The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2019
Berkeley Prize 2019



By Donlyn Lyndon


The Place Of Houses by Charles Moore, Gerald Allen, and Donlyn Lyndon



Chambers for a Memory Palace by Donlyn Lyndon and Charles Moore



The City Observed: Boston, A Guide to the Architecture of the Hub by Donlyn Lyndon



The Sea Ranch: Fifty Years of Architecture, Landscape, Place, and Community on the Northern California Coast by Donlyn Lyndon and Jim Alinder



Donlyn Lyndon essay included in edited collection Design With 





Whenever we are indoors, buildings are part of the climate we experience. Through openings in their walls and roofs they structure our experience of the sun and the light of day. Those same or filtered openings channel the way air moves through spaces.  Walls and roofs condition the heat that enters living spaces. Transparent materials quickly transmit the heat of the sun and convey more slowly the temperature outside. When walls are thick and obscure, they absorb and delay the transmission of solar energy and ambient temperatures, slowly yielding warmth to the inside and releasing some of it back into the atmosphere as the day cools. Roofs offer shelter from all that comes from the sky: sun, moisture, rain, gusts of wind and falling debris.  

When outdoors, trees and vegetation often offer similar but less radical modifications to the climate, but not always, depending on the climate zone. Deciduous trees are especially benign, offering shade in the warm parts of the year and then shedding their leaves to let sun through their branches. We all know these things; though they are modified by the climate conditions in the places where we live. But do we absorb that knowledge into our creative thinking and make it a part of design for the places where we live, work, play and join with others in community?

We’ve often been prone to consider climate a stable matter, a set of rhythms and seasonal changes in sun location, temperatures, rainfall and winds, which we learn to expect through the years and to accommodate. If we are observant and have our wits about us and we work closely to traditions and conventional wisdoms, we assume that our well-being will be served. Or, that failing, we undertake to suppress the effects of the climate by technical means, creating power sources and distribution systems to fabricate internal climates.

Those assumptions no longer serve. The climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable. It is changing over time - sometimes with ferocity, always with unanticipated costs. Also, the sources of energy we can afford to use and their distribution are changing. These include diminishing carbon based resources and the environmental cost of offsetting the release of carbon dioxide and chemical emissions into the atmospheric blanket that envelops our globe, creating havoc beyond what the imagination can immediately grasp; but which nevertheless the frequent news of forest fires, hurricanes and floods presents to us frequently and vividly.

How can we, as architects, landscape architects and planners learn to design with the climate and make it an ally in forming places that equitably allow inhabitants to live safely, freely, productively and with joy in the places that are built?  How, further, can we translate those insights into complexes of buildings and their surrounding landscapes or cityscapes, so that whole settlements can be adaptive and resilient for future changes?

Your essay should address the need for ongoing inquiry; through observation, measurement and imagination. Study known sources, connect their insights to the life of buildings that you can experience. Imagine in what way conditions might change. Then marshal all your resources into a call for action. Scout out a way that others may follow. Speak truths.

To get there be sure to observe your two selected buildings as if you were living there and seeking comfort, then watch how those who inhabit or work there spend their days and note what they enjoy. Return on differing days and times. Ask questions and carefully note answers so that they can be analyzed and assembled. Pose tough questions for yourself that challenge your preconceptions about what will be, what can be and where answers might lie.

Be especially aware of the surroundings; the landscape and buildings around the examples you study. They are essential. Remember that no building can go it alone. We always are affected by and experience buildings within a larger context, especially with respect to the climatic impacts. The effects of sun and wind are tempered or disturbed by buildings and vegetation that affect the local microclimate; shadows that move during the day, heat that is absorbed in the ground around or in adjoining walls, light reflected off building surfaces and winds and water that are deflected by nearby structures or channeled between them.

The construction of the buildings has importance. not only through their shapes and the effect of the materials, but through how and by whom they are made and what resources were used. What sizes will you imagine? Are there new materials to be expected that will offer possibilities and challenges?  What provisions for workers and for the transportation of materials will have been made, how might those become important in future building projects and how might that change over time and with alterations in climate?  How was the site for the building transformed during construction, how has drainage been altered and accommodated, have the levels of water collection proven to be effective and how might they be expected to perform in periods of extreme rainfall and violent storms?  Is the infrastructure that others have installed to service the site been adequate now and for the future, and if not, what might be done?

