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The San Francisco Call, Friday, September 8, 1899
Vol. 86, No. 100, front page

Benard Plans for Berkeley A University Without Rival

French Genius Wins, Great Contest Ended Mrs. Phebe Hearst's Splendid Prize Has Been Awarded.

A Magnificent City of Learning Is Finally Designed.

Four American Architects Divide the Remaining Honors of Competition and Receive Rewards.

Millions of Dollars and Years of Time Must Be Given to Make a Brilliant Dream a Reality.

The international contest for the Phebe Hearst architectural plan for the University of California has ended. After a competition in which the leading architects of the world took part the prize has been awarded to E. Benard of Paris. Never in the history of the world has there been such a contest and in the opinion of the greatest living architects nowhere in the world is there such an ideal university as has been planned for Berkeley. It remains now to determine whether or not the gorgeous design of the French architect shall take form in the beautiful college town.

It will take millions upon millions of dollars to make the picture what it is intended to represent, and another generation may be the first to see the architect's dream a reality. But the gigantic and dazzling project has begun and its promoters say that millions of dollars are already promised for its accomplishment. The plan is nothing less than stupendous. It involves the removal of every building on the unviersity grounds and the creation of a new city of learning which will stretch from the top of Grizzly Peak down the heights and past the present campus.

Provision is made for every conceivable department of learning from a theater to a gymnasium, and in the bewildering prospect the thought of beauty has prevailed. There is not in the world such another university. In beauty of location, adaptability of buildings to their uses, in grouping and in artistic effects the design of the French master presents a picture that has no counterpart.

This result, which may give to California an everlasting monument, is the work of Mrs. Phebe Hearst. It was she who inaugurated the contest and now pledges a princely fortune to achieve a substantial result. It was Mrs. Hearst who brought the master architects of the world into the sternest of competitions and one that was without parallel. The victor in yesterday's award may say that twice he met the leading architects of all countries and twice he won. More than this, the regents of the University of California, to whom the plan will be submitted, can say that they have before them the best that the civilized world can produce in architecture.

As already described the plan to secure an ideal university for Berkeley was without parallel. Mrs. Hearst began it nearly two years ago. Large sums of money were expended in preliminary work. Experts were sent to Europe to study different universities and to invite interest in the new and gigantic project. Pamphlets were circulated in the United States and sent to Germany, England, France and Italy, and eminent architects were invited to compete in designing a perfect university for Berkeley.

The missionary work was well done. The leading architects of the world entered the field, for the prize of money was worth the winning and the prospect of new honors worth the trial. Ninety-eight eminent architects submitted designs, which on September 30, 1898, were submitted to a jury at Antwerp. This jury, competent to judge, worked by elimination and after the first trial only forty-four designs remained. Fifty-four had been rejected, so searching and exacting had been the standard of excellence.

After the second trial only twenty-one designs remained as eligible. Then there was a third examination and only the creations of eleven architects escaped the fire. It was remarkable that all of these designs received the unanimous approval of the jury. These eleven plans were brought to this city and it is from them that the jury has drawn that of Benard as the best. His victory has been well won. His work, under the fire of every possible criticism, should be the best that the world can give. It is a signal triumph for French architecture.

Benard's design being adjudged the finest of the eleven in the final contest was awarded the first prize of $10,000. All the other prize winners are Americans, although graduates of the French school of architecture. They are:

Howells, Stokes & Hornbostel, New York, second, $4000; Despardelles & Stephen Codman, Boston, third, $3000; Howard & Cauldwell, New York, fourth, $2000; Lord, Hewlett & Hull, New York, fifth, $1000.

The jury has not yet completed its report of the work, but this will be finished to-day or to-morrow and will be filed with the university regents before it is made public.

