By: Rosa Novak
In 2018, through work with the Brian and Edith Heath Foundation, I began researching the contents of a box of clay tests recently unearthed from the ceramic designer and manufacturer Edith Heath’s estate. The cardboard box was labeled in handwritten text with, “Clay Tests and Eutectics.” It contained a jumble of small white, cream, grey, and brown clay test bricks marked in red pencil, matching tiles affixed to annotated cardboard panels, and a few scraps of paper with related notes. The process of working through the materials was an attempt to retrace Heath’s steps and re-form the series of tests as they’d once been organized, which required a wholly new understanding of her individual material testing methodology. I realized that the best place to gain this understanding would be the rich archives of Heath’s life—The Brian and Edith Heath/Heath Ceramics Collection of the Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley (EDA).
Previously, I had visited the EDA as a student to look at unpublished writings from throughout Heath’s life in order to get a sense of her design ideology. I re-visited with the box in mind, specifically to look through materials related to clay body formulation and Heath’s time at the English porcelain factory, Wedgwood, for whom she developed a dinnerware line in the mid-1960s. The extensive documentation from this period includes letters to friends and employees, internal production records, and Heath’s notes about experimentation. Together, the documents not only formed a complete story surrounding the box of tests but also offered me a rich understanding of Heath’s process of material research and its importance to her.
Most significantly, what I discovered through this project was how documents in the collection could not only provide insight into the overriding belief system of Heath’s life but also into the specific objects she created. This new way of working with materials provided a relationship to parts of the archives that I would not have initially thought to look through. Further, the process of re-marrying the collection’s rich documentation of Heath’s life with ceramic objects left behind from the same life provided me with a far fuller picture of who she was as a designer than when I sought to research that identity in and of itself.
There is a poem by Heath in the archives in which she wrote about the process of clay body formulation as rejoining the minerals of the earth, “The potter gathers together - re-combines - recycles... Minerals long separated are one again - shaped for human use -.” It is this sentiment that brings excitement to my research process at the EDA. As a researcher, I am able to gather together the pieces of Heath’s life long separated and re-combine them to create new knowledge.
The ceramic objects I’ve used as starting points live in the Heath Foundation Historic Collection (like the box of clay tests), but also in the Heath Ceramics factory and in the built environment of the American West. Each of these contexts adds a further layer of meaning to how objects can both relay a history and continue to build history. The following text and diagram highlight an object from each of these environments, mapping how materials held in the collection of the EDA have worked with these objects to form stories, and how those stories come together to form a more complete, and more complex, picture of Edith Heath. When a document or object is mentioned in the text, a number one through fourteen is included in parentheses to denote its placement in the diagram.
In the Heath Foundation Historic Collection, there is a salad plate with a dipped glaze combination that was never part of Heath Ceramics’ advertised line (1); its clay body sparkles like sand, the intense speckle apparent in a sliver of unglazed ceramic on its underside; and it is effortlessly and almost non-functionally lightweight. Through a letter Heath wrote to ceramics professor F. Carlton Ball (2) and exhibition photographs from the de Young’s 1947 exhibition, "Textiles for You and Your Home" (3), I gained an understanding of the specific time period in which the plate was made and its glaze pattern developed: early 1947. The plate appears untouched, and may never have been used after it was created and exhibited that spring. Following Heath’s death, it was catalogued and stored for future research, not to serve the use it was initially intended for again.
In part due to how well it was preserved, its qualities as an object that could not be read from the exhibition photographs or letter—its weight, its texture, and the minute speckle of its clay body—provide unique material knowledge. These characteristics, in combination with an unpublished writing by Heath titled “What is Clay?” (4) convey an ideology she applied to formulate her clay body. In the text, she questions standard practice and aesthetics in the industry and emphasizes the material efficiency of using a less-processed, less white, and coarser-grained clay body. Her choice to give her clay body the texture of sand was thus not just aesthetic or haptic, it was one driven by her strong moral compass.
Future work made from this same material later came to include a line of architectural tile. Heath tile, developed in the late 1950s, has since been woven into the fabric of the built environment of the American West, blending into buildings across the region over time through layers of dirt, smog, and paint. The tiles have continued to both physically build and lay witness to history up to the present day, taking a far more active role in the world around them than the Heath salad plate that was archived from its inception. The complexity that a Heath tile wall can lend to Edith Heath’s story is well-illustrated through Heath Ceramics’ relationship to Bank of America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as reflected in three tile commissions.
The projects are well-documented in the holdings of the EDA, through sheets of slides showing tile walls during installation (5), brochures with photographs and descriptions of tile in the bank’s offices (6), and invoices showing the specifics of tile orders for branches (7). The deep red textured Heath tile panels coating a branch in downtown Berkeley, California can be seen in a 1971 San Francisco Examiner article, titled “Berkeley’s Brickish Look,” and in a striking aerial photograph held in the collection of the Berkeley Public Library, taken by local photographer Betty Marvin in 1978 (8).
The project fit into the bank’s pattern of drastically altering its branches’ exteriors to permanently board up windows and doors in an attempt to shelter itself—as a corporation facing intense scrutiny for its role funding the Vietnam War and upholding capitalism—from protest, a brief but publicized wave of bank bombings, and the fear of arson spurred by the burning of a branch near the University of California, Santa Barbara. In Berkeley, Heath tile was the material of choice used to attempt to build walls (or board windows) between the bank and the public and became a tool and a symbol used to protect Bank of America’s political positioning in the process.
