With great sadness the College of Environmental Design announces the death of Paul Groth, beloved and celebrated Professor Emeritus of the Departments of Architecture and Geography at UC Berkeley. Having authored dozens of articles, reviews, and books on cultural landscape studies, he is most remembered as being a transformative and impactful teacher to his students and fellow colleagues over the course of his more than 30-year career at Berkeley. He died on Sunday, January 16, 2022.
Groth joined UC Berkeley faculty in 1983 and taught classes that bridged cultural geography, historical geography, urban geography, and some aspects of physical geography, along with social and cultural history. He saw particular importance in the study of ordinary built environments in the United States. He studied the landscapes of socially and politically disenfranchised people. His book about residential hotels used the geographical evidence of ordinary urban architecture to fill an important but often ignored aspect of American urban history. Professor Groth looked for ways in which social theory could be used to illuminate cultural landscape questions and inspired a generation of scholars to do the same.
In a recent Festschrift published by PLATFORM celebrating Groth’s contributions to the study of the built environment, Dell Upton, Professor Emeritus of UCLA, described Groth’s impactful work when he said, “It is difficult to overstate the fundamental nature of his book on hotel living (he lived for a time in a San Francisco SRO while doing his research) and his essay (with Marta Gutman) on working-class housing in Oakland, both of which radically challenged architectural historians’ normative views of domesticity and the nature of “the” American house at the same time that they offered significant insights into the development of cities.”
Groth’s pioneering books include Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, co edited with Todd Bressi, and Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States.
The faculty and staff at the College of Environmental Design offer its deepest condolences to Paul Groth’s family, friends, colleagues, and students. He will be sorely missed.