The report will discuss at great length the merits, demerits, faults and fine points of all the plans submitted. The outcome of the contest is looked upon as a decided triumph for the French school of art. No fault is found with the jury's award. The members worked conscientiously and were not swayed in their judgment by partiality or bias. As a matter of fact even if they were inclined that way there was no opportunity for unfairness in making the awards. None of the plans bore the names of the designers and the coats of arms were covered and sealed and were not exposed until the jury had reached its final decision.

[Sketch of E. Benard with the caption:] Monsieur E. Benard, the Winner. Monsieur Benard, whose plans for the new State University were awarded the first prize by the jury of architects, was born at Goderville, Department of the Lower Seine, France, in 1844. He is a diplomat Ecole de Beaux Art and holder of the Grand Prix de Rome. He has been prominently identified with some of the greatest modern architectural undertakings of France.

Many things were taken into consideration in making the decision--the grouping of the different buildings, the variety of design and their adaptability to the present university site.

The Benard plans present marvelous perfection. None of the other designs approach them in the qualifications mentioned. They are for a series of structures commencing west of the present campus and extending to the limit of the university property and far up to the summit of Grizzly Peak, where the proposed observatory building is to be located.

In making his designs Benard has utilized to the very best advantage the grounds as they are; that is, he has preserved the contour of the property as much as possible. The jury considered that a decidedly favorable point as the excavations proposed in some of the plans would have been extremely expensive and would have destroyed many of the beauties of the surroundings. Even the oak trees and the little streams in the university grounds have been taken into consideration by Mr. Benard, and his buildings are so arranged that none of them will be disturbed. In the main the style of architecture adopted is modern, but patterned after the classics. Mr. Benard was inspired by and followed closely upon classic lines. He has leaned somewhat to the Roman Ionic order.

Opening off University avenue is the great court, which the architect designates the Fine Arts Square. Around this he has grouped the educational buildings, strictly speaking. To the south are the theaters, two in number, and structures of imposing design. East of the Fine Arts Square at the end of the avenue upon which face the ancient and modern history, English, the library, the administration building and the department of jurisprudence, is the athletic field, backed up by the athletic hall and gymnasium. At the sides of the athletic court are the tribunes, and the gymnasium is a most beautiful structure. North of the athletic building and east is the military department. These buildings are so located that crowds can pass to and from the athletic section without going through the main grounds.

Up on the rising ground toward Grizzly Peak are located the natural history group--the departments of zoology, botany and similar branches. A museum of zoology is included in the group. The observatory is located at the top of Grizzly Peak and is a prominent feature of the plans.

Down in the park where the hot-houses now stand the architect has placed a number of small dwellings, presumably for the use of members of the faculty. At the other extreme of the grounds, remote from all other buildings, is the infirmary. The dormitories are situated on the hillside and the club houses are west of the athletic field.

It was a spacious opening court and the general laying out of the plan that won it favor with the jury. The arrangement of the buildings on the hill was not considered quite perfection or in any comparison with the lower groups, but the excellence of the latter overbalanced whatever deficiencies there were in the balance of the general plan and prompted the jury to award Mr. Benard's designs the first prize.

The architect has not lost sight of the educational features of the university in making his plans. The gymnasium, military department, dormitories, club houses, etc., have been made secondary features to the main educational buildings. They are finely grouped, with plenty of provision made for expansion. While the dormitories are separated somewhat from the main groups they are conveniently located to both the athletic field, the gymnasium and the classical departments.

Mr. Benard's plans, aside from their merit as architectural designs, are works of art. They are all was drawings most artistically executed. As to the detail of the buildings, that is a matter of after consideration. The plans are drawn to represent stone, and more than likely that is the material that will be used in their construction. The cost of the buildings has not been computed, but when it is taken into consideration that the plans call for from fifty to seventy-five structures, many of which are more imposing than any building in this city, a fair idea may be formed of the outlay necessary to construct the new university.

Howells, Stokes & Hornbostel, whose designs won second place, worked on an entirely different idea from Mr. Benard. They gave prominence to the dormitory features of their plans, giving these buildings so much space that the educational departments were sadly crowded. The classical buildings are placed on the plateau at the foot of the hill. The athletic section is practically placed the same as in the Benard plan, although they have treated in it the amphitheater form. The arrangement of the grounds provides for two main entrances; one from University avenue, and the other from Telegraph avenue, the main thoroughfare leading from Oakland. Mr. Howells of this firm is son of William Dean Howells, the novelist.

Despardelles & Codman, who came third in the contest, went outside of the limits of the university territory. They planned a university on a scale of grandeur that is almost appalling. Great tracts of land on both sides of the present site are taken in and covered with buildings of gigantic proportions. The fault the jurors found with these designs was that in carrying out a very artistic idea the architects divided the university by a wide public boulevard, extending in a semi-circle from the end of University avenue to Telegraph avenue. This practically cut in twain the groups of buildings. The athletic section is given unusual space and is located almost in the center of the grounds.

The fourth prize was awarded to Howard & Cauldwell of New York. The trouble with their plans was a monotonous similarity of design in all the buildings. This was one of the principal faults. The arrangement of the buildings is excellent and due consideration has been given to preserving the contour of the present site.

The last on the list of prize winners is the firm of Lord, Hewlett & Hull of New York. A feature of their plans, and the one which practically won the fifth prize, is the arrangement of two beautiful entrances to the university grounds, one directly from Berkeley toward the west, and the other facing toward Oakland opposite Telegraph avenue. These entrances lead to an immense square, around which the important buildings are located, connected by colonnades. But the designers fell into the monotonous feature and made all the buildings alike. The jury has considered in looking over all the different plans that each building should be designed to show as far as possible the use to which it was to be put.

The Hearst architectural contest marks practically the beginning of one of the most gigantic undertakings ever attempted. The consummation of the plans means that the California University will become one of the greatest and most extensive centers of learning that the world has ever known. Virtually a city will be built on the site of the present frame buildings that comprise the State University--a city of buildings that can safely be said to be the very perfection of architectural design and beauty, the creations of the greatest architects known. The present university buildings can almost be numbered on the fingers of the hands. The plans which won the prize in the architectural contest embrace structures reaching close up to a hundred in number. Every conceivable department is provided for according to its acknowledged importance.

From an architectural standpoint the contest is considered one of the most important events in the history of the profession. The eyes of the civilized world have been turned toward the jury of architects and their decision has been awaited with feverish impatience.

At this time it is hard to state with any degree of positiveness what the next step will be toward a realization of Mrs. Hearst's plans for California's university. The report of the jury will be in the hands of the Regents in a very few days and then the course for the immediate future will be outlined. Mrs. Hearst has guaranteed to provide for the construction of at least two of the most important buildings and other public spirited people have signified their intention of doing likewise.

Monsieur E. Benard, upon whose plans was conferred the great honor of being selected as the designs for California's new university, is a native of France and comparitively a young man. He was born in 1844 at Goderville, Department of the Lower Seine. He has been closely identified with many of the more important of modern public and private architectural works of France. He is a diplomat Ecole de Beaux Arts, and in August, 1867, he received the Grand Prix de Rome, the highest honor in the line of the arts that can be conferred in the Old World. It is conferred in the several departments of painting, architecture, sculpture and engraving. M. Benard won it on an architectural design for a fine arts building. The central motive of the Art Palace at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago was practically a direct copy of the work.

A man only has until he is thirty to win the Grand Prix. Out of a large number of applicants in each department, ten are selected to enter the final competition, and but one of these is awarded the Grand Prix in each year.

Monsieur Benard has done a great deal of work upon buildings in the French capital. He designed the Palace de Compiegne, Civil Court building at Fecant, the Chateaux of Sassetot and Mere-aux-Clercs. One of his greatest pieces of work was the designing of the decorations of the Casino de Nice.

 

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