The corner at which the tiles were installed in Berkeley, and the place they’ve continued to occupy over the last fifty years, is one that lives on as a site of political protest. The tiles can be examined today as objects that have persisted in their role as a symbol of institutional power tamping this presence down, and outliving Edith Heath, herself. The intersection made famous by the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s—which prompted the tiles’ installation in the first place—has been host to demonstrations protesting policies of the Trump administration, police brutality, and capitalism’s strain on our society, while the bank’s tile walls stand idly by. Despite this role, the tiles have often been painted with the very same messages that broken windows (which the walls were meant to deter) are intended to convey. In 2014, a photographer captured the Heath tile walls used as a tool to exclaim, “No Justice No Peace” and “FTP.” Though these messages have since been scrubbed away, a wash of white paint remains in their stead, clinging to the texture of the deep red tiles and the grout surrounding them (9).
As an example of the potent history that designed objects adopt within the built environment, the tiles cladding the Berkeley Bank of America hold their own history that has continued to build, separate from the story of Edith Heath. However, the tiles also add complexity to the story of her life, as a designer who intended to embed a progressive belief system into her materials, yet sold the product she made from those materials to an institution representing “the establishment,” which used that product to shelter itself. This contradiction embodied in the bank’s tile walls suggests that new paths of inquiry into the other complexities of Edith Heath’s career could be drawn from other tile walls and other clay objects.
For example, a group of circular tiles made by Heath’s niece and Heath Ceramics glazer, Winnie Crittenden (10), conveys a similar tension between Heath’s personal belief system and her business practices. The tiles were pressed at the Heath Ceramics factory using a clay body that Heath formulated in the early 1990s, composed of 12% waste glaze. Although Heath personally adopted a strong identity as an environmentalist in the 1970s—represented in her writings in the archive (11)—decades later, new regulations intended to protect the San Francisco Bay from industrial waste highlighted her company’s lack of a sustainable waste disposal system.
Heath’s response, rather than sending the whole of the company’s glaze waste to a disposal site, was to try to incorporate the material back into production by creating the new clay body. The story of the tiles—as a matter that embodies the tension between Heath’s dual identity as a building material producer shedding heavy metals in a body of water and as an environmentalist—was once again constructed using documentation in the archives. The pieces that come together to show Heath’s creation of the waste glaze clay body include poetically written correspondence (12) and exhibition statements (13), and seemingly banal glaze mixing logs that, with a closer look, reveal extensive documentation of waste material testing (14).
The tile circles have lived in the Heath Ceramics factory in Sausalito at Crittenden’s glaze station since they were created in the 1990s. As opposed to the products made, finished, and shipped out of the factory soon afterward, they’ve become a lasting part of the history of the building. Specks of glaze splatter their surfaces, made of some of the very same waste glaze incorporated into the tiles’ fired bodies nearly thirty years ago. They are coated in a layer of dust that has settled on their surfaces ever since, its matter reflecting the change in materials used by the company as they’ve introduced new ingredients and substituted others. The tiles have thus existed in situ for three decades as a historical record, but they have also materially changed from their original state, displaying the last thirty years of matter used and discarded at Heath Ceramics.
When, as researchers, we remarry archival documents with objects living in varied environments in order to create stories about people, how much do we consider how an object builds a history independent of its manufacturer and changes materially over time? How does this affect the stories we tell and the way they are reconstructed?
Within these questions, it feels fitting to consider the ceramic objects held in the Heath Collection of the EDA. These objects are closer, or less divorced, from the materials that can contextualize them, and can easily be reunited with documents in the EDA's collections. Strings could be pulled taut between the boxes of plates and tiles, and the cartons of brochures, correspondence, and Heath's writings, to make physical webs of stories. Together, these webs composed of the objects of Heath's career create the story of Edith Heath—her philosophies, her complexities, her own existence amongst her objects.
Since the start of working on contributions to the upcoming book, Edith Heath: Philosophies, I have seen how each author’s essay or visual history is a composition of these webs. Each piece displays a chain of resources from the Heath Collection of the EDA drawn out in writing, to create distinct stories of Edith Heath and the objects she created throughout her life. I recently had the chance to read through the index for the book, created by Curator of the EDA, Chris Marino, which in its own right contains new threads that can be pulled from one essay to another. These threads create a path for readers looking to research a myriad of topics: experimentation or functionality as concepts in design; Heath’s unpublished writings usually only accessible as a researcher at the EDA; the clay and glaze materials her objects were made from; and the individual objects she produced, situated in exhibitions like Textiles for You and Your Home and on the walls and floors of buildings across the country. The index of the book and the myriad of archival materials pictured inside can thus be used to create webs of new stories, or as Edith Heath would put it: the reader “gathers together - recombines - recycles -.”
Rosa Novak is a researcher for the Brian and Edith Heath Foundation and co-founder of the Oakland, California artist collective, Mutual Stores. She recently authored three essays and co-authored two visual histories for the upcoming publication, Edith Heath: Philosophies, the first in the Environmental Design Archives’ newly re-introduced Berkeley Design Books Series. Novak’s current research interests focus on the life and work of Edith Heath, the history of the ceramic materials of California, and the dichotomy between waste material and constructive material.
