Commentary on University of California Physical Planning
by Sally Woodbridge, with the assistance of Marian Gade
March 13, 2000

Those persons attending the Center for Studies in Higher Education's conference on February 10, 2000, "Designing the Campus of Tomorrow," who relied on the information given by the presenters to inform them about "The Legacy of the Hearst Architectural Plan, Present and Future" (the subtitle of the conference) were likely to have left with the impression that physical planning for the UC Berkeley campus lapsed following the tenure of John Galen Howard as Supervising Architect of the University, not to be resumed until planning efforts were recently undertaken in order to meet the higher education needs of the burgeoning Tidal Wave II of students who are beginning to crowd onto the state's campuses. This commentary seeks to correct this erroneous impression. Not only did the need for physical planning increase as the century wore on, but the intermittent nature of it during the period prior to World War II no longer served a university overwhelmed by enrollment growth -- returning GIs -- following that conflict. The result was a series of major campus planning efforts in the post-war period. Academic planning in response to the demands of the postwar era guided physical planning, rather than buildings following purely aesthetic or architectural models. The power of the Supervising Architect, a position that was a major legacy of the 1899 international competition, waned.

As for the grand illusions of the Beaux Arts-dominated competition and the period from 1900 to the late 1930s, these, too, foundered on the postwar era's embrace of modernism. Thus, the 1956 Long Range Development Plan, the first of its kind, bore little resemblance to the Hearst architectural plan, which has acquired the shimmer of similar visions that have vanished into the dustbin of history.

The last Beaux Artsian plan for the campus was prepared by Arthur Brown, Jr., an eminent practitioner of the principles of the Parisian École Nationale des Beaux Arts. Brown was Supervising Architect from 1938 to 1948. His so-called K-18 plan was adopted in 1944 but never implemented. Many of its recommendations were directed toward clarifying circulation within the campus and making connections to city streets. New buildings were to be grouped around arteries and open spaces as well as on the perimeter of the campus. Brown's goal was to give the campus the kind of hierarchical order that Beaux Arts planning theories espoused. However, in the absence of any serious academic planning based on projections for future enrollment and spatial needs for departments and university services, Brown's plan had the unintended effect of causing much of the campus open space to be viewed as potential building sites.

Brown resigned in 1948 following the regents' cancellation of his contract. Since no new Supervising Architect was appointed, the university's Office of Architects and Engineers (A&E) assumed responsibility for the duties of Supervising Architect and Consulting Landscape Architect.

In 1951 the planning section of A&E, headed by Robert J. Evans, prepared a report titled "Planning the Physical Development of the Berkeley Campus." Planning for the future campus was divided into an academic, an aesthetic, and a physical concept.

The basis of the academic planning aspect of the A&E's 1951 report was the 1948 Strayer Report1 on California's postwar needs for higher education, adopted in principle by the regents. UC Berkeley's enrollment was projected to be approximately 20,000 students; the lower division capacity was estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 students. Upper division and graduate studies, professional work, pure and applied research, and a well-rounded extension program were emphasized.

The aesthetic concept endorsed a "modern" approach that would provide maximum internal flexibility in buildings to respond to the requirements of modern educational systems. Still, the report urged recognition of the varied architectural expressions of the existing campus buildings as indicative of the development of the university and recommended that the process of continuing development should harmoniously weave these older structures into the total fabric. The preservation of open space was a major concern.

Foremost among the factors contributing to the 1951 report's findings were the skyrocketing enrollment of war veterans from 1945 to 1951 and the acceleration of university research activity. Inadequate space for academic purposes, departmental needs for new equipment and a place to put it, strained facilities for university services, circulation and parking problems -- all reached a crisis stage.

In 1952 the university undertook a thorough study of its academic trends and policies using estimates for enrollment, divisional distribution, relative growth trends of academic departments, and student/faculty ratios. The study assumed an enrollment of 25,000 students as the basis for academic planning, with 6,250 in the lower division, 11,250 in the upper division, and 7,500 graduate students.

