One Degree of Separation

Posted on by Christina Marino
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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.

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