By Hannah Simonson
Any architectural historian will tell you that one of the great joys of the work (job, if you are fortunate enough for it to also be your paid profession) is sitting in an archive immersed with the photographs, drawings, and documents that are so many pieces of a story waiting to come to life. Archival research is an exercise in patience, diligence, and some chance. There is nothing like methodically combing through a folder you requested, only to accidentally happen upon another folder in the same box that reveals a yet-unrealized connection between buildings or architects. Or casually discussing your research with an archivist only to have them ask “have you checked this collection/file?”—you haven’t, but now you will and a whole new avenue of research is opened. These are joys that feel distant in the current moment when places like UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design Archives have been (rightfully) closed to the public for months due to COVID-19.
However, just a few weeks ago, Waverly Lowell, the former curator of EDA, emailed Docomomo US/Northern California with a trove of suggestions after seeing that we had just launched an online map of 1970s sites and were preparing a virtual tour—it was the virtual equivalent of “have you checked this collection?” Even having seen several of these projects highlighted in the “The Legacy of Donald Olsen: Modern Master” exhibition in the Environmental Design Library in February, prior to shelter-in-place orders (February 2020 feels like years ago), I had forgotten to return to this source! As a result of the suggestion, we’re adding several incredible 1970s designs by Donald Olsen to our map—representing a lesser-known and celebrated period in his career—including a house for Peter Selz, the curator of Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive when it moved into the Brutalist Mario Ciampi-designed building on Durant Avenue, which playfully projects over the existing landscape and vegetation. The complex Loos-ian interior raumplan and stucco siding harken back to the International Style, while the shed roof and open interior spaces feel clearly of the Third Bay Tradition regional style.
Docomomo US is a non-profit organization that advocates for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites, and landscapes of the Modern Movement, and as the current president of the local Northern California chapter, I—like many of our members—got involved with the organization because of my love of International Style, Brutalist, and Mid-Century Modern design along the lines of the Olsen’s personal Berkeley residence (still a favorite), but dismissed much of 70s architecture. However, this year as the 1970s turns 50 years old, we have been exploring the 1970s with fresh eyes and finding all kinds of strange delights and new appreciation.
During the COVID-19 era, the extensive EDA digital collections have been a boon to architectural historians and organizations like Docomomo US, as we continue to work from home and host virtual events. In June, Docomomo US/NOCA hosted a virtual tour of Modernism in San Francisco’s Chinatown, during which we shared perspective renderings and early photos of the Ping Yuen Housing Complex designed by John Savage Bolles from the EDA collection.
We are now preparing for a virtual tour of 1970s sites across Northern California, highlighting buildings such as UC Santa Cruz’s Kresge College, which was designed by Charles Moore and William Turnbull of Sea Ranch fame. A delightful color pencil drawing from the Turnbull Collection captures the colorful spirit of the time, and the casual atmosphere of an Italian village-style design set in the redwood forest.
It has been a true pleasure to work with the folks at EDA, including current curator, Chris Marino, and research archivist, Katie Riddle, on these and other projects for work as well as personal projects. I was first introduced to EDA while beginning with my master’s thesis research on the Diamond Heights Redevelopment Area several years ago. I first visited the archive to dig through the extensive Oakland & Imada Collection as Claude Oakland had been the design architect for the tract of homes in Diamond Heights developed by Joseph Eichler. However, I quickly realized—thanks to my conversations with Chris—that Diamond Heights was represented across numerous other collections in the archive, including unrealized competition projects, custom-designed single-family homes, and landscape site plans.
In the DeMars Collection, I found photographs of a scale model of the Diamond Heights Master Plan by Vernon DeMars for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, illustrating the principals of siting, setback, zoning, street design, and use of multiple housing typologies that DeMars had clearly been researching in other examples based on the written records.
Photographs and floor plan diagrams from the Oakland & Imada Collection illustrate the ways that Oakland blended classic Eichler Homes features such as post and beam construction, entry courtyards and atria, simple materials, and open floor plans, with new approaches to siting and massing to address the unique conditions of Diamond Heights. Whereas typical Eichler tracts were mostly large, flat regraded sites for detached, low-slung single-family homes, the Diamond Heights tract features steep hilly topography and narrow lots. To address the site constraints and privacy concerns, Oakland designed several different models including multi-story attached rowhouses. The taller rowhouses sit above garages on the uphill side of the street with front balconies over-looking the stepped two-story homes across the street and into the semi-wilderness of Glen Canyon. Without the same amount of space for a traditional backyard, views, balconies, and small front courtyards, become essential to creating the quintessential Eichler indoor-outdoor living.
A favorite inadvertent discovery was a massive scroll with a color pencil drawing of a proposed multi-family project for Fairmount Hill in Diamond Heights by Charles Warren Callister which featured a distinctive roof shape that immediately called to mind the unusual eyebrow dormers on a built custom single-family home down the street by Callister. I was honored to be able to share these and other EDA archive discoveries in an in-person Gallery Talk back in February and in my 2017 The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture master’s thesis, “Modern Diamond Heights: Dwell-ification and the Challenges of Preserving Modernist, Redevelopment Resources in Diamond Heights, San Francisco.”
