AKA: University of California, Berkeley, Campus Plan #2, , Berkeley, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - campuses; built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings; events - competitions

Designers: Henri Jean Émile Bénard (architect); Samuel M. Cauldwell (architect); John Galen Howard (architect); Bernard Ralph Maybeck (architect); Lewis Henry Morgan (architect)

Dates: constructed 1898-1899

University of California, Berkeley (UCB), Campus, Berkeley, CA 94720

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Overview

This international competition, which included a huge $30,000 in prizes, was won by the French architect, Henri Jean Émile Bénard (1844-1929). In 1900, Bénard traveled to Berkeley to see the site for which he designed an elaborate, but hypothetical ensemble of terraced buildings, linked by a grand allee. He called his design "Roma," which suggested its ambitious nature. It satisfied the late 1890s taste for Columbian Exposition White City grandeur but was conceived on a preposterous scale. Shortly after winning, the architect became annoyed at the slowness with which the Regents of University of California wished to proceed. Coming from the highly centralized French political and educational system, the architect did not understand the financial limitations and political chicanery any state building project faced in turn-of-the-century America. Due to the Bénard Plan's huge cost and the architect's seeming lack of patience with the UC Regents and the CA legislature, his full scheme was never implemented. Intent on moving forward quickly, Hearst and the Regents favored the appointment of John Galen Howard (1864-1931), who captured fourth place in the competition (with his partners Samuel M. Cauldwell [d. 03/08/1916] and Lewis Henry Morgan), to adapt and simplify the Bénard Plan.

Competition History

Planning for the competition occurred well before the competition of 1899. The UC Berkeley architecture instructor, Bernard R. Maybeck (1862-1957) was involved in the preparations for the Hearst Competition. The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1897: "Bernard Maybeck, of the Department of Industrial and Decorative Art, is now in Europe, consulting with architects, landscape gardeners and other authorities, as to the details for the international competition for plans. The aim of this will be to secure a permanent plan for the laying out of the university grounds, the arrangement of the buildings, and the style of their architecture, a scheme which will be followed in all future improvements. The regents say that $7,000,000 has been promised for new buildings, as the gifts of private individuals." The story continued to discuss what these buildings would look like: "All these new buildings will be of marble, stone, or some other imperishable material. They will be built to last as long as the Parthenon, or a European cathedral. All will be of the same architectural style, and all built with reference to one another. This, with the great natural beauty of the site, will make the University of California almost peerless, as far as externals go." (See Victor Henderson, "Joy at Berkeley," Los Angeles Times, 03/01/1897, p. 8.) Newspapers and magazines breathlessly described the proposed school in rhapsodic terms; one 1899 article appeared with the title: "On Fair Berkeley's Classic Hills Will Rise the Most Magnificent Institution of Learning That the Marveling World Has Ever Gazed Upon." (See "On Fair Berkeley's Classic Hills Will Rise the Most Magnificent Institution of Learning That the Marveling World Has Ever Gazed Upon." San Francisco Call, vol. 86, no. 105, 09/13/1899, p. 7.) Despite the hyperbole, the competition created wide interest from designers and the public, making it one of the most significant university-building projects in American history.

The University of California described the Hearst Competition in a bulletin published in 1908: "In 1896 a proposition looking to a general building scheme was made by Mr. B.R. Maybeck, instructor in architectural drawing, and was introduced in the Board of Regents and fostered there by Regent J.B. Reinstein. The board voted to have prepared a program 'for a permanent and comprehensive plan to be open to general competition for a system of buildings to be ereted on the grounds of the University of California at Berkeley.' Before this resolve had been put into effective operation it came to the notice of Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, who was then considering the erection of a building at the University in memory of her husband, the late Senator George Hearst. Accordingly, Mrs. Hearst at once wrote to the board expressing her desire to promote the proposed competition and to defray all the expense thereof. This offer was gratefully accepted. Two competitions were held, a preliminary one at Antwerp, and a final one at San Francisco. The preliminary competition opened January 15 and closed July 1, 1898. Of one hundred and five plans presented eleven were selected by the jury for the final contest." The winners of this preliminary round included six firms from the US East Coast, three from France, the home of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, the leading architectural academy of the time, one from Austria, and one from Switzerland. While it may have been important for US national pride that six American firms were selected, all utilzed the overtly French methods of the École des Beaux-Arts.

The University of California 1908 history continued: "The second contest, in San Francisco, resulted in the award of first prize to Monsieur Émile Bénard of Paris; second prize, Messrs. Howells, Stokes and Hornbostel of New York; third prize, Messrs. D. Despradelle and Stephen Codman of Boston; fourth prize, Messrs. Howard and Cauldwell of New York; fifth prize, Messrs. Lord, Hewlett and Hull of New York. To adapt and carry out the Benard plan the Board of Regents appointed Mr. John Galen Howard supervising architect of the University." (See "History," University of California Bulletins, Third Series, vol. 1, no. 1, Colleges of Letters, Sciences, and Engineering, Undergraduate Departments, January 1908, [Berkeley: University of California, 1908], pp. 55-56.) By 1908, the UCB history noted, five buildings had been erected, started or planned according to Howard's reinterpretation of Bénard's plan. This official history, however, did not mention Bénard's reluctance to relocate to the uncouth Pacific Coast.

The UCB Library's "Roma Pacifica" web site chronicling the competition compiled by the University of California Library, said of the often prickly Bénard: "Émile Bénardcame quickly to California to collect his prize money and to survey the situation. He was startled by the dramatic site and annoyed that he would not be immediately commissioned to proceed with all of the buildings. The architect balked at making major adjustments to his concept, and insulted the competition's trustees and even Mrs. Hearst, herself. Back in Paris, Bénard leisurely prepared five possible variants and finally submitted his new set of drawings, which were halfheartedly presented by Mrs. Hearst to the Regents in December 1900. Within the next year, John Galen Howard, the fourth prize winner, was chosen to be supervising architect of the University." (See University of California, Berkeley Library, "Roma Pacifica:IV. Bénard's New Project, 1900," accessed 09/26/2016.) Howard quickly became a favorite of Mrs. Hearst, for whom he designed the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, 1902-1907,

PCAD id: 11410