] We surmised this may be to take advantage of the light whenever possible in such a northern location.
We visited the ruins of medieval Bothwell castle from the 13th century [fig 11], Cawdor Castle, fictional home of MacBeth, built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later centuries.
It is surrounded by gardens, formal and wild [fig 12, 13], and Sterling Castle, which dates from the early 12th century, although the present buildings were mostly built between 1490 and 1600 [fig 14].
My favorite site was the cotton mill complex of New Lanark created in 1785 on the banks of the river Clyde. Under the management of David Dale and his son-in-law Robert Owen, it became world famous for its educational and social practices. It is now restored within a “sublime” landscape [fig 15, 16].
This wonderful trip also included crofts built from and burning peat , 18th century bridges, 19th century gothic “castles” and their Jekyllian gardens, sheep on the one-lane roads, and time spent driving along Lochs Lomond and Ness and through the Cairngorm mountains [fig 17- 21].
BY: JASON MILLER, DIRECTOR OF THE VISUAL RESOURCES CENTER
The CED Visual Resources Center is very proud to have contributed many images from our collections to a new exhibit, Notes sur l'asphalte : Esquisse d'une Amérique mobile et précaire, that opened in Montpellier, France, on February 7th. Curated by Historian Jordi Ballesta and Photographer and Master Printer Camille Fallet, the show presented photographs by many scholars well known to Berkeley – many of them taught in the College of Environmental Design and are revered for their work, in front of and behind the camera. The exhibit included works by former Berkeley teachers John Brinckerhoff Jackson, David Lowenthal, Donald Appelyard, Richard Longstreth, and Alan Jacobs, as well as scholars and photographers including Chester Liebs, Walker Evans, William Christenberry, and Thomas Strong.
Curator Jordi Ballesta describes the exhibit best: “The purpose of the exhibition Notes sur l'asphalte : Esquisse d'une Amérique mobile et précaire [Photographic notes on asphalt: images of a mobile and vernacular America] will be to show research works never exhibited in Europe and almost forgotten in the United States, as they belong to a relatively unknown gap located on the edges of the studied academic methods, artistic practices and documentary processes. For these architects, geographers and historians, the photography seems to have been a means of quick note-taking. Their photographic practices didn't lead to deviate from the everyday world; they allowed us to question it and to structure their field experience mainly developed on the road. To this end, D. Appleyard, J. B. Jackson, D. Lowenthal, and others took pictures while driving, stopping on the roadside, or staying inside their vehicle.”
The Visual Resources Center hosted Ballesta and Fallet several times over the past few years as they completed research for the exhibit. As VRC Librarian, I was honored to take part in helping them uncover evocative and enlightening photographs that have never been exhibited and in many cases have not been seen for many years.
By: Waverly Lowell, Curator
When people hear Sedona Arizona, the usual responses are first “the red rocks are incredible” followed by “have you seen the chapel in the rocks??!!” I spent part of the winter break in Sedona and would say yes to both.
Sedona is at an elevation of 4,500 feet and considered part of the upper Sonoran Desert of Northern California. The famous red rocks of Sedona are due to the presence of hematite (iron oxide also known as rust) that stains the layer of sand stone known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. The Schnebly Hill Formation is found only in the Sedona vicinity and was deposited during the Permian Period.
Although also known for its mild climate, we were lucky to visit during a rare snowstorm.
Driving through the valley surrounded by geologic splendor, and seeing the Chapel of the Holy Cross rising out of the stone, one can’t help but think of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
Completed in 1956, the chapel rises 70 feet out of a 1,000-foot red rock cliff.
Local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Staude commissioned the now iconic chapel for Bernard T. Espelage, Bishop of Gallop. It seems that her original idea, in the early 1930s, was to build something in Budapest, Hungary but she had to forgo that plan due to the outbreak of World War II. She then chose to build the church in her native region. Although the chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land, Staude obtained a special-use permit with the assistance of Senator Barry Goldwater.
Richard Hein was chosen as project architect, and the design was executed by architect August K. Strotz, both from the firm of Anshen & Allen. The chapel was completed in only 18 months. The chapel is modest with a view that is not.
It consists of one large room with a small entry way and a flight of stairs down to the gift shop. Once I returned to Berkeley, I immediately viewed the drawings in the EDA Anshen + Allen Collection.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross_(Sedona,_Arizona) accessed 1/7/2017
As many of you know SIX degrees the Archives’ new exhibit is currently on display in the Environmental Design Library thru December 14th. It uses the theory of six degrees of separation and applies it to the designers whose collections are held at the Environmental Design Archives. The exhibition showcases projects that resulted from both personal and professional connections, illustrating the interconnectedness that existed and continues to exist among Bay Area designers. Doing the research for this exhibition was both fascinating and challenging as was attempting to display it graphically.
