Doe Library, University of California Berkeley (A History)
22 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2009
Date Written: May 8, 2009
The Doe Library (and the first 12 buildings on the Berkeley campus) is work that would never have been built without the support of powerful interests in both the public and private sector, and there is a clear historical association between Beaux-Arts classicism and social elites of the eastern seaboard, some of whom made their way west to California replicating the social fabric of cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York. The ability of a professional elite to use its connections with key social groups to command the most visible and prestigious commissions (in this case, the Phoebe A. Hearst Architectural Plan) is perhaps the most obvious reason the Doe Library was constructed. The Beaux-Arts design was made available to the public and the profession by an alliance between certain prominent architects and commercial interests with cultural pretensions.
Although this paper intentionally limits itself to the period starting with the initial design competition (in 1896) to the opening of the facility (in 1911); perhaps the most remarkable chapter in the creation of the Doe Library is the fact that its high-brow design considerations have forced the creation of the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF) a cooperative library storage facility, also the first of its kind in California. The NRLF is a utilitarian, and thoroughly 'modern' facility incorporating exactly the design elements that were intentionally avoided in building the original Doe Library.
Keywords: library architecture, University of California Berkeley, library history, Beaux-Arts
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