As many times as I’ve visited EDA for research on Diamond Heights, I know there is more to discover in the collection—things I’ve missed or things that will have new meaning when viewed in new circumstances, and because the collection is always growing! I was thrilled to hear in February that EDA had acquired the archival materials of B. Clyde Cohen, who’s firm Cohen & Levorsen won the Red Rock Hill Design Competition to build the cornerstone multi-family project in Diamond Heights and designed on of my personal favorite single-family homes in the neighborhood, and Modernist home with a hexagonal motif and organic Wrightian-influences. These newly acquired materials are something to look forward to at a time when the archives can be safely reopened to the public and are a reminder that new avenues of research await.
Hannah Lise Simonson is an Architectural Historian/Cultural Resources Planner at the firm Page & Turnbull. She received a Master of Science in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, where she wrote her thesis on Diamond Heights. She currently serves as the President of the Northern California Chapter of Docomomo US, and gives walking tours of Diamond Heights as a member of the non-profit, Glen Parks Neighborhood History Project.
By Professor Andrew Shanken
As most Americans settled into the realization that the virus was real and we slowly found ourselves living on islands, archives, museums, and historical societies shut their doors and began to contemplate cultural distancing. On the one hand, unknowingly they had been preparing for this moment for years by digitizing holdings and creating increasingly dynamic virtual portals for a virtual public. On the other hand, the virtual archive or museum was most often understood rather like an avatar is to a human: a radically simplified representation of the real thing. The virtual collection is an amuse-bouche for the would-be visitor or researcher, or, more nobly, a partial democratization of access, but most historians insist on seeing the artifacts, and with good reason. Many original images are really three-dimensional. To a much greater extent their digital scans, they betray the process of their making and use through underpainting, notes, and sketches on the verso, and the evidence of handling, much of which is lost in digital renderings. For instance, for a book on the 1939 San Francisco world's fair, part of the E.D. Archives series, I found dozens of pinholes in some drawings by Bernard Maybeck, none in others. He had pinned them up repeatedly, either to discuss them or to rework them or both. He often used both sides and would jot down notes that became indispensable in dating them and creating a chronology of the development of his ideas.
The pandemic caught me at the tail end of another book, The Everyday Life of Memorials. Just as I needed to wrap up vital research questions and acquire images and permissions to use them, the institutions I rely on for my research were closing. Not only would I have to forego pinpricks, but basic access to images seemed unlikely. No matter, digitized collections and blessedly enlightened views of the public domain came to the rescue. The Louvre has hi-res images of innumerable paintings waiting for scholarly use. A gorgeous scan of Jacques-Louis David's "Death of Marat" was there for the taking. Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" came courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The British Museum offered up a scan of an engraving of 1753 for Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard,” an early Gothic Revival gem. The Library of Congress proved a treasure trove of public domain images. With some creative maneuvering and a little rewriting, I was able to use their online visual collections extensively. All of these images came without the need for permission requests and they were free. Each one felt like winning a lottery ticket.
But my quest for about a dozen other images ran aground. Simple questions that archivists can answer immediately lingered for weeks; many went unanswered because many archives were down for the count. With some reluctance, I sheepishly turned to the hive mind. This is not my proudest moment as a researcher. Like many people, I have grave misgivings about the way Facebook uses personal information and has interjected itself into politics. I have vacillated between absenting myself and using it to make sense of the turn of affairs since 2016. But a good researcher should leave no stone unturned, even one he wishes Mark Zuckerberg would crawl back under. My first shout into the mist on May 23: "Anyone have a high res image of the Defenders of the Russian Land Monument in Moscow? I need it for a publication and would be happy to give you photo credits. No chance I get to Moscow anytime soon...." An answer came immediately from an old acquaintance: look at Russian Google and try Памятник защитнику земли российской. Bingo. I found a public domain image immediately. I didn't even know that a Russian Google existed. But of course, it does!
It worked so well that I tried again on May 30: "Anyone live near McAllen, Texas, or have a friend who does? I'm trying to get photographs of a war memorial there, which includes this lovely specimen of GW," and I attached the best image I could find from the web. Again, instant success brought offers from friends of friends to take photographs for me. I'll be publishing this one by a 13-year old aspiring photographer.
My third attempt was apparently more obscure than Moscow or McAllen: "Apologies in advance for going too often to the Facebook well! Anyone have a friend in Warren, Ohio? I need eyes on the Every Woman Memorial in Women’s Park. It's a research question...Thx!" I didn't need a photograph this time, but rather a confirmation of an inscription: “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” Virginia Woolf wrote this resolute rejection of patriotism in 1938 in the context of the rise of Fascism, with World War II clearly on the horizon. This would have made the memorial a curious rejoinder to Warren’s male soldier memorials in an adjacent park. Alas, there are not six degrees of separation between me and anyone in Warren. That or Facebook's algorithm is conspiring against me.
The search for this and other images and information continues. With no clear end to the pandemic, I have some difficult decisions to make. Some images may be cut, text will be altered, the character of the book changed in numerous small ways. Paper trails have always run dry and archives have always had limitations. Technophiles sometimes say that eventually, everything will be available online. This attitude recalls Borges's lampoon of "a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point." This adventure in cultural distancing, for all of its triumphs, only strengthens my belief that poring over materials in archival collections is indispensable and will never be supplanted by the web.
