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UC Berkeley Press Release

Two major landscape plans plot out UC Berkeley's green future

Sather Rd. & Campanile Way intersection  Shaping Berkeley's landscape: Images from the master plan

– Just as the final pieces of a jigsaw puzzle reveal its final form, two major landscape plans for the University of California, Berkeley, complete a 50-year vision for the campus.

The Landscape Master Plan and the Landscape Heritage Plan, released this year in January and October respectively, provide both a tutorial on the historic importance of the campus's physical geography and a plan to revive and improve the landscape at 29 campus locations.

Wheeler Glade
An artist's conception of Wheeler Glade, which would open up the area upstream from Sather Gate, with seat walls sloping down to Strawberry Creek. (Courtesy Capital Projects)

These landscape master plans -- the first in over 40 years -- were created in sync with the academic and campus building plans released in 2002. The Strategic Academic Plan outlines future academic growth while the New Century Plan establishes a strategy for future campus buildings and capital investment.

"The Berkeley campus has very significant landscapes, and very significant designers have been involved in the creation of those landscapes. We don't take the viewpoint that buildings are more important than landscape or vice versa, but that they are complementary to each other," said Julia Monteith, a senior planner in Capital Projects at UC Berkeley who co-authored the landscape plans.

The Landscape Master Plan identifies 29 specific landscape projects throughout the Central Campus to complete in upcoming years, while the Landscape Heritage Plan is oriented towards preserving the historic landscape of the UC Berkeley Classical Core.

Landscape Master Plan

One of the 29 projects in the Landscape Master Plan was completed this summer -- the renovation of Sproul Plaza. Buckled and cracked asphalt was replaced with concrete pavers, new wooden benches were installed, handrails were added and Ludwig's Fountain was made accessible by removing large bumpy stones and replacing them with smaller stonework. Grass replaced juniper bushes on the hillside leading to Sproul Hall-- allegedly planted to deter rowdy protesters -- and light posts were lowered two feet so light would shine below the trees instead of filtering through the leaves.

The other 28 projects propose similar changes, largely aimed at increasing access for all students and preserving -- or returning to -- an original concept for the space. They include:

* Restoring the central reflecting pool and landscape of the Hearst Mining Circle

* Restoring Campanile Way as a central pedestrian walkway

* Restoring flagstone paths, planting and informal seating in Faculty Glade

* Creating a new pedestrian promenade - University Walk - overlooking Memorial Glade and linking the Hearst Mining Circle area with the proposed East Asian Library at the base of Observatory Hill

The remaining 28 projects have price tags in the $2 million to $5 million range each, and campus officials are optimistic that funding through grants, alumni or corporate sponsors will help finance the projects.

"They offer a lot of value for a relatively modest investment," said Jim Horner, campus landscape architect, who co-authored the plan with Monteith. "The way this plan was set up, you can do the projects individually, combine them or do them as a suite of projects. It's not like a traditional master plan with a single sheet of paper."

Nine of the projects are priorities:, Observatory Hill, West Oval Glade, Faculty Glade, Wheeler Glade, Campanile Environs, Hearst Mining Circle, Campanile Way, Sather Road and Wheeler-Dwinelle Plaza. The next projects to be tackled are likely Grinnell Glade and the Hearst Mining Circle, since the sites have been used as staging areas for construction of new buildings.

In addition to increasing access to all parts of campus for people with disabilities, the other common thread in many of these landscaping projects is a need to replace plants and trees that are reaching the end of their natural life with an array of diverse flora. The UC Berkeley campus once had 300 species of trees, but now has only 200 species.

"A lot of people don't appreciate how dynamic the landscape is, that we have mature trees on the campus that are gradually dying off and a larger collection of plants that are reaching maturity," said Horner.

Some fallen trees have been removed recently from the Eucalyptus Grove near the campus's west entrance. The grove was planted in 1877 as a windbreak and is now believed to be the tallest stand of hardwood trees in North America. But Horner warns that "if you take trees off on the outside, the middle trees that benefited from their protection are weakened. [The stand] can unravel, like a cheap suit, right away. You have to be very careful."

The plan proposes an assessment of the grove by certified arborists and horticulturists with expertise in eucalyptus and annual inspections with the goal of sustaining the grove in its historic form as it remains stable.

The plan also attempts to correct some campus weaknesses that were the result of explosive enrollment growth in the past. Chief among these weaknesses is Evans Hall --slated for eventual demolition -- which blocks the view down the Central Glade from the Hearst Mining Circle to the Golden Gate Bridge. Both the landscape and heritage plans identify and urge preservation of other campus views, such as the northward view from Sather Gate and the eastward view from the West Gate.

Landscape Heritage Plan

Dedication to preservation is at the heart of the Landscape Heritage Plan, funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, which details the impact of three eras of landscape architectural development -- the Picturesque, Beaux-arts and Modern -- in the Classical Core of the campus.

"These landscapes represents three periods of significance over nearly 150 years, yet they work together, and that complexity is what makes the campus so wonderful," said Horner.

Since 2002, the Getty has supported more than 50 colleges and universities in a nationwide effort to preserve historic buildings, sites and landscapes through its Campus Heritage Initiative.

Compared to the Landscape Master Plan, this UC Berkeley plan provides far more detail about the historic core of campus, including comprehensive design guidelines for all aspects of future landscape designs.

In particular, the plan gives detailed renovation guidance for two areas, Hearst Mining Circle/Oppenheimer Way and the Campanile Way/Sather Road intersection, selected because of their importance to the campus and their historic characteristics.

Among the specific proposals:

* Reconstruction of key missing elements of the original design of the Hearst Mining Circle, particularly the reflecting pool

* Planting broadleaf evergreen trees in single rows to strengthen the view to Strawberry Creek along Oppenheimer Way

* Restoration of Campanile Way to a 20-foot-wide pedestrian pathway, lined by lawn panels. Surface it with large concrete pavers and restore brick gutters

* Restoration of pollarded London Plane trees (the iconic trees in Sproul Plaza) along both sides of Sather Road, and along Campanile Way

As both the Landscape Master Plan and the Landscape Heritage Plan repeatedly emphasize, the landscape is critical to campus identity.

"It's the romantic memory that people hold when they graduate. The good memories are of sitting on the lawn in the sunshine or coming across someone practicing the oboe in the trees," Horner said.

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