CED and College of Letters & Science Awarded Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

Key faculty, left to right, top to bottom: Whitney Davis, Jennifer Wolch, Margaret Crawford, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Shannon Jackson, Michael Dear, Tony Cascardi, Teresa Caldeira, and Alan Transman

Press Release
February 2013

UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED) and the Division of Arts & Humanities in the College of Letters & Science will collaborate to develop new pedagogical and research methodologies thanks to a $1.75 million, four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Mellon grant supports Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design,  a joint initiative that brings together scholars and practitioners from the  fields of architecture, urban design, city and regional planning, and landscape architecture, and multiple humanities disciplines – ranging from East Asian languages & culture, comparative literature, and history of art to theater, dance and performance studies. They will develop new theoretical paradigms, research methods, and pedagogical approaches in order to help address the complex problems facing today’s global mega-cities. Berkeley faculty will also collaborate with colleagues at UCLA, who received a similar grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Thanks to the vision and support of the Mellon Foundation, Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design creates an opportunity to bring the humanities, which are increasingly aware that people shape the world around them and are in turn shaped by that world, into closer connection with disciplines that regard the built environment as a three-dimensional field. Similarly, the grant creates an opportunity for environmental design scholars to renew their focus on the individuals who experience the built environment, modify and reshape it, embrace it or rebel against it. Such an effort was championed at UC Berkeley in the 1960’s and 70’s and gave rise to an important field of theory and research known as “social factors in design.” With the emergence of vast mega-cities and metropolitan regions, this collaborative initiative offers new opportunities for discovery and aims to help address some of the most complex global issues.

“We are honored to have been chosen to receive this grant and anticipate that Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design will have fundamental impacts on both sets of disciplines,” said William W. Wurster Dean of Environmental Design Jennifer Wolch. “Continuing CED’s legacy of innovation in environmental design thinking and practice, we now have the unique opportunity to integrate humanities approaches into design theory, and studies of space, place and the urban experience.”

“Humanities scholars are increasingly aware that intersections between large scale social structures and individuals are mediated by the built environment” observed Anthony J. Cascardi, Irving and Jean Stone Dean of Arts & Humanities. “CED’s design approaches, research methods and studio-based pedagogical strategies will infuse the humanities with new perspectives and skills as scholars continue to explore the human experience through the arts, literature and philosophy.”

The program will consist of a series of cross-disciplinary theory seminars, collaborative methods workshops designed to prepare students for different modes of social and spatial analysis, and urban research studios focusing on the Pacific Rim mega-cities of Hong Kong/Pearl River Delta, Los Angeles, and Mexico City.  These elements of the project will be complemented by joint symposia and studio juries with UCLA. 

Mega-cities provide an expansive territory for intellectual inquiry and opportunity for positive change. People living in such places are vulnerable to war and social strife, to climate change and ecological degradation, and to loss of livelihoods in a swiftly shifting global economy; but these places are at the same time sites of aesthetic purpose, creativity, and innovation. With a focus on such mega-cities, Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design will enable students and faculty from both colleges to develop more robust models of learning, scholarship and public engagement as they merge scholarship in the humanities with applied methods in environmental design.