To address the question before us, it is necessary to consider many things, but especially to be aware of how people interact with their surroundings, what changes the climate and societal conditions may bring about and what measures are already being taken by governments and community organizations to address changing needs. Hence the questions you should think about and ask will have many dimensions and require astute, informed imagination.

Above all, imagine how the places that you and your world embody might be very different as climates change and sea levels rise. How will that affect the lives of the inhabitants and their community. What resources will be available to them? Propose priorities and develop commitments. Write in ways that will rally responses, open ways to think about what might lie ahead, what paths can lead to a resilient future and how you, your readers, friends and colleagues can make a difference.



Donlyn Lyndon is the Eva Li Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.  As a student assistant, Donlyn Lyndon helped Victor Olgyay with the preparation of the now classic, Design with Climate: Bioclimatic Approach to Architectural Regionalism (orig., 1963).

His subsequent career has included heading the Departments of Architecture at the University of California, the University of Oregon, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He was awarded the American Institute of Architects/Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (AIA/ACSA) Topaz Award for Excellence in Architectural Education.

With his partners in the firm MLTW (Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker), he was one of the designers of Sea Ranch Condominium One, which is now on the United States National Register of Historic Places and he was the architect for the New Pembroke Dormitories at Brown University.  His current work had been focused on management plans for the Commons of The Sea Ranch, ten miles of Pacific coastal properties in Northern California.

Lyndon was also the founder and, for twenty-five years, the Editor of Places Journal, which is dedicated to harnessing “the power of public scholarship to promote equitable cities and resilient landscapes.”  He has been an author of four books, including: 


The Place of Houses

Chambers for a Memory Palace 

The City Observed: Boston

The Sea Ranch: Fifty years of Architecture, Landscape, Place and Community on the Northern California Coast

 Among his writings is an essay in the new and expanded, 2015 edition of Design with Climate.




Additional Help and Information

Are you in need of assistance? Please email

Blocked drains, Almora, India, 2017. Highlighting the problem of waste management and a potential threat in case of excessive rainfall. Photo credit: Neelakshi Joshi

The Bullitt Center, Seattle, USA., 2013. The Bullitt Center is one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world.  It is also the first urban infill projects to pursue and to receive a "Living Building" certification from the Interational Living Future Institute. The roof "prow" allows for an extended array of photovoltaic panels allowing the building to produce more electricity then it uses. Architect: Miller Hull. Photo credit: Brad Kahn (;

The Bullitt Center, Seattle, USA. Designed to have a 250-year lifespan, the building was also constucted without the use of common toxic building materials. It was the first mass timber building constructed in Seattle in 80 years.  Photo credit: Brad Kahn (;

The Bullitt Center, Seattle, USA. The rooftop solar panel array. The building also features an onsite rainwater-to-potable water system, an onsite composting toilet system, and 26 geothermal wells extending 120 m (400 feet) into he ground that help heat the building in the winter and cool it in summer.  Photo credit: Brad Kahn (;

Soso House, Leh, India. Designed and built by: Sonam Wangchuck and Neelakshi Joshi, 2016. Combining local earth and solar resources to address housing needs in a cold desert region. Photo credit: Neelakshi Joshi.

Flux.Land is a geospatial risk and planning platform developed for Broward County, Florida by the University of Toronto's Daniels Faculty + MIT Urban Risk Lab. The Platform helps visualize various distinct elements of the built and natural environment, land use code and policy, in relation to climate risk and vulnerabilities. Image courtesy of Fadi Masoud.  (

Flux.Land, Broward County, Florida, USA. "Our goal is to design and develop a web-based tool for Broward County to understand the potential adaptability of the urban fabric to manage the dynamic hydrological condition in the face of increased vulnerability due to climate change."  Image courtesy of Fadi Masoud. (

Housing Project, Auroville, India.  Building designed and built by: Auroville Earth Institute, 2012. A 17-unit housing project built using compressed earth blocks. An example of low cost and low carbon footprint housing. Photo credit: Neelakshi Joshi

