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Archives are Full of Surprises

Posted on by Christina Marino

By Waverly Lowell, Curator

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Figure 1: Portrait of willis Polk

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.

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Figure 2: A Young willis polk

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. 

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Figure 3: A young Daisy Polk

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.

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Figure 4: Telegram, 1916

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Figure 5: Daisy during WWI

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Figure 6: postcard

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.

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Figure 7: telegram, 1927

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Figure 8: clipping

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Figure 9: daisy in her older years

For more information please see https://archives.ced.berkeley.edu/collections/polk-willis


Some travel in the Netherlands

Posted on by Jason Miller

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.

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Bicycle Parking, Amsterdam Centraal

There is even a “garage” with multiple levels, as clearly there is no more room at street level.

fietsflat

Fietsflat, Amsterdam centraal

If you exit out the back of the station, there are floating bike parking lot barges, some with double-deck racks.

bike barge on the IJ

bike barge on the IJ

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.

huge delivery trike

delivery trike in da costabuurt, 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.

tram right-of-way

tramway, amsterdam

Free pedestrian/bike ferries cross the IJ and link the North side of Amsterdam with the city center.

ferries on the IJ

free pedestrian and bike ferries on the Ij

Transport to other cities in the Netherlands is easy via train, with frequent service on fast intercity trains.

NS intercity trains, Netherlands

NS intercity trains in the Netherlands

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.

Sol Lewitt, Six Sided Tower

Sol Lewitt, Six Sided Tower

Aldo Van Eyck Pavilion, Kröller-Müller Museum

Aldo Van Eyck Pavilion, Kröller-Müller Museum

The Kröller-Müller Museum has other pieces of ‘architectural sculpture’ such as Joep van Lieshout’s Mobile Home for Kröller-Müller from 1995

 Joep van Lieshout’s

Joep van Lieshout’s Mobile Home for Kröller-Müller

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.

Schroder House, Utrecht

Gerrit Rietveld's Schröder House

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.

Erasmuslaan Houses, Utrecht

Entrances, Gerrit Rietveld's Erasmuslaan 1-3, Utrecht

We also visited Rietveld's 1928 Chauffeur’s House, with it’s finely patterned painted façade and bright red door.

Chauffeur's House, Utrecht

rietveld's Chauffeur’s House, Utrecht

Chauffer's house, Utrecht (detail)

Chauffer's house door and facade detail

Utrecht is home to many more Reitveld works; for example the 1960 Theissing house, and examples of his furniture at Utrecht’s Centraal Museum.

Theissing House, Utrecht

Reitveld's Theissing House, Utrecht

Reitveld furniture, Centraal Museum, Utrecht

reitveld's zig-zag chairs and friends, including a red-blue chair prototype

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. 

Volkstuinen cabin

volkstuinen cabin and garden

volkstuinen cabin

another volkstuinen cabin and garden

These allotment gardens are like miniature cities unto themselves – complete with miniature streets and canals. 

Tuinpark Nut en Genoegen
volkstuinen  "Nut en Genoegen" map, Amsterdam

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.

EYE Film Institute

Delugan Meissl architects' EYE Film Institute Netherlands, on the ij, amsterdam

cows in waterland

cows in waterland: along the durgerdam, amsterdam-Noord

 

Text and Photographs by Jason Miller, CED Visual Resources Librarian

Scotland

Posted on by Christina Marino
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Fig 1: Chatelherault

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Fig 2: Chatelherault plaster

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.   

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Fig 3: Chatelherault garden

 

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].

 

 

 

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Fig 4: Callinesh

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Fig 5: Clava Cairns

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] 

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Fig 6: Iona Monestary

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Fig 7:  Iona Monestary Nunnery

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.

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Fig 8: Iona Monestary Window

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Fig 9: Glasgoe Cathedral window

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Fig 10: Glasgow Cathedral

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. 

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Fig 11: Bothwell Castle

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].

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Fig 12: Cawder Castle

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Fig 13: Cawder Castle garden

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Fig 14: Sterling Castle

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].

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Fig 15:  New Lanark

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Fig 16:  New Lanark

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].

