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First Master Plan Hit Political Roadblock
(Part of A Compass to Guide Campus Renewal)

Posted September 29, 1999


It was a century ago this September that a panel of judges named the winner of an international competition to create the original master plan for the Berkeley campus.

The Hearst Plan as it was called -- after competition sponsor Phoebe Apperson Hearst -- envisioned Berkeley as an "Athens of the West," which would spread enlightenment throughout the Pacific as Athens once did for the Mediterranean.

First prize went to French architect Emile Bénard, who created an ambitious Renaissance fantasy featuring an east-west axis, two large plazas, several towers and a magnificent neoclassical gymnasium.

The high-profile competition not only provided a building plan but much notoriety for the young institution.

"Amidst the most pleasant hills on an elevated site, commanding a wide sea view," an Oxford Latin orator said of the new university in California, "is to be placed a home of Universal Science and a seat of the muses."

Bénard won the competition but lost the politics. After a falling out with Hearst, fourth-prize winner John Galen Howard became the first campus architect, who ignored, amended and adapted aspects of the winning plan.



September 29 - October 5, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 8)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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