The Floating Village, Kompong Khleang, Cambodia. This village is a striking example of vernacular flood adaptation, and potentially a model for low-lying areas where climate change is resulting in increased flooding. Photo credit: Yohann Legrand. (

The Floating Village, Kompong Khleang, Cambodia. This fishing village sits on the Tonle Sap Lake that historically rises as much as five-fold during the rainy season. Houses are built both on stilts and as floating habitats. Photo credit: Yohann Legrand. (

Old City of Shibam, Yemen. This 16th century city of towers in the Wadi is an outstanding example of density and natural climate control. The city is on the United Nations World Heritage Danger List. Built of mud and located in a flood prone area, the city "remains at severe risk of major damage unless necessary preventive measures are taken...[involving] the conservation and use of Shibam oases, which are considered as the buffer zone of the property." Photo credit: Will De Freitas. (

Old City of Shibam, Yemen. From the World Heritage listing: "Abandonment of the old agricultural flood management system in the wadi, the overloading of the traditional sanitary systems by the introduction of modern water supply combined with inadequate drainage, together with changes in the livestock management have all contributed to the decay of the city." Photo credit: Twiga_Swala

Water Tank, Rweru Green Village, Rwanda, 2016. Rwanda's Green Fund invested in Rweru Green Village by providing water tanks, including this one which is connected to mains water to serve the community in times of drought. Photo Credit: Rwanda Green. (

Boston’s Resiliency Districts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT introduced a working concept of “resilient districts” for urban areas that are vulnerable to climate impacts. Resilient Districts include four central tenets 1) protecting critical infrastructure, 2) thickening regional soft systems, 3) transferring density to less vulnerable areas, and 4) encouraging landscape-based land uses in low laying areas. Image courtesy of Fadi Masoud. (

Shallow Dome Residence, Kalyani (near Kolkata), India. Designed by: Laurent Fournier. This is a unique example where a formal architectural project has incorporated incredible innovations taking place outside the professional world to help improve environmental performance of formal construction industry. "Shallow dome roofing" developed by informal masons from a village in northern India have made it possible to reduce use of steel and cement in building construction lowering its carbon footprint. Photo credit: Avikal Somvanshi

Rainwater tank, Jalna, India.  Designed by and built by: Neelakshi Joshi, 2018. Preparing for water variability by enabling houses to be water sufficient. Photo credit: Neelakshi Joshi.

Ladder House, Auroville, India. Designed and built by: Avikal Somvanshi and Manu Gopalan, 2012. A fast-track eco-friendly dis-mountable housing prototype that can be used to provide semi-temporary housing post-natural disaster in tropical regions. Built by unskilled volunteers using bamboo ladders, coconut-coir ropes and recycled tetrapak sheets on a retired tracker-trolley the structure has been use since. Photo credit: Avikal Somvanshi.

Bing Image Search: "Climate resilient architecture"

Hunnarshala Foundation Office, Bhuj, Gujarat, India. Designed and built by: Sandeep Virmani and Kiran Vaghela. The campus is living laboratory of innovation and experiments with traditional building techniques and modern lifestyle requirements. The campus is splattered with examples how age-old construction practices can be brought to speed and help address the resource and resilience issues especially in rural areas. Photo credit: Avikal Somvanshi.

Understanding community perceptions and preparations for a variable climate, 2017. Fieldwork conducted in emergent urban settlements of the Himalayas. Photo credit: Neelakshi Joshi.

Google Image Search: "Architecture and climate resistant buildings"

Condominium 1 at the Sea Ranch, California, USA. Designed by: Donlyn Lyndon,. A wind-protected courtyard. Photo credit: Donlyn Lyndon.

The Bowsprit House at the Sea Ranch, CA, USA.  Designed by: Donlyn Lyndon FAIA, with Tomas Frank and Associates, Architects.  Wind-sheltered courtyard with tower to gather light into the rooms of the house from all directions, and shading for south facing windows in the living spaces.  Photo credit: Donlyn Lyndon.

Flickr Image Search: "Climate resilient architecture"

Copyright © 1998-2024 Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence
Privacy Policy Cookie Policy
For permission for any form of re-use of any of the contents, please contact
The BERKELEY PRIZE is endorsed by the Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley.