Research and Projects
The Social Factors program introduced social science methods to designers and sought to “train architects to be sensitive to the social and behavioral implications of their designs, and … train behavioral and social scientists in the methodology and requirements of the architects." In so doing, the Social Factors program sought to develop “a new breed of researcher, teacher, institutional planner, programmer—all sensitive to and knowledgeable about user needs" (Lindheim, 1975).
Influenced by Telesis (a Bay Area group of progressive architects, landscape architects and city planners formed in 1939), the founders of the College embraced “a comprehensive planned approach to environmental development, the application of social criteria to solve social problems, and team efforts of all professions that have a bearing on the total environment" (Woodbridge, 2010). While William Wurster, first dean of the college, saw architecture not as a fine art, but as a “social art because it is for people" (Wurster, 1948), Associate Dean Catherine Bauer Wurster in her seminal book Modern Housing (1934), argued for the power and necessity of applying social science findings to design. The College used these principles to develop an interdisciplinary faculty and a curriculum that taught students to translate socio-cultural values into physical forms as part of a body of technical and social skills in design education. Environmental Design “foundation courses,” required of all undergraduates, introduced these principles along with the usual basics of design. In 1953 the Departments of City and Regional Planning and Architecture hired sociologist Donald Foley; by the early 1960s there were several social scientists on the College faculty, and by 1969 social factors, called Area E, had both a Master’s and a PhD program, and was also an area of emphasis in the Department of Landscape Architecture.
This section highlights how Social Factors faculty at Berkeley employed a range of innovative research methods regarding user needs and experiences in the built environment; this research resulted in the publication of seminal texts, informed designs and design recommendations, and shaped pedagogical practice.