Andy Shanken is an architectural and urban historian with an interest in how cultural constructions of memory shape the built environment (and vice versa). He is a Board Member in American Studies, Faculty Curator of the Environmental Design Archives, on the Faculty Advisory Committee at the Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Global Urban Humanities. He has a joint appointment in American Studies.
By Nicole Krup Oest
The Environmental Design Archives is home to a fascinating collection of color slides by one of the history of modern architecture’s most underappreciated photographers: Catherine Bauer. Known for her integral role in garnering support for the bill that became the Housing Act of 1937 and for her ensuing lifelong career as a public housing researcher and consultant, Bauer easily counts as one of the most important women to have taught at Berkeley. The University’s celebration of 150 Years of Berkeley Women presents an excellent opportunity to bring the importance of photography in Catherine Bauer’s housing work to light.
I first began thinking about Catherine Bauer as a photographer in 2014 after visiting the Bancroft Library to study her files on public housing in Los Angeles in the 1940s. A tireless researcher, Bauer had collected file upon file of photographic prints, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets on public housing around the world. What stood out to me, however, were letters in which she wrote about taking her own photographs with Kodak’s 35-millimeter color slide film, Kodachrome.
Across campus at the Environmental Design Archives, curator Chris Marino pulled the slides in the William and Catherine Bauer Wurster Papers. I turned page after page of Kodachrome slides neatly prepared for viewing in cardboard mounts, labeled in Bauer’s hand, and accompanied by a handy index divided into columns that Bauer labeled “Buildings, country, etc.” and “Personal” (Fig. 1). I saw new views of famous wartime housing projects like architect William Wurster’s Carquinez Heights at Vallejo (Fig. 2) and Richard Neutra’s Channel Heights at San Pedro (Fig. 3). I also saw a photograph of Bauer, herself, captured with her camera in hand as she strides through a field outside a Farm Security Administration camp (Fig. 4).
On the surface, the collection might seem commonplace—an organized researcher’s tool made for use in her public speaking and teaching of public housing. But the significance of Bauer’s collection is multifold. These photographs offer rare images of housing from the 1930s through the 1950s in color. Looking back at the first outlines of my project, I had not planned to write about color photographs of housing, much less color slides in a collection that, for a long time, remained one of the most important visual resources in the field. On another level, the Kodachrome slides offer a privileged view of the role of visual media in Bauer’s teaching of housing. They invite a look away from the photographs commissioned by architects or magazines and towards images made for non-commercial purposes.
From the indexing, to the labeling of the Ready-Mounts, to her lecture notes at the Bancroft—Bauer’s files lend clues to the pedagogy of the past while simultaneously holding a mirror to the digital tools of the present. How does one present modern housing in the classroom? In working with the Environmental Design Archives on the online exhibition of Catherine Bauer’s photographs, I found myself facing a variation on this question. Should we scan only the images to better approximate what Bauer’s audiences would have seen on the screen when she presented her slides? Or should we photograph the slides in the marked cardboard mounts on a light table, as Bauer and her students might have viewed them before placing them under a loupe or in a slide viewer?
Finally, Bauer’s collection offers material for future research on the creative contributions of women to the history of housing and photography—especially women who never proclaimed themselves photographers the way their celebrated contemporaries like Roger Sturtevant and Julius Shulman did. This research promises to destabilize the murky categories of “applied photography” and “amateur photography” and urge historians to look closer at not only what these photographs show, but how they show it.
Seeing modern architecture in color in Catherine Bauer’s Kodachrome slide collection compelled me to plan a new subarea of my research that received an additional grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The slides now form the centerpiece of a chapter in my book, Photography and Modern Public Housing in Los Angeles, forthcoming from the German publisher, arthistoricum. Conceived in the spirit of Catherine Bauer’s commitment to students of housing and urban planning, the Environmental Design Archives’ online exhibition is the first dedicated to understanding Bauer’s photographs as unique objects of study and dynamic components of her housing work.
Nicole Krup Oest is a historian of art and photography and an instructor at City College of San Francisco. Her current research focuses on the photographs of the designer and art historian, Esther Lewittes Mipaas.
Check out our new online exhibition Catherine Bauer and the Photography of Modern Housing: http://exhibits.ced.berkeley.edu/exhibits/show/cbw-exhibit
Exactly a year ago this week, the Environmental Design Archives successfully exceeded our fundraising goal that enabled Edith Heath: Philosophies, the eighth book in the Berkeley Design Books Series. This month we are working intently on editing the third design draft. We are incredibly proud of the book, which many of you enabled us to create through your generous donations, and we can’t wait to share this project with you.
On shelves this Fall, the book is 320 pages. Heavily illustrated with more than 300 images, the book showcases the wealth of the Brian and Edith Heath/Heath Ceramics Collection and the spectacular research it has enabled—featuring a forward, preface, introduction, dynamic timeline, thirteen essays, epilogue, and detailed product and dinnerware glaze history. Thematically organized, Edith Heath: Philosophies emphasizes less-known narratives and utilizes rarely seen images.
Essay topics range from Edith’s creative collaborations, her educational background in art education and ceramic chemistry, architectural tile, the philosophical foundations and influences of one of the most significant creative forces in post-WWII America, and much more.
Check out, below, the Table of Contents, Forward, and one essay by JC Miller entitled “Making a Place for Art: Collaboration between Edith Heath and Robert Royston.” The book is still a work in progress—but we wanted to share a sneak peek with all of you. Click on the images below to see the full spreads of the book. Enjoy!
