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    the Berkeley Guide Pt. 3

    Nick Sowers
    Nov 12, '08 9:40 PM EST

    Part 3 of the Berkeley Guide is about the building that we call home.


    It's a hard case to make that this is a great building. I wouldn't dare take on that task, but it has its *cough* charm. First, it's unanimously considered the "ugliest building on campus" by the rest of the University. This should come as no surprise: architects like a lot of ugly things.

    Visitor: I'm looking for the architecture school.
    Student: That's easy, just look for the worst building on campus.

    Cosmetics aside, the building was designed with admirable spirit:

    "I wanted it to look like a ruin than no regent would like... It's absolutely unfinished, uncouth, and brilliantly strong . . .The Ark [the old architecture school] for instance, is a ripe building; it has been lived in; it's been used, it's been beaten up and everything else. It's arrived. our building will take twenty years to arrive. "

    -William Wurster, first dean of the College of Environmental Design quoted here

    never mind the extensive earthquake retrofitting completed a few years ago--you wonder what all that concrete is really getting you. BUT it is kind of a ruin, like the bunkers that I'm so fascinated with, a hulk of concrete which speaks of a time past. I also like the notion that building is in a constant state of arriving. (you could also say it's in a constant state of departing).

    This quality of being unfinished, for me, really does get me revved up to make stuff better. I walk through these halls and think, man, someone should really just take a chain saw to these walls sometime, or bolt some stuff into the concrete. And you see this happening (except the chainsaws). It's a building that feels comfortable because it does not impose upon you a certain way to design buildings.

    It is precisely because the building fails, though, that you crave a better environment. You have adapt your environment, your studio space, to suit your needs. This quality I love.

    this is my space, in case you couldn't tell by all the tanks...

    Now, I hate hate hate the elevators. Everyone here hates these elevators. There are two that serve floors 4--9, and it can take up to five minutes some days (when only one elevator is working) to get down. If there is any positive to find in this situation, it's that we generally like each other and thus the elevator lobby and elevator itself is a fun, if awkward, social space.

    off to the lecture tonight now...

    And you can't really complete an entry about Wurster without showing off a sunset shot. The view is so ridiculously wonderful... really, when you visit, try not to look out the window, it might just overwhelm all the other factors that might influence your decision...


    • Oh I love Wurster! I was only there for a semester (as an intercampus visitor), but it definitely made an impression. I love the concrete brise soleil and the little robo/dino head shape of the conference room at the top, but especially that floor after floor of studios seem to give each student much more desk space and access to daylight, even as undergrads, than other schools I've seen. And you're right, it totally looks like all those bunkers and towers from WWII in the Marin Headlands. Even if Wurster is ugly (and who listens to aesthetic opinions of undergrads in econ or whatever), at least it's not BORING like my current home, Perloff at UCLA. Ha ha. Keep up the good work!

      Nov 13, 08 10:55 pm  · 

      I went there for 6 years- the building is oppressive-unlike the Haas business school next door- which my brother likes (he went to the optometry school, also next door). He thinks that Wurster looks like something out of Stalin era Russia. Make me a mulitmillionaire enough times over and I'll kick that "industrial shell of a building suitable for happening remodel/addition items" up more than a notch with a design makeover (i sketched a great one over a photo of the bldg.) That will have to wait till some grad reaches Frank Gehry status-and beyond. Of course then there would be a catfight with those that would say "You can't touch that iconic building" ! Some cheetah backup would be needed to fend off the house cats. Of course there will never be the money for any big remodel- architecture grads don't make the big bucks like bus-ad grads (some of them that is)-and Gehry status is rare & elusive.

      Apr 16, 10 3:15 am  · 

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