We asked UC Berkeley alumni to share their favorite locations on campus. Here are some of their responses and reflections.
Marina ’85, B.A. French
Doe Library Main Reading Room
Memory: “Doe Library’s Main Reading Room with its oak wood tables and chairs, wall-to-wall oak shelves, high ceiling, and windows will always be the most special place on the Berkeley campus for me.
“It was the best and most quiet place to study. The hefty oak chairs were comfortable and a comfort at the same time. The Main Reading Room was and is special. It is the epitome of the classic library reading room. It is in many ways and all at once majestic, regal, quiet, and sacred. Sacred? Yes, a sacred cathedral-like place inspiring reverence for the written word and reflection.
“Back in the mid-1980s, we had no tech gadgetry such as smartphones, iPads, or laptops. We still took notes in spiral notebooks, consulted reference books in the library, searched the card catalog and Melvyl OPAC for titles after 1977 to the then-present, and used the photocopier.
“So, Doe Library, and its Main Reading Room, were most certainly quiet and almost church-like where the only sounds heard were the turning of pages and the occasional scraping sound of a chair being pulled out. On the flip side to the quiet reverential atmosphere of Doe Library’s Main Reading Room, was catching the eye of a good-looking fellow student across the massive oak table. Stolen glances. Priceless.”
Pat ’74, M.P.H. ’83, B.S. Conservation of Natural Resources
Faculty Glade and the Redwood Grove
Memory: “I used to come here with a book and lie on the grass and read for hours. I remember reading The Magus by John Fowles here and looking up at the blue sky through the leaves of the tree I was lying under. I would imagine I was in Greece.
“I love the old gnarled tree that looks like it’s dead, but it comes back every year with new growth. It’s a special place. I hope they never remove that tree.”
Anonymous ’79, B.A. Sociology
The rooftop of Manville Hall
Memory: “I was lucky enough to grab a room in the dorm attached to the law school. Graduate students, law students, and upperclassmen transfer students lived in the dorm. My room on the 4th floor had the most amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Having that view was one of the best things about my first year at Berkeley. The rooftop was accessible to residents. The entire campus, city of Berkeley, Bay, and bridges spread out before me as my world expanded in captivating ways.”
Larry ’67, B.A. Architecture
North Gate Hall
Memory: “Many hours of the first three years of my undergraduate five-year degree, were spent in North Gate Hall, then known as ‘The Ark’. Its marvelous stepped corridor also served as an exhibition space for notable student work and other architecture subjects. It was quite inspiring. The high-ceilinged studio spaces at the top of the stairs were reserved for undergraduate thesis students, thus a sought-after goal for those of us in the lower division courses. The faculty was demanding in 1960, 61, and 62, and did not hesitate to ‘release’ the untalented. Reaching fifth year was by no means assured, about one-quarter of the students in my first-year class would eventually graduate.
“Wurster Hall was constructed by 1965 and with it the attitude toward teaching and student accomplishment changed to a more judgment-free ‘anyone-who-wants-a-degree-can-have-one’ attitude. The subject of architecture seemed to gravitate toward public policy and social intention as sole determinants. Any relevant narrative that might be provided by space and structure was deemed arbitrary and not worthy of consideration.”
Fun Fact: “North Gate Hall was designed by John Galen Howard in the first decades of the 20th century. Howard conceived it as a temporary building until a ‘more permanent building,’ in his campus vocabulary, could be constructed. Fifty years later the soul-destroying monotony of Wurster Hall arrived.”
Peter ’67, B.A. Philosophy
Memory: “This is an ancient memory (sixty years ago), so the Morrison is not the same place (but feels much the same). This is where I first heard Russian folk songs, Ezra Pound growling his poetry, Hindemith, and so much more. The shelves of LPs were filled with surprises. I loved the carrel on the balcony closest to the end—so private, so mine, I lost myself in whatever was playing in the headphones.”
Harutyun ’21, B.A. Urban Studies, B.S. Society and Environment
Plaza Between Birge Hall and the Physics Building
Memory: “There is a beautiful and fragrant Angel’s Trumpet tree between Birge Hall and LeConte Hall (Physics South). My grandmother used to grow these poisonous, but aromatic plants in her backyard. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would go and take a nostalgic whiff.”
Ross ’91, B.A. Legal Studies
Morrison Reading Room
Memory: “The Morrison Reading Room of the late 1980s and early 1990s was an oasis. A time before laptops and devices. A refuge from the early adulthood stress of vigorous education. A gilded, ornate, plush, relaxing respite between classes.
“An attendant was stationed at a desk by the entry door. A person I thought of as a guard… as enforced rules of the time were ‘no studying, no backpacks’ allowed. Leave the job of coursework in the cubbies by the door. Instead, enter, relax, and enjoy the collection of books and music, art on the walls, and warm, comfortable, hushed surroundings. Books of literature, art, photography. Records and CDs with music of all genres from classical, jazz, folk, rock, and contemporary. Pick up reading or browsing materials from the tables and bookshelves. Select a CD or record. Sit in the well-worn, soft, plush melting leather chairs. Plug in the headphones, push play or drop the needle, and enjoy the sublime break. A magical place. A memorable place. My favorite place on campus.”
Fun Fact: “Although I never participated, the word was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the beginning of every semester, students could check out lithographs and small pieces of art from the Morrison Reading room for the semester to hang on the walls of their dorm rooms and apartments. The lines for the semester check-out extended from the Reading Room, outside the library, and down the slope. Rumor was the art available for checkout included signed lithographs from artists like Picasso and Matisse, but one had to cue up early for that, like the pre-internet days of lining up for concert tickets when a tour was announced.”