One can easily imagine the pride architect John Carl Wernecke felt after the rectangular high-rise dorms south of the UC campus were built. No doubt he gazed upon his creations, spread his arms wide, and declared, "I shall call them Unit 1 and Unit 2." Yes, fittingly charmless names for charmless buildings erected in a hurry to house a swelling student population during the early '60s.
The units have been hated for decades by student residents and neighbors alike. Nonetheless, when the university began moving forward with its plan to totally redesign and rebuild the so-called Underhill area -- demolishing the old dorms and dining commons in the process -- the landmarks commission put its historic stamp on the structures. The units, the commissioners wrote, were "significant for [their] incorporation of local architectural and landscape traditions." That's odd -- there don't seem to be any other nine-floor monstrosities in the South Campus neighborhood. Commissioner Leslie Emmington, who seems to be on hand for every landmark massacre in town, told the Daily Californian at the time, "It's about as good as anybody offered at the time."
Now Cal is offering four-story housing with a far better design, and unfortunately for Emmington -- but fortunately for everyone else in this particular case -- the university isn't subject to local landmark rules. Werencke's dubious masterpieces, it appears, will kiss the wrecking ball.
Seven Days - January 18, 9:41 AM
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