The Eleventh Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2009
Berkeley Prize 2009

Essay Question




The BERKELEY PRIZE had asked two leading figures in the field of sustainable architecture, who are also committed to traditional wisdom, to address the Question as an introduction for student competitors.  Please find these discussion below:

I. Learning from Tradition in a Disappearing World

Alonzo C. Addison, author of Disappearing World and Special Advisor to UNESCO's World Heritage Centre.

We live in a disappearing world.  Irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration, heritage — from the pyramids of Giza to Darwin’s Galapagos, and the temples of Angkor to the migration of the Serengeti — is under siege today.  While the ‘global village’ has brought untold benefits, as we have sped down the superhighway of change, much has been left at the wayside.  Our heritage — from intangible traditions to great monuments and pristine wilderness — is being challenged by the pace of progress.Long before ‘globalization’ was a household term or the internet had linked us all, the nations of the world joined together to identify and try to safeguard the earth’s most outstanding and extraordinary places.  Exactly one hundred years after the “setting apart” in 1872 of the world’s first National Park at Yellowstone “for the enjoyment of all”, ideas of preservation came together at UNESCO (the UN’s Educational Scientific, and Cultural arm) in a unique international legal instrument to protect and conserve heritage sites of “outstanding universal value”.  Ratified by 185 nations, the 1972 “World Heritage Convention” today protects 878 cultural and natural sites in 145 countries, and notably recognizes: that they are part of a heritage of all mankind, that their protection is our shared responsibility, and that they are held in trust for this and future generations.  As the world’s only treaty encompassing both natural and cultural heritage, the Convention represents a unique and powerful link between culture, monuments, archaeological sites, biological diversity, endangered and migratory species, wetlands, and climate change.

Despite international protection efforts, many of these great sites are sadly under threat today.  As detailed in the book ‘Disappearing World: 101 of the Earth’s Most Extraordinary and Endangered Places’, threats range from Conflict, to Theft, Development, Unsustainable Tourism, Pollution, Disasters, Constraints (limited resources), Changing Uses, Invasive Species, and Climate Change.  In architecture especially, time-honored methods have in recent decades been abandoned for newer, lower cost but less sustainable building and planning paradigms.

Yet there is hope.  By understanding how our actions affect our heritage, we can reduce our impact.  For example, polluting farm runoff and cruise ship trash is damaging the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, while relief efforts after the 2004 Asian Tsunami have added to the stripping of the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.  Unregulated and unthoughtful development, be it sprawl surrounding Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur outside Cairo, Egypt or plans for a concrete highway bridge across the widest point of the Dresden Elbe Valley, is something design and planning professionals can help reduce.  In our global village, the actions of some can impact many: from Hemingway’s now vanishing ‘Snows’ of Kilimanjaro National Park to the encroaching desert threatening the Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata, climate change is having a dramatic impact.

By identifying the intrinsic values of these places we can help them live on.  Often in the heritage of others are lessons for us all: great monuments and cities may reveal long-forgotten techniques and practices that can efficiently address modern challenges. Abandoned during a government ‘cleanup’ half a century ago, the several-thousand-year-old, naturally-cooled, rock-hewn cathedrals of The Sassi and thePark of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera, are slowly recovering as residents move back and rediscover their efficiency and sustainability.  Although largely destroyed in a 2003 earthquake, Bam and its Cultural Landscape in Iran show the beauty and efficiency of earthen architecture in a hot climate.  From the ingenious Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman to the 800-year-old communal housing of the Fujian Tulou in China or wondrous carved city and water works of hidden Petra in Jordan, or efficient hillside utilization of the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso, Chile, our predecessors have much to teach us.

As you embark on this year’s Berkeley Prize Competition, I encourage you to learn more about our collective World Heritage and to seek lessons from it.  Hopefully you will find examples and inspiration to help you bring sustainable solutions to the challenges we all face in building a better planet.  Together, we can save these great places so they live on to educate and enrich the lives of future generations.  

 * * * 

To learn more about these and many other threatened World Heritage sites, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centre or get a copy of Disappearing World: 101 of the Earth’s Most Extraordinary and Endangered Places by Alonzo C. Addison.  Sold at leading bookstores online and around the world, it is also available in a UK edition “Disappearing World: the Earth’s Most Extraordinary and Endangered Places”, and in French (Les joyaux de l'humanité: 100 sites à découvrir avant qu'il ne soit trop tard), German (Bedrohte Paradiese), Hungarian (A Védtelen Bolygó: Földünk legkülönlegesebb és legveszélyeztettebb helyei), and Estonian (Kaduv maailm: Maailma kõige haruldasemad ja ohustatumad paigad).