The appointment of chancellors on each campus (Berkeley and Los Angeles) in 1952 provided the opportunity for planning more concentrated in the internal administration and faculty of the campus itself than in the systemwide offices. In July 1952 Clark Kerr became Berkeley's first chancellor. His keen interest in the campus's physical appearance prompted him to appoint an Administrative Committee on Buildings and Campus Development. The committee in turn established a study group to examine professional staff needs for planning and implementing development on the Berkeley campus. Composed of representatives -- many of them chairs -- of the departments of art, city and regional planning, philosophy, architecture, and landscape architecture, the study group submitted a report in November 1953 which concluded with recommendations for shifting the apparatus of campus planning and the selection of outside architects to the chancellor's office.

In 1955 the regents created a Committee on Campus Planning for Berkeley, chaired by Regent Donald McLaughlin and with Chancellor Kerr and Dean William Wurster of the College of Architecture as its other members. Louis DeMonte, head of the office of Architects and Engineers, was the committee's Chief of Staff. In 1956 the first campus Long Range Development Plan, prepared by the committee, was published, the first university planning effort that involved faculty in all stages of its development.2 Because of the heavy faculty involvement and reliance on campus staff rather than outside architects for technical advice, the plan might be called an "internal-academic model" in contrast to the earlier "regental-external architect" models. Based on "the concept of continuous planning" as "the only realistic approach to the great and intricate problems of Berkeley campus development," the report acknowledged that it would "have a limited lifetime" and would need to be revised due to "changing circumstances." "But," it asserted, "the proposed Plan will serve as a valuable development guide for the foreseeable future."3

The 1956 LRPD stated that its "Planning Objective" was "to present an aesthetically and financially sound physical design to meet the academic needs of an enrollment of 25,000 or more students, without sacrifice of the beautiful physical setting of the campus." To accomplish this objective, it laid out a set of "Principles" to guide planning. These included:

"Academic Requirements: Central campus space will be used primarily for academic needs, for most academic buildings must be located within a 10-minute class exchange area centering about the Library. ...non-academic functions and some research units [will] be located in peripheral campus areas or on outlying properties.... Non-University agencies will be removed from campus space.

"Building Location, Design, and Use. Central campus buildings will be constructed to the maximum size that the building sites permit, consistent with need and local topographic conditions. Related departments will be located in building clusters where possible... Obsolete and temporary buildings will be removed, and the over-all density of buildings to land area on the central campus will be limited to 25%.

"Landscape, Regional Scenic Assets, and Historical Features. Every measure will be taken to preserve the beauties of the natural setting of the campus. The natural groves and woodlands along Strawberry Creek will set the prevailing feeling for campus landscape, modified by a few areas of formal character, such as Campanile Esplanade and the Mining Circle. Advantage will be taken of views of the Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay, the Berkeley Hills, and other scenic assets wherever possible in building siting and campus design. Historical features, such as South Hall, the President's House, Founders' Rock, Hearst Mining Circle, and Sather Gate, will be preserved.

"Circulation and Parking. A system of pedestrian ways and gathering areas will facilitate travel on foot throughout the campus. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic will be separated insofar as possible, and vehicular controls will be maintained at campus entrances to prohibit through traffic.

"Surface parking will be confined to areas limited in size. ... Additional parking facilities will be provided underground or in open-deck structures wherever feasible in order to make optimum use of costly land.

"Land Acquisition. Land in the immediate vicinity of the campus will be acquired only for functions requiring central campus proximity. The needs of major commercial, religious, and institutional organizations using property within expansion areas will be given the utmost consideration consistent with the welfare of the University.

"University-City Relationships. Continuing liaison will be maintained with officials of the City of Berkeley and other nearby communities to help resolve development problems of mutual concern."4

That the 1956 Long Range Development Plan did meet its objective and served as a "valuable development guide" can be seen in the fact that in the following years a record 7,300,000 square feet of building space was constructed based on the plan, an area constituting more than 50 percent of the building space that existed on the campus in 1994.


1. A Report of a Survey of the Needs of California in Higher Education. Submitted to the Liaison Committee of the Regents of the University of California and the State Department of Education, March 1, 1948, by the Committee on the Conduct of the Study, George D. Strayer, Chairman.

2. Long Range Development Plan for the Berkeley Campus. Submitted by the Committee on Campus Planning, Berkeley (Clark Kerr, William W. Wurster, Donald H. McLaughlin, Chairman), University of California, August 1956.

3. Ibid., p. vii.

4. Ibid., p. 20.


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