Sather Tower

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At one point, placing apartments in Sather Tower was considered. (Preliminary drawing, 1903, John Galen Howard.)

Sather Tower is a campanile (bell and clock tower) on the University of California, Berkeley campus. It is more commonly known as The Campanile (pronounced "cam-pah-KNEE-lay") due to its resemblance to the Campanile de San Marco in Venice, and serves as UC Berkeley's most recognizable symbol. It was completed in 1914 and first opened to the public in 1917. The tower stands 307 feet (93.6 meters) tall, which makes it the tallest bell-tower outside of Italy as well 22 feet taller than rival Stanford's Hoover Tower. It was designed by John Galen Howard, founder of the College of Environmental Design, and it marks a secondary axis in his original Beaux-Arts campus plan. Since then, it has been a major point of orientation in almost every campus master plan.

Sather Tower houses a full concert carillon, enlarged from the original 12-bell carillon installed in October of 1917 to 48 bells in 1976 and the current 61 bells in 1983. The original bells all bear the inscription "Gift of Jane K. Sather 1914," acknowledging the benefactress for whom the Tower is named. The largest of the original bells bears an inscription by Professor Greek Isaac Flag, "We ring, we chime, we toll, / Lend ye the silent part / Some answer in the heart, / Some echo in the soul." The current bells range from small 19 pound bells to the 10,500 pound "Great Bear Bell," which tolls on the hour and features bass-relief carvings of bears as well as the constellation "Ursa Major." During the Fall and Spring Semesters, the carillon is performed for ten minutes at 7:50 AM, 12:00 Noon, and 6:00 PM during weekdays, from 12:00-12:15 PM and 6:00-6:10 PM on Saturdays, and from 2:00-2:45 PM on Sundays. At noon on the Friday before the start of finals, They're Hanging Danny Deever in the Morning is played. (The song employs only the original set of bells installed in 1917.) Following that, the carillon is silent until the end of finals.

Sather Tower today (with Evans Hall in the background)
Sather Tower today (with Evans Hall in the background)

A gift by Evelyn and Jerry Chambers in 1983 endowed the position of University Carillonist (currently Jeff Davis) as well as practice rooms, practice keyboards, a campanology library, and international Carillon Festivals every five years from the anniversary of the Class of 1928. Private and group lessons are offered in carillon are offered through the Department of Music, subject to auditions and with Music majors receiving priority. Students work on one of Sather Tower's two practice keyboards until they're ready for performance on the carillon itself; practicing on the carillon occurs Sunday evenings from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

An elevator takes visitors 200 feet up Sather Tower to an observation deck with sweeping views of the campus, the surrounding hills, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate. Admission is free for UC Berkeley students, staff, and faculty, one dollar for seniors, Cal Alumni Association members, and persons age 18 and under, and two dollars for everyone else. Unfortunately, Sather Tower is also an obvious suicide point, and in 1958 a 67-year old retired attorney jumped to his death, prompting a daily patrol to guard the platform. In 1961, after sophomore John Patterson's suicide jump, glass panes were installed to enclose the viewing platform. However, in 1979 these panes were removed after the carillon was expanded and due to complaints that the panes were muffling the sound. Finally, in 1981 a set of metal suicide bars was installed.

The programming language Sather is named after Sather Tower. Also, "The Campanile," a rendered movie created under the leadership of Paul Debevec and presented at SIGGRAPH 97, pioneered the virtual cinematography techniques which would later be used in the 1999 special-effects blockbuster The Matrix.

Sather Tower also houses many of the Paleontology department's fossils because its cool, dry interior is ideal for preserving fossils.

See also: Sather Gate

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