My next stop after San Francisco and a quick return visit to my family to see a school choir concert was to visit my friend Lily who lives in Oakland and teaches in the Berkeley public schools. I got there smoothly (after the small mishap where I missed her stop on the BART and accidentally took it out beyond the last stop to a no man’s land in the sky where I waited for it to turn around with a couple of bored rail workers). She took me with her to her classroom one day and I had a blast hanging out with her adorable students. Then, while she stuck around for parent-teacher conferences, I went wandering on the UC Berkeley campus which was absolutely stunning. I loved the variety of generous old academic grandeur interspersed with newer buildings demonstrating more playful steel and glass facades. I also really enjoyed the rolling hillside feel of the campus with irregular courtyards between buildings and particularly the little knoll by the faculty building with the gorgeous open grown oak.
The highlight of the campus was the College of Environmental Design (architecture) building – not because I like it best but because I found it the most interesting. I always enjoy spying around architecture school buildings and comparing their physical experience to my own memories of grad school. The building is very interestingly dated with a harsh concrete exterior and yellowed plywood paneling in all the office areas and some really grim looking pin up space in the main area downstairs but the tower design of the studios does give them lots of natural light and (on the upper floors) some very fine views. I tailgated some students into one of the locked studio areas so I could get a peek inside and then virtuously slipped outside again and explored the stairwells and library until it was time to leave. As with architecture buildings everywhere, the nooks and crannies are paint splattered and crammed with interesting installation art pieces left over from studios long past. I wished I had been brave enough to approach some of the students and ask what they thought of it but instead I limited myself to taking lots of pictures.