Author Archives: sachikagami

Plaque and Mural Project

Davis House’s provision of student housing introduces unique challenges to its preservation. In a two-step approach, this project intends to take into account both the contribution of the inhabitants, as well as attempting to affix more permanent documentation in a way that will survive the constant turnover of student life. Step one of this project is a commemorative plaque mounted on the front of Davis house, in a space that is both visible and accessible. The plaque will give a brief history of the house detailing its construction and various histories. By affixing a plaque to the house, house members will have an accessible point of documented memory from which to draw, that will also be available to visitors and outsiders as well, opening the house to the public.

The second part of this project would be the creation of a living mural, documenting the history of the house while leaving stylized blank spaces for residents to create and add their own content to the mural. This mural would encourage the house’s history to evolve as the house grows and continues to exist.

The key to the success of this project lies in the blended approach of “official” and interpretive history practices that incorporate both elements of the institutional as well as the cultural values of the cooperative. We hope to retain the cultural values of the people to whom this heritage site belongs, while also encouraging longevity, creativity, and preservation.

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Walking Tour

1923 block book showing house and surrounding area

As much as Davis House is the focus of our heritage projects, it doesn’t exist as an island. Rather, its history closely mirrors that of the surrounding neighborhood, and so any exploration of the site’s history is incomplete without looking at this house as part of a larger community.

It is with this in mind that we propose a neighborhood walking tour that incorporates audio and visual augmented reality technologies to bring history to the ears and fingertips of visitors. Much like the DeTour programs available in other parts of the Bay Area, this tour involves a cell phone app that instructs the visitor on where to go, and what to see. Narration guides the visitor along a predetermined path, with explanations of local history along the way.

Undated color postcard of International House and surrounding neighborhood

Augmenting all of this are aural and visual cues that help to more fully evoke the past and present of this area. In the century since Davis House was first built, this hillside has gone from quiet canyonland to bustling enclave of student life. What did it sound like 100 years ago? What might it have sounded like to walk past frat houses on game day in the 1920s?

This immersion also helps visitors more fully explore questions of racial exclusion, gender discrimination, community evolution, and the notion of progress over time. How did International House, at the bottom of the hill, shake up what had been an all-white neighborhood? How did sororities serve the growing female student body at the University of California? How might they have come to represent something outmoded? And when the co-op system radically altered the face of the neighborhood, was it all forward progress, or did some of these same questions still remain?

The goal of this walking tour is not to answer these questions in full, but to leave visitors with a critical understanding of the complexities of student life. This speaks not only to Berkeley’s past, but to the future of student life everywhere.

Plaque and Mural Project

Davis House’s provision of student housing introduces unique challenges to its preservation. In a two-step approach, this project intends to take into account both the contribution of the inhabitants, as well as attempting to affix more permanent documentation in a way that will survive the constant turnover of student life. Step one of this project is a commemorative plaque mounted on the front of Davis house, in a space that is both visible and accessible. The plaque will give a brief history of the house detailing its construction and various histories. By affixing a plaque to the house, house members will have an accessible point of documented memory from which to draw, that will also be available to visitors and outsiders as well, opening the house to the public. The second part of this project would be the creation of a living mural, documenting the history of the house while leaving stylized blank spaces for residents to create and add their own content to the mural. This mural would encourage the house’s history to evolve as the house grows and continues to exist. The key to the success of this project lies in the blended approach of “official” and interpretive history practices that incorporate both elements of the institutional as well as the cultural values of the cooperative. We hope to retain the cultural values of the people to whom this heritage site belongs, while also encouraging longevity, creativity, and preservation.

Interpretive Plans

With a history stretching back more than a century, Davis House speaks to a large number of people. Current and former residents, either from the sorority or the co-op, have a personal stake in this site as a notable part of their lives. So too can the general public appreciate this site for its architectural, historical, and cultural significance. Our goal is therefore to engage all of these groups while still respecting the fact that this is a private residence. For nonresidents, this means using virtual tours instead of physical access, as well as neighborhood tours to help ground Davis House in its historical and cultural settings. Current residents may use the same, as well as material that speaks to the history of the house and of the organization to which they belong.

All of these projects will consider how Davis House fits in with broader social and cultural trends, and how this particular site can serve as a focal point for these changes. At the same time, what are the changes still needed in today’s society, and how can Davis House help illustrate these for us? Our interpretive plan looks to the past, present, and future as we examine this site and its place in our world.

Informative Website

Davis House informative website.png

Davis House is not well known yet. Therefore, our first step is to inform about Davis House to potential audiences. To reach larger audiences, we will build an informative website. The content of the website will be the history of Davis House, links to the virtual tours, a brief description of the walking tour, a bulletin board, a local map of the area, and a sample of schedules of current residents living at Davis House. We will share the link of the website on many other websites such as Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) website, general housing pages and blogs. We aim to reach UCB students and Berkeley residents through BSC website and housing pages, and Julia Morgan fans and history enthusiasm through representative blogs. The strength of the website is that it will bring all information and features together in one place. Also, it eliminates physical limitations to know about Davis House.

Management Plan

Our heritage site at Davis House focuses primarily on four major themes: community, gender, race, and progress. In the short term (5 years), our focus is on the immediate and pressing needs of the house, as outlined above; maintenance of structural and aesthetic features must necessarily be a priority because the house in its current state is so vulnerable to damage. This need for preservation does not, however, preclude the establishment of heritage projects in the property, and may in fact be helped by increased visibility and the procurement of grants and other funds available to heritage projects.

Long term goals (up to 25 years) focus more on the broader social, historical, and cultural footprints of the building. To attempt to preserve the legacy of the house without considering its functionality would be impossible, as it is still a home that houses 36 residents. Their needs must be considered and it is best if we view the house comprehensively as a living organism that will grow and adapt with changing times. Therefore, we are proposing a series of heritage projects that will speak to everyone from house members to people outside the community. All of these projects will consider how Davis House fits in with broader social and cultural trends, and how this particular site can serve as a focal point for these changes. At the same time, we ask “What are the changes still needed in today’s society, and how can Davis House help illustrate these for us?” Our interpretive plan looks to the past, present, and future as we examine this site and its place in our world.

Significance

Davis House brings an unsurmountable amount of significance to the community. With such a cultural diversity instituted within its very walls, an infrastructure that takes us back in time to the Victorian era, ethics that are bringing young, vibrant people together in healthy, educational ways, community and educational involvement and a geographically located placement that makes it more than convenient to get to classes, it’s no wonder why so many students wish to keep this wonderful place alive. It supports ecological and healthy eating choices and makes eating healthy more accessible for students; which is highly important while they are trying to become the future of our world and make future decisions about political and ethical issues regarding the community and beyond. Davis House wouldn’t have the significance it does without students continually being involved in its liveliness and adding to the intrinsic energy that fills the house. Assisting in making everlasting and lifelong bonds between people living and learning inside the Co-Op, Davis House itself, houses much intangible heritage and keeping it alive is extremely important to the students in whom it has touched their lives forever over the years at UC Berkeley. It is more than just a building, it is more than just a house, and it is a loving and cheerful community in and of itself. It brings a softness to the eye of any person that loves architecture with its gorgeous Julia Morgan style home. Julia Morgan designed more than 700 buildings along the California Coast and adds a historic point of view to the heritage it holds. Built in the early 1900’s Davis House is a truly memorable place for anyone who has lived there and should be able to continue to be for future generations of Cal students.