Undergraduate Seminar: Writing About Berkeley’s Built Environment: Two Residential Neighborhoods
Students in this writing-intensive upper-division seminar will investigate Berkeley’s residential history with case studies of two distinct neighborhoods, one in the hills and one in the flats. The hills section includes Native American sites, the Southern Pacific Railroad tunnel, and topographically-sensitive platting designed with deeply theorized c. 1910 ideas generated by a group of activist progressive women about the relationship between settlement and topography, as well as houses designed by Berkeley’s most distinguished architects. The residential section in the flats is an historically-Black neighborhood that includes homes in which railroad porter Leon Marsh, newspaper man Thomas C. Fleming, politician William Byron Rumford, police officer Walter Gordon, and WPA artist Sargent Johnson lived. Students will learn about redlining and protective covenants as well as campaigns to establish native species of plants and alleés of street trees and parks. They will learn about and write about evolving transportation systems.
The project of the course is two-pronged: to engage students in developing the skills to write a wide variety of different kinds of research/analytical essays on the one hand, and, on the other, to work as a group toward National Register designations for both these neighborhoods. Students will practice real-world persuasive writing, acquiring life skills that will contribute to our pool of knowledge and a public sense of value in the crafting and ‘reading’ of streetscapes and neighborhoods.
The course investigates the built environment of Berkeley as a collaborative long-term art/design project, the result of generations of inventiveness and repurposing inspired by a sense of community and consensus as well as by raw economic and social forces. Assigned readings are spare (no more than one essay a week) as there are weekly research/writing assignments.
This course fulfills the following requirements for the History of Art major: Geographical area (C) and Chronological period (III).