Interested in purchasing a copy of the book? Sign-up here.
College of Architecture and Design, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Being in an archive is like being in conversation with smart and interesting people who are busy doing something else; they respond to your questions, but you need to work hard to identify the answers. Being in a welcoming archive (such as the Environmental Design Archives (EDA)) means you have the time and patience to follow all the dangling threads, so your “conversation” is deep enough for research.
My association with the EDA began in Fall 2010, in the first meeting of a seminar in the history department titled “Environmental History.” I had registered for the course on the recommendation of my advisor. When it came time for introductions, I panicked a little and wondered how to explain my work in architecture to my new historian colleagues. As a doctoral student in the College of Environmental Design (CED,) though I was not yet at the dissertation stage, I knew I was interested in the history of architectural education in the United States after WWII. As the introductions continued it occurred to me that the CED was founded in 1959–the very period in which I planned to write. Extrapolating wildly from this fact, I explained that I was interested in architectural education at the time that it came in contact with ideas about environmental design. This casual comment led to a term paper on the founding of the CED. In the process, I made my first visit to an archive and learned how to navigate manuscript collections. I also discovered just how much I enjoy this type of research.
Luckily for me, there was a lot more fun to be had at the EDA. In the following semesters, I plumbed this archive for material for my seminar papers, slowly getting to know more about William W. Wurster, the first dean of the CED, department chair Charles Moore and faculty member Horst Rittel, among many others. Much of the material I used was only there because Waverly Lowell had saved it from destruction in the periodic spurts of cleaning in Wurster Hall. I eventually focused my dissertation on the idea of “research for architecture,” and decided to begin by spending time looking through the collection of Dean Wurster’s papers. As a well-connected architect and academic, I hoped his correspondence would give me information about other people I might pursue in my study. I set aside a week for this foray, but six weeks later I was still showing up daily at the archives. Not only was the collection everything I had hoped for, but being in the EDA and talking with Waverly and Carrie Morgan about my project, I was learning too much to stay away.
It took me several years of teaching and writing to get round to developing a manuscript from the dissertation. In these years, the idea of research for architecture became fashionable once more, and I had several wonderful opportunities to share my knowledge of its history. Thus, when it came time to write a book, I was ready to return to my casual comment and investigate “environmental design” more closely. I knew it was used at Berkeley but was this unique to the Bay Area? Who else used it? And more importantly, why; what did the term denote that “architecture” did not? This project, like the dissertation, took me to archives across the country but none felt like home as did the EDA. I came back to browse material I had already examined but also expanded to other collections, including the papers of architects Vernon de Mars, Ernest Kump, Sami Hassid, and Marc Trieb.
The EDA is also the archive in which I first focused specifically on searching for images to illustrate the manuscript, now titled “Environmental Design: Architecture, Science and Politics in Postwar America.” Choosing images is always a tricky business, but my task was especially hard because my topic was architects and their ideas rather than architecture and buildings. I did not want to use portraits of individuals but rather sought illustrations of their thought processes and professional arguments. Once again Waverly, and now Chris Marino, were there to help me. Together we identified drawings by De Mars for an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1939, juxtaposing “living as is” with “living as it should be” (Fig 1. and 2.) We also found a graph of the hierarchical decomposition (analysis) of the requirements for a housing project, prepared by a team led by Sam Davis in the 1960s, following the method described by Christopher Alexander in the book Notes on the Synthesis of Form (Fig. 3). Rittel’s teaching was represented with his own lecture notes (Fig. 4) as well as student work in his course (Fig. 5). Two other drawings, a diagram by Trieb (Fig. 6) and a drawing by Moore (Fig. 7) allowed me to juxtapose the scientific and artistic approaches to architecture, a central theme of the book.
The published book is a documentation of my “archival conversations” and, I hope, the beginning of many more. I therefore proudly and happily sent the EDA a copy. Environmental Design was back home, where it began.
Avigail Sachs teaches landscape and architectural history and theory at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her current project, tentatively titled Atelier TVA: Architecture, Landscape and Planning in the Tennessee Valley, 1933-1953, will critically analyze the impact of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s design policies on the careers of the architects and landscape architects who worked for it. Her book, Environmental Design: Architecture, Politics and Science in Postwar America, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2018. This study examines the development of the concept of “environmental design” in architecture and its role in the modernization of American architecture. Her 2009 essay, Marketing through Research: William Caudill and Caudill Rowlett Scott (CRS) in: Journal of Architecture 14/1, was selected for inclusion in a special issue anthology comprised of the Journal of Architecture’s most important articles of the decade.
In the latter months of 2019, the Environmental Design Archives completed a project in which we digitized a set of drawings from the Gertrude Jekyll collection. The portion of the collection we focused on was the gardens Jekyll designed in the county of Sussex, England. The EDA was very fortunate to have the support of the Sussex Garden Trust in funding this work, as the full digitization of portions of archival collections is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
The digitization of large numbers of drawings and archival documents is always a logistical challenge. For the Jekyll collection, the EDA digitization studio primarily used two tools: the large-format flatbed scanner, and the overhead capture copy-stand. These two tools reflect the two main types of documents in the Gertrude Jekyll collection - large format landscape drawings and correspondence. To effectively work our way through Jekyll’s Sussex projects, it was necessary to identify, physically move and order, and actually digitize the material in a way that limited the handling, movement, and climatization of the fragile documents.
Physically handling the entirety of documents for a number of garden projects in the Gertrude Jekyll collection was a sensory delight in many ways - the drawings are mostly in watercolor or ink on heavy cream-colored paper, and the correspondence is mostly handwritten on letterhead from the estates being designed for. Handling this material also revealed many of the peculiarities in the way that Gertrude Jekyll worked - some due to the time period, and some due to Jekyll’s ways and limitations.
To back up for a moment, it should be explained just exactly what the Jekyll collection contains. The Gertrude Jekyll collection consists of the correspondence, drawings, and other documents which she maintained. For the last half of her career (after the age of 65), Jekyll did not leave her home town of Surrey, and therefore did not visit many of the garden sites that she designed. To consult on gardens, she had clients and architects send her plans and even soil samples.
She would then send original and tracing versions of her design drawings, along with plant lists, specifications, and other instructions for the gardeners to carry out. The EDA’s Jekyll collection consists mostly of her portion of this extended remote design process - her originals and copies of landscape drawings, her copies of her outgoing correspondence, and originals of incoming correspondence. Jekyll helpfully dated most drawings indicating when copies were forwarded to her clients - allowing us to see how the designs changed over time.
Also often present are the site surveys that landowners had carried out and sent to Jekyll so that she could read the land from afar. Some correspondents sent photographs, and some even detailed architectural plans so that Jekyll would know the locations of windows and doors and could orient the gardens appropriately.
It was often frustrating but tantalizing to read only the incoming half of the correspondence, as Jekyll’s patrons often made their wishes and needs quite clear - while doubtless she returned with similar firmness.
As with most archival collections, incompleteness of the record is the norm rather than the exception. At their most complete, garden project records in the Jekyll collection may contain a site survey, a general garden plan, planting plans of beds, and correspondence. Some projects only have a few plans and limited other documents. Many of the gardens and estates documented in this collection are no longer extant, and so we only have these limited records of the thought and care that went into the design of their gardens and landscapes. Yet with the limited materials available to us, we can reconstruct these gardens in our imaginations to a surprising degree.
This blog entry has featured documents relating to Bestbeech St Mary, for which Gertrude Jekyll designed gardens for in 1927-1928. To see other drawings and archival documents from the Gertrude Jekyll and other archival collections held at the Environmental Design Archives, please head to Calisphere, the online portal to digital images from California Institutions: https://calisphere.org/collections/26864/
The Donald Olsen Collection has been fully processed! You can now browse the Project Index and Finding Aid on our website.
This has been a wonderful collection to organize. I have come across many amusing notes on drawings from Olsen (see below) as well as a myriad of truly beautiful sketches and presentation drawings, some of which are currently on display in the Environmental Design Library exhibition cases.
One of the biggest challenges in developing any exhibit is deciding what to include. This was particularly true of this exhibit. The Donald Olsen Collection contains materials for almost 200 projects both built and unbuilt.
Space constraints required me to make difficult choices about what to omit. This panel of previously unseen drawings, sketches, and renderings highlights a fascinating chapter in the architect’s dynamic and productive architectural career.
We understand that at this time many may not have been able to visit the physical exhibit. The EDA is happy to announce that we have created an online exhibit bringing the digitized materials to you! Follow this link: http://exhibits.ced.berkeley.edu/exhibits/show/donald-olsen-modern-master.
Who was Donald Olsen?
Donald E. Olsen was born in Minneapolis in 1919 to Clarence Edward and Thea Olsen. He married Helen Ohlson in 1944 and had one son. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1942 and his M.Arch from Harvard University in 1946. He continued his education doing post-graduate work in England, studying civic design at the University of Liverpool in 1953, and the philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics, 1962-63.
HHe worked with a number of recognized firms including Saarinen, Swanson & Saarinen (Bloomfield Hills, MI 1946), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (San Francisco, 1948), and Wurster, Bernardi, & Emmons (San Francisco 1949-1951). He opened his own practice in Berkeley in 1954, the same year he began teaching in the Architecture Program at the University of California. When the new College of Environmental Design was established in 1959, Olsen was a founding member of the Department of Architecture.
The Donald Olsen Collection spans the years 1941-1997 (Bulk dates 1952-1989) and includes files created by Olsen while working with Vernon DeMars and Joseph Esherick on Wurster Hall. The collection is organized into five series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Faculty Papers, Office Records, Project Records. The collection is extensive, 57 Linear Feet, and contains a wide range of materials documenting Olsen's long career as an architect and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Olsen designed commercial and industrial spaces, but his career focused on designing residences; of which many are well documented in this collection.
Olsen’s white-painted, clean-lined houses have stood the test of time and continue to be admired today. The drawings and artifacts featured in the exhibit show the incredible variety of the Donald Olsen Collection.
Check out the article by Dave Weinstein that was featured on the CA Modern website in March: https://www.eichlernetwork.com/blog/dave-weinstein/was-olsen-norcal%E2%80%99s-coolest-modernist
2020 marks the 150th anniversary of women at UC Berkeley. The 150W History Project is an online portal celebrating the many accomplishments, watershed moments, and contributions of women at Berkeley illustrated by archives! Many departments across campus are participating in this initiative by submitting archival documents, memorabilia, and photographs to tell the stories of the women that came before them. The Environmental Design Archives (EDA) is excited to be contributing to this amazing project by showcasing some of the collections that we currently hold including the Julia Morgan Collection.
