An Uncommon Place traces decisive moments in the creation of UC Santa Cruz, from the 1950s until the late 1970s. This Digital Companion follows the structure of the original exhibit in the Porter College Sesnon Gallery and the Cowell College Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, marking the early history of UCSC through images and multi-media material. The exhibit was curated by emeriti professors James Clifford, Michael Cowan, Virginia Jansen, and emeritus campus architect Frank Zwart for the 50th Anniversary of UCSC.
An innovative educational project. A challenging physical site.
The university took shape among steep ravines and dramatic trees in a way that respected, as it transformed, the landscape. Using architectural plans, photographs, and oral histories, the exhibition illustrates paths taken and not taken—decisions, constraints, and hopes. It celebrates the achievement of UCSC’s founding planners while analyzing the tensions and contradictions that were built into their project. Through its many subsequent transformations, the campus remains an extraordinary work of environmental art.
This online exhibit calls attention to UC Santa Cruz as utopian experiment where architecture and environment conspire to create an uncommon place, a setting for teaching, research and imagination outside the bounds of the ordinary.
Our story traces the history of California along side the political, economic, and aesthetic decisions that defined the initial building and long term growth of UC Santa Cruz:
In the 1950s - a sustained postwar economic boom and the dramatic growth of the University of California.
By the late 1970s - a time of recession, shrinking enrollments, and a construction pause.
But, the story is incomplete.
The exhibit stops in the late 1970s, a moment of crisis and transformation. Important elements of the university are beyond its scope, including more recent building, the Farm, the Arboretum, Lick Observatory, the emerging coastal campus.
Yet the story of UC Santa Cruz as a place of big ambitions and uncommon landscape continues. Follow the links embedded throughout the exhibit to learn more and connect the early history of the campus to its contemporary impact.
Visit the first Gallery: Second Nature >