Exploring the Architectural Heritage of UC Berkeley


UC Berkeley students don’t have to travel far to view inspiring examples of architecture and landscape design. Anyone who has visited the campus knows it’s a magnificent sight to see. With the Neoclassical beauty of Doe Library, the tranquil forest groves near Faculty Glade, and the glorious Sather Tower visible from miles away, students’ daily commutes across campus are filled with aesthetic pleasures.

At a recent Berkeley Connect Architecture field trip, students learned about the renowned architects who shaped the campus we know today. On a walking tour led by their graduate student mentors, they visited five main sites: the Faculty Club, Hearst Mining Building, The Ark (Northgate Hall), Hearst Memorial Gymnasium, and Wurster Hall.

At the Faculty Club, which was erected in 1902 (and originally called the Men’s Faculty Club), students learned that the building was designed by Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck was the first architecture instructor at the university, joining the faculty in 1894.  The Club’s design is rustic, with a grand fireplace inside, reflecting the domestic rusticism of European architecture. Its sloping roofs, large open windows, and visible shingles display an eclectic style, combining Mission Revival and Medieval Revival elements.

Next, the students moved on to the Hearst Mining Building. “This is the heart of where it all began,” explained mentor Shraddha Navalli. Phoebe Apperson Hearst wanted a building constructed in memorial to her husband, the late William R. Hearst. She held an international competition for the building’s design. John Galen Howard’s design was selected, beginning his reign as UC Berkeley’s primary campus architect. The Hearst Mining Building became the prototype for later campus buildings, incorporating classical and California vernacular elements.

The next stop on the tour was The Ark, otherwise known as Northgate Hall. This building was designed by Howard as well, and was intended to be a temporary shanty to house his architecture students (Howard was an instructor of architecture as well as the main campus architect). Despite its designation as “temporary” over 100 years ago, the building has now been carefully restored, maintaining its original design. The Ark includes classical and Beaux Arts influences in its design.

Students then trekked across campus to examine Hearst Memorial Gymnasium. This building was constructed as a memorial for Phoebe Hearst, who died in 1919. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan, ending Howard’s reign over campus architecture. Hearst Memorial Gymnasium was intended to be a lavish lounge where women could relax after long commutes and arduous days of class. It was a very modern piece of architecture at the time, with innovative styles drawing from classicism and utilitarian materials.

The last stop on the architecture tour was Wurster Hall, constructed in 1964. The building was named for architect William Wurster and his wife, housing expert Catherine Bauer Wurster. Wurster Hall was constructed to create one single unit for the school of planning, architecture, and landscape architecture—the College of Environmental Design. Three architecture faculty, Vernon DeMars, Donald Olsen, and Joseph Esherick, designed the building. According to mentor Navalli, “Wurster didn’t want the Regents to like the building.” He referred to it as a “ruin,” wanting it to seem unfinished and also free of stylistic quirks. The result was a building that generates plenty of conversation and controversy—some people love it, some people hate it, but everyone has an opinion.

As new buildings continue to pop up all over campus, it’s clear that Architecture students have a great resource at their fingertips: a living archive of architectural styles and trends from the 19th to the 21st century.

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant