From the Ark to Architectural Success
Image: Cal Futures
Few Berkeley buildings have engendered as much loyalty among their resident faculty and students as North Gate Hall which was home to the architecture department from 1906 to 1964. Harold Burns (B.Arch '50) is among the generations of architecture students whose affection for the "Ark," as the hall was known, runs deep. It was in this intimate space that he spent countless hours meeting the demands of his studies, forming the ideals that would shape his career, and making lifelong friends.
While studying architecture, Harold lived in the perfect lab --- a house designed by Bernard Maybeck, a luminary of American architecture. Maybeck, in his 70s at the time, lived around the corner. "I often saw Mr. Maybeck working in his garden, but was so in awe I couldn't get up the courage to introduce myself," said Harold. "One of the great regrets of my life." He did find handwritten instructions by Maybeck, along with color samples, for painting the kitchen red and blue. "I hung it on the wall of my room but didn't ask my landlady if I could have it when I moved out."
After graduation, Harold established a firm in New Orleans. "I always felt that Bay Area architecture was personal, livable -- not grand or pretentious, but built at human scale." Those principles influenced his practice which focused primarily on educational buildings. He retired in 2000.
In 2015, Harold included a gift of real estate to Berkeley in his estate plan. Proceeds from the property's sale will be used to establish the Harold Hugh Burns Scholarship, in honor of his parents, in the College of Environmental Design. Dean Jennifer Wolch stated that once the scholarship is endowed, it will annually support about five CED students, with preference given to those who live outside of California. "Not only will students get essential financial support for their education," says Wolch, "They will also be inspired by Harold's architectural designs, which stood at the vanguard of the mid-century modern movement."
When asked why he made Berkeley a significant beneficiary of his generosity, he said, "I'm a Golden Bear -- Berkeley was generous to me -- that's why. I am most grateful for my Berkeley experience. It directed my whole life thereafter."