The more I read about these designers, the more fascinating the web of connections became. At the same time the dense, complex, and expanding growing web of connections made it challenging to select what to include in the exhibition. One connection that did not make it into the exhibit (except for a small text explanation) was perhaps the most interesting on both levels as it involved two major players in the architecture world: Bernard Maybeck (1862-1957) and William Wurster (1895-1973).
This connection came as a result of a piece of correspondence Waverly read while processing the Catherine Bauer Wurster Collection for the Bancroft Library. The letter was from Catherine Bauer Wurster to Helen Maybeck (see letter below). The content implied a personal closeness. Waverly asked me if I have ever heard of a Helen Maybeck, I had not. Searching through census records revealed that - William Wurster had a sister named Helen. This surprised us, as some biographical literature about William Wurster declares he was an only child. Even more surprising Wurster’s sister married into the Maybeck family!
Clifford Maybeck, son of Bernard’s first cousin, married Helen Wurster. Cliff, Helen, and their three children lived in Stockton but holidays were spent in north Berkeley, staying with the Wursters on Greenwood Terrace and visiting uncle Ben and Annie on Buena Vista Way around the corner.
What a find!
We hope that you will join us for our Exhibition talk to hear stories like this told by: Architect Cathy Simon, Landscape Architect Tito Patri, Architectural Historian Daniel Gregory, and Planner David Stein.
One of the great pleasures, intellectual and personal, of working in a physical archives, with an archivist, is the serendipitous discovery of material that leads one in new, unanticipated research directions.
I first came to the Environmental Design Archives in the fall of 2010, when I was completing a book on co-ops, condos, and townhouses, in which I discussed some Bay Area examples developed by Eichler Homes designed by architect Claude Oakland, whose papers are housed there. After telling archivist Waverly Lowell about the project, she pulled out several fascinating, original items that proved extremely helpful, including plans, photos from the planning and sales phases (Fig. 1), and correspondence (Fig. 2). Unfortunately, it was too late to incorporate much of the material into the manuscript.
Eager to revisit the Oakland & Imada Collection for an article, I secured a small research grant to spend a few weeks at the Archives the following summer, in 2011. As I poured through the collection, it became clear that there was enough material to warrant something more than an article: Eichler Homes and Oakland (Oakland worked almost exclusively for Eichler), (Fig. 3)
had been at the forefront of efforts to combat urban sprawl in the 1950s and 1960s, with buildings like the Eichler Summit (Fig. 4-6). Here was an idea for a book.
But the book would not just focus on Oakland and Eichler. During that summer I also had the chance to explore the collections of several other architects whose work engaged with similar questions as Oakland’s, including Vernon DeMars and his design partner Donald Reay. I returned the following summer, and then again for shorter periods the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016. In the meantime, I delivered papers on Eichler and Oakland, and published an article on some of DeMars’s work, including his designs for Bannockburn, outside of Washington, DC (Fig. 7), and Easter Hill Village, a public housing project (now demolished) in the East Bay’s city of Richmond (Fig. 8). Most recently I explored the work of landscape architect Richard Vignolo in Atlanta, Georgia, in a forthcoming article.
Now, after completing several other large projects, I am set to begin writing the book. But happily with at least one more summer in the archives, during which I will finish looking through the recently processed collection of Charles Warren Callister, whose projects like Connecticut’s Heritage Village (Fig.9-10) — one of the first, finest, and most emulated cluster-housing developments on the East Coast — have made him a primary focus of the project.
The SPIRO website debuted in 1992. It was a computer-based approach to managing a large analog photograph collection: an online catalog of a 35mm slide library. Using a relatively new process of digitizing film, it allowed one to "preview" a slide's image on a computer screen, after querying the computer to return a set of images based on search terms. It may now seem a quaint notion that this could have been revolutionary, but at the time nothing like it existed. Thoughts of teaching directly with digital images, or of pure digital photography were barely imaginable. Thus SPIRO trod an early path to searching for and receiving digital images over computer networks.
In time, tools were developed to project digital images and to make digital photographs, and it became easier to teach with a PowerPoint file than with a carousel of 35mm slides. SPIRO adapted by becoming a catalog of digital teaching images that had 35mm counterparts, rather than a catalog of 35mm slides with digital reference images.
