Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons (WBE)



William W. Wurster. Source.

William W. Wurster (1895–1973)


William Wilson Wurster was born in Stockton, CA, and earned his degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1919. Wurster's work, primarily residential during his early career, was exhibited and published nationwide. Wurster teamed with partners Theodore Bernardi (in 1944) and Donn Emmons (in 1945) to form Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons (WBE). The firm, well-known for their modern designs, won the American Institute of Architects architectural firm award in 1965, and Wurster was honored with the AIA Gold Medal in 1969. In 1950 Wurster became dean of architecture at UC Berkeley, and in 1959 he brought the departments of architecture, landscape architecture, and city and regional planning together to form the College of Environmental Design.


In the mid-1950s, Frank Lloyd Wright delivered a lecture at the University of California at Berkeley. As dean of the School of Architecture, Wurster provided a gracious and glowing introduction for the nation's most famous—and outspoken—architect. Wright responded in typical fashion by declaring: "Three words describe what is wrong with Bay Area architecture: William Wilson Wurster." The cantankerous Wright regularly referred to Wurster as "Redwood Bill" or the "shanty architect" and ribbed him for having leaky roofs, an all-too-common criticism of Wright's work. "They tell me that after the first rains sometimes you don't come into the office for a day or two," Wright once kidded Wurster. Donald Emmons, a partner at the architectural firm of Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons, explains that Wurster should have been worried if Wright didn't take a few jabs at him from time to time. "Wright wouldn't have bothered to comment on Wurster if he didn't think he was someone to be reckoned with," Emmons says. "He would have just ignored him, which was worse."



WBE. Source.

Wurster was a meticulous stickler for detail. He worked long hours and expected his employees to do the same. Regardless of the project, Wurster strove to broaden the responsibilities of the architects and designers who worked for him, and he was well-liked despite his emotional pyrotechnics. 
"Wurster believed that the training of younger architects should introduce them to the full range of professional responsibilities," Peters and Lempres wrote in the exhibit catalog. "They should meet clients, participate in conferences, sketch preliminary drawings, complete working drawings and specifications, and supervise constructions. He did not believe in assigning them only 'stair details.'"


By blurring the distinction between indoors and outdoors, carefully positioning windows to take in breathtaking views or intimate private gardens, creating spaces that could serve a variety of uses, and relying on unadorned interiors and exteriors, Wurster offered an alternative to the austere, dogmatic International Style espoused by architects such as Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who held sway over the architectural world throughout the bulk of Wurster's career. Instead of glass, steel and stucco boxes, Wurster developed an understated—some critics call it downright dull—architecture that relied heavily on regional building history and indigenous materials.
"Wurster had a great understanding of sites and what kinds of materials were appropriate for certain places," says Wurster's friend and biographer Richard Peters. "He didn't just design a building on paper and slap it down on any piece of land like the International Style architects."



Theodore C. Bernardi. Source.

Theodore C. Bernardi (1903–1990)


Theodore C. Bernardi was born in 1903 in Yugoslavia and moved with his family to the United States in 1904. He earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley in 1924, and studied at the graduate level for a short time. Bernardi worked as an architect and draftsman in a number of Bay Area firms, earning his architectural license in 1933. He worked for the firm of William W. Wurster from 1934-1942 and directed his independent architectural practice in the WUrster office between and 1942 and 1944. In late 1945 Donn Emmons joined Wurster & Bernardi (formed in 1944)  establishing the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons (WBE). In addition to his work at the firm, Bernardi was a lecturer in the UC Berkeley Department of Architecture between 1954 and 1971. He was elected to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects in 1962, and WBE won the AIA Architectural Firm Award Medal in 1965.


Donn Emmons (1910–1997)


Emmons was born in Oleans, New York. He earned a degree in architecture at Cornell University in 1933. He was made a Fellow of the Architectural Institute of America in 1954 for outstanding achievement in design.



Donn Emmons. Source.

In 1961, The University Development Board of Victoria College, after seeking the recommendation of the college's consulting architect Robert W. Siddall as to the best authority in campus planning, hired WBE to advise on a long range plan for the campus. The Board accepted the recommendations of Bill Wurster and Donn Emmons to prepare for the development of the institution as a fully fledged University, to acquire a new larger site in Gordon Head and to plan for an enrolment of at least 10,000. Their plan, consisting of a circular central campus with a quadrangle dividing the liberal arts disciplines to the north and Sciences to the south with functional zones around the outside of the circle for such things as student housing, athletics, parking, has stood the test of time. Donn Emmons continued to be a source of advice and insight and visited the University on many occasions well into the late 1980s. In 1988, the University recognized the valued contribution of Emmons by conferring upon him the title and degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws.