Building a Team, Creating a Vision

Photograph of Dean McHenry and Clark Kerr with Regent Donald McLaughlin

Dean McHenry, Clark Kerr, and Regent Donald McLaughlin

With the site selected, the Office of the President began planning for a dramatic new campus. In April 1961, Jack Wagstaff, at UC San Francisco at the time, was selected to be UCSC’s first campus architect, and in July 1961 the Regents appointed Dean McHenry founding chancellor.

Working with University Architect Robert J. Evans, Wagstaff and McHenry gathered a team of talented northern California architects, advised at every stage by renowned landscape architect Thomas Church. Together they created the 1963 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) that has shaped UC Santa Cruz ever since.

An intimate approach to higher education

Santa Cruz Sentinel: The Long Range Development Plan Design Team visits the Quarry

Long Range Development Plan Design Team visits the quarry, Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 2, 1962

University president Clark Kerr and UCSC founding chancellor Dean McHenry, friends since their graduate studies at Stanford, shared a vision of a new kind of University of California campus that could “seem small as it grew large.” They were acutely conscious of the potentially alienating education too often experienced on large university campuses. The Santa Cruz experiment would blend the intimacy of small colleges—Kerr was a Swarthmore graduate—with the centralized resources of a research university—McHenry had been Student Body President at UCLA.

Although it is commonly believed that the dispersed footprint of UCSC was developed to deny a central gathering place for student protest, in fact the decentralized plan had been adopted nearly two years before the December 1964 Free Speech Movement demonstrations in Berkeley. The Santa Cruz campus was conceived as an institutional and administrative response to many of the shortcomings of impersonal mass education that later sparked the Berkeley actions.

An alternative educational vision of multiple centers conspired with an irregular, forested landscape to shape the UCSC campus.

The Architects

Landscape architect, Thomas D. Church

Thomas D. Church, Landscape Architect

The LRDP team was composed of Bay Area architects John Carl Warnecke, Theodore Bernardi, Ernest J. Kump, Robert Anshen and Steven Allen and landscape architect Thomas D. Church. All had national reputations, and their work was influenced by the “Bay Region style,” an architectural approach described by critic Lewis Mumford in a 1947 New Yorker article as “a free yet unobtrusive expression of the terrain, the climate and the way of life on the Coast.”

Thomas Dolliver Church—“Tommy” to all who knew him—was a central participant in the design. A major influence in mid-century landscape architecture, he combined a modernist design sensibility with a sensitivity to existing flora and topography. He knew the Cowell property well: he owned a house in Scotts Valley and, with William Wurster, had been instrumental in the design of Pasatiempo. In October 1962, Church composed a memo, “Random Notes on the Site,” which crystallized the emerging approach of the campus planners. Described by Jack Wagstaff as an “aesthetic charter for the campus, stressing the importance of the land, the site, the landscape qualities,” the “Random Notes” were presented to The Regents and were provided to all executive architects working at UCSC during its first decade.