Throughout the 2000s the Internet and World Wide Web grew at an unimaginable rate to become the enormous phenomenon that it is today. It is astounding to think that entire industries, social movements, and professions have arisen that revolve around these computer networks that we call the Internet.
In it’s 26th year, it is with a bit of sadness that to announce that this summer, the SPIRO image database has been retired and taken offline. The core technologies that run SPIRO are still viable - a bundle of php scripts that direct input from a primitive HTML interface to an ancient bunch of sql database tables- but the software running the database (a Sybase product) is no longer supported. Likewise the departmental entity that maintains it here at UC Berkeley has changed so as to make a similar evolution in SPIRO a necessity.
Sybase has been superseded, and the Museum Informatics Project which built and ran SPIRO no longer exists as part of campus IST. The images and data in SPIRO will be migrated to two new systems: a UC-wide instance of ARTstor, where all the SPIRO content will be available to all UC campuses, and planning is in the works for a local, smaller, Omeka website, which will mirror our ARTstor data and display images that the University of California owns copyright to.
--Jason Miller, Director of the Visual Resources Center
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:
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or 510.642.5124.
Hello I’m one of the student archives technicians at the Environmental Design Archives. A second year undergraduate in the CED Architecture program, I am fascinated by design and its history, and consider it an honor to participate in the preservation, processing and exhibition of the many collections the Archives has in its vaults.
During Spring Break I was lucky to be invited to join my parents on a trip to Cuba. The trip was prompted by my father who completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Havana in the late 1970s and had always wanted to return.
Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the fascinatingly eclectic mix of cultures, styles and influences which make up the island. The island’s undeniably Caribbean way of life contrasts with the stiff, Brutalist soviet architecture which fills much of Havana’s skyline. Its older American cars are at odds with the more modern soviet Lada’s and Moskovich’s; mufflers echoing the cold war tensions which caught Cuba in the crossfire. While the country is a fascinating collage of all of these forces, it always seems to find a way to make it distinctly Cuban. Havana’s crumbling historic Spanish-colonial center in many places has been appropriated by local residents and repainted to reflect the lively and vibrant local culture, similarly to the classic American cars which have been covered in bright paints with added Cuban flags and stickers.
This idea of appropriation took a more violent form during the Cuban revolution of 1953-59. Previously foreign owned assets like Texaco, Esso and Shell facilities in Cuba were nationalized under Fidel Castro’s leadership along with many hotel buildings in Havana, like the Havana Hilton which became the Habana Libre, or the Hotel Nacional, which was largely owned by American investors.
Despite the blockage of US visitors to the island, Cuba is a major tourist destination for the rest of the world. Touristic infrastructure does exist, but also has much room for improvement. Part of the reason for this is due to the embargo against Cuba which not only banned US investment in the island, but also mandated that any foreign companies that participated in Cuba’s economy then couldn’t participate in the US. This policy effectively suffocated Cuba’s development, although Cubans have been able to find ways around the embargo and progress significantly. With Obama’s recent visit to the island, and the relaxation of historic tensions, it is possible that the embargo will be lifted, prompting a rat-race for foreign development companies. Many in Cuba fear this, seeing it as a way for the US to re-establish economic control over the island in the form of large resorts, hotels, housing, and other infrastructure development. Local residents also fear that the well preserved ecological systems of the island, some of the healthiest in the entire Caribbean, will suffer if the embargo is lifted, due to increased economic exploration of the island.
Apart from strolling around Havana, my parents and I also took a short day trip to the Viñales valley, a region where the majority of the tobacco for Cuban cigars is grown. The valley features large rock protrusion called mogotes which are what remains of a large mesa that had been slowly eroded by wind and water. This region is an example of the ecological struggle soon to occur, as it is already struggling to sustain its water and agricultural resources against the expanding forces of development, largely attracted by mining prospects and caving tours for tourists.
My week in Cuba was a truly eye-opening experience. In spite of my left-leaning tendencies, and the fact that my Father had told me stories about the island, I still unconsciously arrived to the island with all the preconceptions and baggage of the Cold war swirling around in my mind. The projected reality of US propaganda painted the island as an impoverished country, a hollow shell of the Soviet Union’s puppet it once was. A place where the only exportable commodities are sugar, tobacco, rum and baseball players. A haven for expat’s, hippies, revolutionaries and little else.
It was immediately clear to me that Cuba’s history is far more complex than these convenient, politicized interpretations. Now that tensions are cooling and change is fast approaching this island nation, the biggest question is, what will be its future?