Newsletter | Sep/Oct 2013

OWA's Annual Retreat

Getting to know one of our members: Galen Cranz

by Eliza Hart, Ed.

Galen Cranz is Professor of Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, a Ph.D. sociologist from the University of Chicago, and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. She teaches social and cultural approaches to architecture and urban design.  Emphasizing ethnography as a research method, she brings users' as well as creators' perspectives to our understanding of built environments and includes the point of view of different American cultures. In 2011 she received the Career Award, the highest award of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA).

Her creative work includes research and writing about urban parks, sustainability, body conscious design, housing for the elderly, and the sociology of taste in environmental design.  She is the author of The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America, (MIT 1982) and has since published a major article, “Defining the Sustainable Park: A Fifth Model of Urban Parks” in Landscape Journal (2004).  She is a frequent lecturer about urban parks and juror for park design competitions.

As a designer she has been part of significant park design competition teams for Spectacle Island, Boston Inner Harbor; Olympia Fields, Chicago; Tschumi's Parc de LaVillette in Paris, and lead designer for and winner of the St. Paul Cityscape competition of 1984.  She holds two US patents for body conscious bathtub and chair designs. In 2005-2007 she designed and built a residence for the elderly following universal design principles. 

Also a swimmer, her Alexander certification was with Tom Lemens of New York; she currently studies vision (EyeBody) with Peter Grunwald of New Zealand and Body-Mind Centering with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen in California.

Feel free to look up her recent publications, some listed here with the author's comments:

Galen Cranz, “Somatics and Aesthetics: The Role of the Body in Design,” in Ritu Bhatt, Ed., Rethinking Aesthetics: The Role of the Body in Design (Routledge, New York: 2013) pp. 143-157. 

This chapter applies 3 decades of experience with a mind-body practice called the Alexander Technique to design, broadly defined.

Galen Cranz, “How Post-Occupancy Evaluation Research Affected Design and Policy at the San Francisco Pubic Library,”  Journal of Architecture and Planning Research 30:1 (Spring, 2013).

POEs are relatively rare in practice, but even rarer is any investigation of how decision makers actually use POEs. This article is unusual because it describes how a POE (by architect Cynthia Ripley) of the 1995 New Main Library in SF was used to prioritize remodeling these last 18 years.

Galen Cranz, book review of Anne Massey, Chair. Reaktion Books, London, 2011, 224 pages, in Journal of Design History 2013; doi: 10.1093/jdh/ept023 (Oxford University Press, 2013) First published online: August 2, 2013. 

The book was disappointing despite some good points, but as the author of The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design (Norton, prbk 2000) I'm going to be demanding, no?

Galen Cranz, G Lindsay, L Morhayim, A Lin – “Communicating Sustainability: A Postoccupancy Evaluation of the David Brower Center,” Environment and Behavior, 2013 doi: 10.1177/0013916513475449 

The new Brower Center in Berkeley has numerous "green" features, and the mission of the organization is to communicate sustainability. This article reports on empirical research I did with graduate students and undergraduates about which features are are actually noticed by users.  A shared language of green has a ways to go!

M Southworth, G Cranz, G Lindsay, L Morhayim –“People in the Design of Urban Places,” Journal of Urban Design, 2012. 

This is our introduction to a set of papers from the "Death and Life of Social Factors" Conference May 2011 at UC Berkeley that we edited for a special issue of  JUD.

Galen Cranz, “Siege social?” Mathias Leboeuf, Ed. Plages Philo (Editions Tallandier Paris: 2012), pp 179-182.

I wrote a short essay on the problems of chair sitting for Madame Figaro at the request of a French editor who translated it into French;  it was then selected for this collection of favored essays.  Too bad I can't read it :)

Cranz quoted and cited in Hosey, Lance, The Shape of Green (Island Press, 2012), pp. 46, 111-112.

Colleagues Gail Brager and Susan Ubbelohde were also cited in this manifesto about the "look" of green. My contributions focused on the links between users and bodies and ecological aesthetics.

Eleftherios Pavlides and Galen Cranz, "Ethnographic Methods in Support of Architectural Practice”, pp 299-310 in: Shauna Mallory-Hill, Wolfgang P.E. Preiser, Christopher G. Watson (Ed.) Enhancing Building and Environmental Performance. 2012. Wiley-Blackwell. 

A new term for POE is assessing building performance, and by any name, my co-author from Roger Williams University and I believe that qualitative methods are especially suited to architectural assessment.  I've been teaching ethnography research in architecture for the last 40 years, so it was nice to get into this new collection of methodological approaches edited by leaders in the field.

View this page in your browser