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Fig 17: Croft

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Fig 18: Croft with peat fire

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Fig 19: historic bridge

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Fig 20: Lews Castle

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Fig 21: Armadale Castle

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Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon at UC Berkeley

Posted on by Emily Vigor
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Last month, Chris Marino, Referenence Archivist and I helped to plan a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in conjunction with Women’s History Month. We worked with other librarians on campus to create an event for the UC Berkeley community of students, faculty, and staff to help close the gender gap on Wikipedia and ensure that published content is not skewed by the lack of female participation. The event used the Art + Feminism organizer’s kit which provided us with the materials we would need to host an edit-a-thon.

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Open to all gender identities and expressions, the event addressed the gender imbalance on Wikipedia by editing existing pages relating to art and feminism. With less than 10% of contributors to Wikipedia identifying as female, events like this are essential to train a new community of editors and encourage active participation in editing and creating content for the site.

 

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Our Wikipedia edit-a-thon took place on March 21, 2017 in UCB’s Moffitt Library during the afternoon. We offered three training sessions throughout the event for new editors, and encouraged those with experience to stay and edit content in a communal setting. Nearly 20 people participated in the event, resulting in 26 articles being edited and 1,500 words added. As of this writing, the event has resulted in the edited articles being viewed over 20,000 times. The planners for this event created a suggested list of pages that needed editing, and Chris and I included several names from EDA collections including: Edith Heath, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, and Geraldine Knight Scott.

 

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Chris and I are planning a similar event for September 7, 2017 in conjunction with our exhibit exploring design and diversity, throughout the history of the College of Environmental Design, between women designers and powerful men, and significant work from a diverse group of designers in the EDA collections. We will post more about the event in the coming months, and hope you can join us!


Notes sur l’asphalte : Esquisse d’une Amérique mobile et précaire

Posted on by Christina Marino

BY: JASON MILLER, DIRECTOR OF THE VISUAL RESOURCES CENTER

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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.

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Photo: Highway signs by J.B.Jackson

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.”

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Photo: Images taken by Alan Jacobs on view

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. 

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Chapel in the Rocks

Posted on by Christina Marino

By: Waverly Lowell, Curator

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sedona

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.

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snow in sedona

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. 

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Petra, 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.[1]

 

 

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the Chapel of the Holy Cross

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Detail on Planter box outside chapel

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chapel Plaza

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. 

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Interior of chapel

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. 

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Longitudinal Section, Anshen & Allen Collection, Environmental Design Archives

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Presentation drawing, Anshen & Allen Collection, ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN ARCHIVES

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South elevation, Anshen & Allen Collection, Environmental design Archives

 [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross_(Sedona,_Arizona) accessed 1/7/2017


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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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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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.


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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Research Camp or Summers at the Archives

Posted on by Christina Marino
By: Matthew Gordon Lasner

 

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.

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FIG 1: Pomeroy Green, Eichler Homes, Santa Clara. Oakland & Imada Collection

 

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.

 

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FIG 2: Letter to Joseph Eichler from Mrs. Carl Mattos, 1970. Oakland & Imada Collection

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)

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Fig 3: Claude Oakland and Joseph Eichler. Oakland & Imada Collection

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.

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fig 4: During construction of Summit Towers, Fig 5: Summit presentation drawing, Fig 6: Summit brochure

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.

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Fig 7: Bannockburn Housing, Bethesda, MD, 1944-1949.  Vernon DeMars Collection, Fig 8: Easter Hill Village, Richmond, CA, 1950. Vernon DeMars Collection

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.

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Fig 9-10: Heritage Village for Otto Paparazzo, Simsbury CT, 1966-1968. Warren Callister Collection


The SPIRO Image Database: 1992-2016

Posted on by Christina Marino

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. 

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Photo: SPIRO debut, 1992: Librarian Maryly Snow, who guided the creation of the SPIRO database, with: (r to l) Jean-Pierre Protzen (Architecture Chair), Steven Brooks (Photographer for Slide Library), CED Dean Roger Montgomery, as well as various Museum Informatics Project staff, administrators, and Provosts

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Early search screens for the SPIRO database

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Early search screens for the SPIRO database

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.

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Photo: Using SPIRO as an online guide to the physical slide collection, c. 2000

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