Celebrating Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas

by Sandhya Sood 

By   / UrbDezine San Francisco

While I was a graduate student at Cal studying architecture, ideas were always buzzing around; at design charrettes, guest lectures and of course, at the dining table. International House, where I lived, was home to residents from eighty countries enrolled in various academic programs. Our insatiable thirst for learning extended to coffee hours and dinner, with enough food for thought to go around.

So my attendance at Uncharted on the weekend of October 25 was prompted largely by nostalgia as I hoped to reminisce about those lip smacking’ ideas. What I got though, was a delectable spread of ideas on the edge, tapped from the fertile environment of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Uncharted is an active festival, where enlightened speakers and prominent thinkers spark conversations that ride unexpected moments of brilliance. The eclectic audience dives in with questions, triggering further debate and discussion. Uncharted Labs run workshops parallel to the sessions at a vibrant event curated by Lance Knoble and produced by Berkeleyside.

‘The lexicon of sustainability’ Laura Howard-Gayeton with Doug Gayeton in conversation with Tracey Taylor. Photo: San

‘The lexicon of sustainability’ Laura Howard-Gayeton with Doug Gayeton in conversation with Tracey Taylor. Photo: Sandhya Sood

The Friday morning session exploded with Andres Roemer’s ‘dangerous idea.’ Later, Brian Christian explained to Quentin Hardy how humans are distinct from machines in exhibiting profound ways of communication as he revealed some deep truths about conversations. Humans, he said, feel an urgency to mark their presence in primal ways, unlike machines. As I crossed the street to the Berkeley Rep, I thought about buildings wired with smart technologies and artificial intelligence. How can spatial design be an interactive tool that enables humans to engage with their built environment?

At Roda Theatre, Jeff Chang and Adam Mansbach in the ‘Colorization of America’ discussed society’s role in revering diversity and working with differences. Even though most sessions were dynamic, this one had words flying off and colliding. Jeff’s thoughts on multiculturalism met Adam’s boisterous proclamation on”the value of moving from inequity to equity”.