Crossing into Wurster Hall on the University of California, Berkeley campus, the path to the Wurster Gallery branches under a staircase and skirts a couple of bathrooms. By this point, the ponderous concrete building, designed by Joseph Esherick, Vernon DeMars, and Donald Olsen in 1964, the year after William Wurster retired as dean of the College of Environmental Design at Berkeley, has extinguished natural light or the sight of nature. Gallery visitors find themselves in a room floored by linoleum, framed by white drywall, topped by black-painted concrete, and occupied by mechanical equipment and a grid of thin fluorescent filaments. Such a space would doubtless have defeated the best efforts of Wurster, the architect,...

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