Design Radicals: Building Bay Area Counterculture

Greg Castillo, Associate Professor of Architecture


Co-Editor: Greg Castillo, Associate Professor of Architecture
Co-Editor: Lee Stickells, Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Sydney

Publication date for this project is Fall 2017

Project Description

The San Francisco Bay Area occupies a hallowed place in the radical imaginary. In the 1960s, Northern California became the world’s premier counterculture terroir: a region nurturing unique social, cultural, and technological outcomes. Its regional network of “outlaw areas” – defined by Buckminster Fuller as sites liberated from tradition-bound covenants that stifle innovation – produced galvanizing experiments in alternative consciousness and action. Design Radicals will be the first collection of essays to explore Bay Area environments that provided “an open end, a place for other stuff to happen” and “an Aquarian haven for the most useful pioneers,” in the words of Whole Earth Catalog founder Steward Brand.

The collection’s opening section, “Frames of Rebellion,” reviews counterculture philosophy, activism, and regionalism. Simon Sadler (UC Davis) contrasts modernist totality with hippie holism; Sean Burns (UC Berkeley) situates counterculture activism within the rich and varied Bay Area legacy of social struggle; and Greg Castillo (UC Berkeley) assesses the Bay Area’s remarkable productivity as a hippie enterprise zone.

“Counterculture Subjects and Spaces,” a second cluster of essays, focuses on new subjectivities and their supporting environments. Margaret Crawford (UC Berkeley) reassesses the continuum of outlaw shelters from geodesic domes to ad-hoc carpentry. Victor Santiago Pineda and Michael Dear (UC Berkeley) explore the Bay Area disability rights movement and its program for spatial liberation. Marta Gutman (CCNY) documents the Free School Movement and its radical critique of childrens’ educational spaces. Sherry L. Smith (Southern Methodist University) examines hippie involvement with Native American activists in campaigns to recognize treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, and reservations as cultural homelands.

In a third section, “Living Alternatives,” authors examine hippie environments that supported reformed ways of life. Lionel Devlieger (University of Ghent) appraises UC Berkeley’s “Outlaw Builder Studio” and its redirection of an educational program dedicated to instilling professional design competencies toward the production of architectural outlaws. Lee Stickells (University of Sydney) reviews Berkeley’s Integral Urban House, which attempted to harmonize ecological and domestic energy and resource flows. Lisa Uddin (Whitman College) investigates the autonomous home’s composting toilet and its reconception of the home as a symbiotic collective of humans, bacteria, and plants. Felicity Scott (Columbia University) explores Project One, an urban commune in San Francisco that merged hippie experiments in alternative lifestyle and cyberculture invention.

“Public Realms,” the fourth section of Design Radicals, assesses counterculture forums of communication and transaction. Lincoln Cushing examines hippie print media as a medium of cultural insurgency. Anthony Raynsford (San Jose State University) analyzes People’s Park and its synthesis of populist urban design and ecological politics. Meredith Gaglio (Columbia University) assesses the creation of California’s Office of Appropriate Technology as a hippie incursion into public bureaucracy. Greg Castillo recounts the creation of the world’s first version of electronic social media by the Village of Arts and Ideas, a Berkeley urban commune.

A final cluster of essays examines counterculture history and public memory. Michael J. Kramer (Northwestern University) disentangles competing “Culture Wars” narratives that propelled counterculture historiography in the 1980s. Nicholas G. Meriweather (UC Santa Cruz) recounts the challenge of archiving documents and artifacts of hippie culture. Valentina Rozas-Krause (UC Berkeley) examines how sites and events of regional counterculture history are committed to public memory, bringing the fifty-year legacy of the Bay Area’s Design Radicals into the present.