A new landmarked building in town

Berkeley has a new building of note after the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously on May 6 to landmark the YWCA building at Bancroft Way and Bowditch (pictured above).

The building was designed by architect Joseph Esherick in 1958. Esherick taught at Cal and was the co-founder, along with William Wurster and Vernon DeMars, of Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design.

The designation is part of a recent trend for the Commission to recognize mid-century buildings. Last March it bestowed landmark status on the 1954 Donald and Helen Olsen House at 771 San Diego Drive, which was only the second time a modernist residence had been landmarked in the city. The first was architect William Wurster’s Jensen Cottage at 1650 La Vereda Road.

Update 5.13.10: Steve Finacom has a detailed account of the Landmark Preservation Commission’s meeting on May 6. He also lets us know that it was incorrect to say the Jenson Cottage was the first modernist residence to be landmarked in the city.  It was the tenth and the Olsen House was the 11th. Greenwood Common, with its eight mid-century homes, was landmarked in 1990. The Everett Glass House, designed by William Wurster, was landmarked in January 1995 and the UC Unit I and Unit II residence hall complexes, designed by Warnecke and Warnecke, were landmarked in 2000.


He writes: “The fact that only a dozen or so Modern-era homes and complexes in Berkeley are formally landmarked is not a function of Landmarks Commission attitudes or preservationist disinterest — it has more to do with the context that the Modern-era oeuvre isn’t predominant in Berkeley, which was largely built up as a city — especially in its flatlands and commercial districts — before Modernism fully arrived, and the fact that not that many Modern buildings in Berkeley have been directly endangered by demolition, which can be a powerful motivation to consider landmarking.”

Thanks for the information Steve.