35 Years ago ...

The picture to the right shows the iconic bell tower of UC Berkeley (the "Campanile"). It was taken in late August 1976. For a comparison with a version taken recently (on 2 April 2010), please click on the picture. it is clear that the older version is lacking the technical perfection reacheable with digital photography. Still, I prefer it, since it contains a lot more "athmosphere", not least because it includes my former wife Alice, my trusted companion at our 1976/77 stay in Berkeley.

We had arrived in the Bay Area on 9 August 1976, full of apprehension and anxious to get settled in. So it took almost two weeks of labour before we were able to pay a first visit to Campus, where I would be working during the year ahead. As you can see from the picture, it was a clear morning with light foggy mist, as made for our first timid steps exploring the huge University area.

We came from the South, entering through Sather Gate and proceeding along Schlesinger Road, straight through Campus. In contrast to the more recent visit described in Chapter 2 of "Fiat Lux!", we were completely alone, that nice sunny morning around 10 am. Suddenly, walking along some agreeable classic buildings, we happened upon a crossing that led us to a sudden stop, admiring, with wide open eyes, two quite unexpected vistas:

To the left, it was like a sword had cut a swath through the Campus buildings. In the clearing, you could see as wide as your eyes permitted: all the way across the Bay to San Francisco and the Golden Gate, both shimmering in morning haze. To the right rose with pride the unsurpassed ikon of UC Berkeley you can see here in the picture. From that moment on, I fell in love with the wonderful architecture of UCB, a feeling that has not left me to this day, despite my advanced age.

Of course, the Campanile, despite its name, does not reach up to its namesake in Venice. It is lacking the harmonious colors of that other marvel, being constructed of steel and sheathed in concrete, instead of built with bricks. But there is a reason for it. The Venice Campanile had collapsed in 1902, just about when UCB Campanile's architect, Galen Howard, was starting to think about what kind of bell tower he should design. His first sketches from 1903 already show a remarkable likeness with the Venetian forerunner. Could his ambition have been to preserve the image of the Venice tower for future generations, but to build it with modern materials to last?

Be that as it may, the construction of his tower went pari passu with the rebuilding of the Venetian one. His was finished in 1914, whereas the Bell Tower of Venice had re-emerged already two years earlier. We have to thank Galen for his forethought in choosing to build his tower with steel instead of brick: the Campanile has survived without any damage all the earthquakes that have befallen Berkeley since, even the one in 1989 that caused parts of the Bay Bridge and a section of freeway in Oakland to collapse. Hopefully it will bring pleasure to many generations to come.

Campanile 1976