During the week of February 17-21, the EDA was invited to “take over” the UC Berkeley Instagram account. This weeklong take over emphasized the importance of Morgan’s contributions to architecture in the Bay Area and beyond. The EDA took viewers on a journey from Morgan’s education as a student in the College of Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where she also studied drawing with architect Bernard Maybeck (the architecture program would not be created for another six years) and followed her through a lifetime of “firsts”.
Following her graduation in 1894, with Maybeck’s encouragement, Morgan went to Paris to attend the École des Beaux-Arts and in 1901, where she became the first woman to graduate with a certificate in architecture.
Returning to the Bay Area, she worked for John Galen Howard, the UC Berkeley campus Architect and became the first woman in California to earn her architectural license, opening her San Francisco office in 1905.
Fun fact: It was the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco that launched Morgan’s career. With her background in Civil Engineering and knowledge of reinforced concrete, she was sought after for her expertise. Many of her buildings survived the disaster while the rest of the city crumbled and burned. One of these projects was the bell tower on the campus of Mills College in Oakland!
Morgan is well known for her residences, but she also designed numerous institutional buildings such as churches, schools, hospitals, university buildings, swimming pools and a series of YWCA buildings.
On Sunday, March 1 Curator of the EDA, Chris Marino, joined the Annenberg Community Beach House to present "The Many Firsts of Julia Morgan: A Look at the Environmental Design Archives' Collection" for their annual Julia Morgan Legacy Event. Chris presented a look at Morgans’s life and career by showing the materials within the EDA’s collection. Following the talk, guests were able to visit the Morgan designed Guest House with the Santa Monica Conservancy docents. The Beach House pool is one of the remaining elements from the historic Marion Davies Estate. During the summer months, visitors can pay a small fee to use the pool and layout in the summer sun!
One of Morgan's largest commissions was William Randolph Hearst's La Cuesta Encantada, popularly known as Hearst Castle, in San Simeon. In 1919 she began work on the lavish and enormous compound, a project that continued for nearly twenty years and was never fully completed. Other designs for Hearst included a commercial building in San Francisco, his Wyntoon estate in Siskiyou County, the unbuilt San Francisco Medieval Museum, a residence for Marion Davies in Santa Monica, and the Babicora Hacienda in Mexico.
Although the exact number of Julia Morgan projects is unknown, during her career she is believed to have designed more than seven hundred buildings, most of which were constructed. She closed her office in 1951 at the age of seventy-nine. In 2014, more than 50 years after her death, Morgan was awarded the AIA Gold Medal for Architecture, the first woman to receive the prestigious honor.
Julia Morgan continues to be a source of inspiration for students, designers, historians, and those who simply appreciate architecture. She designed many buildings for institutions serving women and girls, including YWCA buildings and buildings for Mills College. Ivan Natividad, of Berkeley News, writes about this in his just-published article “Berkeley’s Julia Morgan collection shows alumna designed spaces for women” which can be viewed on the Berkeley News website.
While many of us might pass by a Morgan designed home or building on our daily commutes the EDA is excited to share the many contributions of Julia Morgan to those across the country and even the world. Our social media take over was viewed by more than 450,000 people! If you missed it, we have added it to our Instagram highlights for your viewing pleasure. The EDA is also a contributor to Calishpere, an online gateway to digital collections from California's great libraries, archives, and museums, where you can view many of the Morgan projects that have been digitized as well as browse our other collections.
Last year the EDA received an additional donation of materials from the family of Willa Cloys Carmack. We are excited to announce that this material will begin to be processed in January 2020 and will be available to researchers by the end of the spring semester! These materials, which include correspondence, photographs, plant lists, reference files, and travel paraphernalia, will greatly enhance the collection and provide greater insight into the career of Willa Cloys Carmack.
Willa Clair Cloys Carmack (1889-1968) was one of the first women to graduate with a degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley, which at that time was part of the Department of Agriculture under the direction of Professor John Gregg. After graduating with her degree in 1916, she is listed in the Berkeley City Directory, in 1917, as a Landscape Architect.
Willa Cloys was an only child, born November 1, 1889, in the Midwest. Her father, Edward H. Cloys was a building contractor and the family moved to California around the late nineteen-teens. By 1925, Willa married Robert M. Carmack, and based on the 1930 census they had two children, John and Sarah. [i] Throughout her career, which spanned more than thirty years, she secured several large estate commissions in and around Hillsborough, schools in San Leandro, the San Jose Women's Club, city parks in Petaluma, and a subdivision called Felton Gables in Menlo Park, among others. During the Depression, Cloys taught landscape design at the California School of Gardening, a school started by and for women in Hayward in 1926 and lectured at California garden clubs. She was also a founding member of the California Horticultural Society.
Some of her notable projects include Villa Delizia garden, the garden for the Lachman Estate, and the San Jose Women’s Club. Her collection is of great importance, as she was an early proponent of the use of native plants in California gardens and an active part of a network of women working to influence how we garden in California today.
[i] Biography of Willa Cloys Carmack by April Halberstadt, May 2007