Yeah, its a 307-foot tall phallus stabbing into the sky, but it is an important phallus.
When architect John Galen Howard was hired to orchestrate the physical expansion of Berkeley in the early 20th century – a massive effort that brought us the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Wheeler Hall, Memorial Stadium and the Hearst Greek Theater – he made the Campanile the focal point of the campus’ architectural master plan.
Built in honor of the fallen Campanile di San Marco in Venice, Italy, the 13-floor granite structure is the most prominent part of Howard’s bold plan for constructing the “Athens of the West” in the foothills of Berkeley.
Since the massive tower went up in 1914, it has been visited by millions. Until metal bars were installed in 1981 it was also a popular suicide spot. In 1996, when Californians voted to ended affirmative action, 23 protesters occupied the tower as hundreds gathered outside.
In the century since Howard’s original vision was completed, the rest of the Berkeley’s expansion has been ad hoc, leaving Sather Tower as the premier symbol of the grandeur Berkeley’s founders were hoping to reach.