From Community Design to Affordable Housing and Seismic Safety
"By the mid-1980s student interest in communtiy design had dimished. Deconstruction, Michael Graves, and 'pink and blue' were all the students could talk about. Concurrently, real changes had taken place in how and how much community programs and affordable housing were funded. As a result, Randy Hester (Landscape Architecture), Ed Blakely (City and Regional Planning) and I decided to end the direct services provided by the Community Design Centers, and focus on community-serving research. At this time I became a partner with George Miers and we designed a number of affordable housing projects for non-profit groups in the Bay Area. At the same time I was working on the rehabilitation of residential hotels in Chinatown and the Tenderloin neighborhoods in San Francisco. At one moment while standing in the half-finished Aarti Hotel, I realized that we were extending the useful life of these buildings but doing nothing to improve their performance in earthquakes. My life and research changed.
Since that time I have worked on the seismic rehabilitation of existing buildings from a technical and policy pespective. Many of the building codes and bond programs to fund seismic improvements in California are based on my research.... I often wonder how I made the transformation from community design to earthquake engineering, and yet the transitions are seamless. Why? As an architect, I had the ability to see the building issues in the larger context. As a faculty member, I had the freedom to re-invent myself, or at least my research, with the suport of my department and colleagues."
Excerpt from "Twenty-Five Years and UC Berkeley," by Mary Comerio, in Design on the Edge: A Century of Teaching Archtiecture at the University of California, Berkeley, 1903-2005, p. 290-291, 2009. Images courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley, Mary Comerio Collection.