A Note on the Author:

Interested in the nexus of heritage, design and visualization, Alonzo C. Addison works in technology strategy, information architecture, and heritage documentation. He currently serves as Special Advisor to the Director of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Centre, guiding technology deployment in the heritage arena.  He founded the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Design Visualization and in the early 1990's helped create the first high-accuracy long-range 3D laser scanner as Vice President of Cyra Technologies (now Leica Geosystems).

His recent book Disappearing World (2007) has received critical acclaim and been published in 7 languages.  He serves as President of the Virtual Heritage Network and serves on the boards of many heritage networks.  He holds degrees in engineering, architecture and computing from Princeton and Berkeley and lives with his wife and two children in Northern California.

II. Commitment to Sustainable Design

Chuck Davis, FAIA , Senior Principal, EHDD Architecture, San Francisco

Sustainable design practices are engrained in our philosophy and date back to Joseph Esherick’s careful day-lighting and solar analyses done for the firm’s residential designs of the 1950s.  This philosophy evolved in the 1960s with the detailed site studies of The Sea Ranch along California’s Mendocino Coast—a second home community that came to epitomize the term living lightly on the land.

Our founder, Joseph Esherick, initiated the Building Sciences Program at the University of California, Berkeley, a leading center for the development of sustainable technology. As a firm, we continue tolead in the advancement of high-performance buildings by applying four promising sustainable design practices: energy efficiency, appropriate allocation of resources, indoor environmental quality, and storm-water management, along with research in alternative materials, Design for Deconstruction (DfD), and zero-carbon buildings. 

We believe that sustainable buildings should simply be better buildings—more inviting and comfortable to live and work in, able to enhance our daily lives, and more innovative and inspiring in their design. We also believe that the sustainable design approach should clearly reflect the specific vision and mission of each client and project.

Our design for the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles became the first LEED® Platinum-certified project in the United States.The Center embodies the Audubon Society’s  environmental ideals, modeling sustainable design to the surrounding community and serving as prototype for future Audubon centers. An American Institute of Architects Top Ten Green Building award-winner, the Department of Global Ecology for the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University is a highly energy-efficient building that harvests sunlight, catches and reuses rainwater, uses radiant slab heating and cooling, and uses a number of other sustainable designstrategies to express the department’s core goals. At Chartwell School, also LEED Platinum-certified, we focused on using sustainable strategies that also created a superior learning environment and could be integrated into the curriculum as a teaching tool. These three project examples tell a powerful story about sustainability and the client’s vision.

As we struggle to attain higher levels of environmental awareness in our daily lives, we challenge our clients to ensure that theirprojects meet their fullest potential by supporting a holistic environmental philosophy within their own organizations, beyond the design of thebuilding. It is by empowering clients and users to truly embrace this vision that they will make the ultimate contribution and see the EHDD is proud to be on the forefront of sustainable design, and we look to a time when more municipalities will write the legislation necessary to promote sustainable design through incentives and partnerships with building departments. We also look to a time when good design and sustainable design will be one and the same, an embodiment of our philosophy.

A Note on the Author:

A Senior Principal at EHDD Architecture, headquartered in San Francisco, California, Chuck Davis has been a key contributor to the firm’s remarkable social and environmental design philosophy, practice, and body of work.  Chuck’s approach is quintessentially Californian—inclusive rather than exclusive, inventive and spontaneous rather than formal or pedantic. What results are structures extremely diverse in their form and articulation, yet exceedingly well suited to their sites, their programs, and the needs of users.

In 2003, in recognition of his outstanding achievement in architectural design, the American Institute of Architects’ California Council awarded Chuck its highest honor, the Maybeck Award. Chuck holds an A.B. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.   As a young Berkeley graduate, Chuck served as a construction supervisor for the United States Army Corps of Engineers where he  gained first-hand knowledge of heavy construction, but even more importantly, a deep respect for those who build. 

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Berat, Albania; UNESCO World Heritage Site 2008 ©UNESCO/Ermal Koci
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