Category Archives: Architecture

Op-ed: Vote no on Measure R — it’s a misleading initiative

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Most of us want a new downtown; why are we asked over and over to keep the old one? Why do we have to fight another misleading initiative — Measure R?

After years of debate on a plan to revitalize our downtown, we had the first initiative campaign to stop it, and a subsequent election, in which the plan was approved overwhelmingly by voters in every precinct in Berkeley. It provided for a new green downtown with new housing for … Continue reading »

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4 Berkeley buildings to get upgrades after library lawsuit

Ashkenaz will use a $27,000 grant it received from the Berkeley Preservation Trust to seismically upgrade its building and help fund a new roof. Photo: Joe Balestreri
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A bell tower constructed in 1878. A nursery school built in 1927. An import-export warehouse converted into a music venue. A prefabricated panel cottage put together in 1887.

These four Berkeley structures will soon be improved, thanks to $87,000 generated by the settlement of a lawsuit between Berkeley and Concerned Library Users, a group that protested how some Measure FF library bond funds were to be used. … Continue reading »

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2 historic Southside Berkeley homes on the move, literally

Blood House getting ready for its move. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A complex tripod of moving history is about to take place in South Berkeley.

In a unique and probably first-ever-in-Berkeley arrangement, two historical houses, one a city designated landmark, and the other a designated structure of merit, will be hoisted and trucked to a vacant lot a few blocks from their current locations, for a mini historical neighborhood cluster. … Continue reading »

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Architecture

4 stunning Berkeley homes on East Bay architecture tour

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Four beautiful Berkeley homes will be on show at this year’s American Institute of Architects East Bay Homes Tour which takes place on Saturday, Aug. 9.

There are six homes on the tour — the others are in Albany, Oakland and Piedmont — and many of them belong to the architects or designers who dreamed them up, so visitors get to see how professionals design for themselves.

The four Berkeley homes offer variety in both style and scale. One, a stunning two-story Oakland house with a Berkeley postal address (pictured top) was built on the site of a home destroyed by the Oakland firestorm. It was designed by WA Design to be a home that feels open to the landscape and the bay view, while providing privacy from the nearby street and sidewalk.

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New paint on Berkeley Oaks Theatre: What does it mean?

The Oaks Theater has been painted recently. Photo: Mary Flaherty
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We’ve heard from some curious readers asking about the new paint job underway in North Berkeley on the façade of the Oaks Theatre, as well as the building it is part of, so Berkeleyside checked in with property owner John Gordon to find out what was happening.

Gordon said the building is being repainted to spruce it up, which could make it more attractive to potential tenants.

The pink and green striping on display earlier this week was simply primer — paint left over from other projects — which will be covered over as the job continues. … Continue reading »

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Gallery: Fans celebrate Berkeley art museum milestone

Crowds turned out Thursday evening to celebrate a milestone in the new Berkeley art museum project downtown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Thursday evening, community members turned out in droves to sign the final steel beam for Berkeley’s new art museum before it was lifted high into the air by a crane and set in place.

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is undergoing a complete rebuild in a new downtown Berkeley location, west of Oxford Street between Center and Addison, with its opening set for January 2016.

The “topping out” celebration was a chance for art fans to sign the final beam before watching it be set into place by construction workers shortly after 7 p.m. Addison Street between Oxford and Shattuck Avenue was closed to vehicle traffic during the event, as attendees enjoyed music from 14-piece brass band Mission Delirium and wrote messages on every surface of the beam using colorful markers.

Photographs from the event, by Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso, appear below. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Historical Plaques highlight local history

John Hudson Thomas built this house at 959 Indian Rock Road for his daughter. Photo: Robert Kehlmann
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The Berkeley Historical Plaque Project has been calling attention to Berkeley’s history since 1997, when it started to place oval plaques on historic sites around the city. In 2012, the group launched a new website and created a new category — E-Plaques — to note not only important architectural structures, but the everyday life that makes Berkeley unique.

The E-Plaques mark things like the newt crossing in Tilden Park, the old garage where Creedence Clearwater Revival rehearsed in 1970 for their album Cosmo’s Factory, and Berkeley’s “foreign policy.” Want to know why Berkeley has all those traffic diverters? The project will tell you why.

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With Pauline Kael’s former Berkeley home set to be sold, concerns raised over fate of murals by famed SF artist

2419 Oregon Street. Photo: Cody Siler
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From outside, the house at 2419 Oregon St. in central Berkeley is an unassuming two-story brown shingle. But to those who know the artistic history of the Bay Area, the home is an important artifact.

The building was once home to renowned film critic Pauline Kael, and it also houses a number of murals by Kael’s friend, the legendary San Franciscan artist Jess Collins. The murals cover the walls of the stairwell, the upstairs hallway, the lower porch and part of the living room. Now the house is due to go on the market, and people are fighting to ensure that the artworks, and the history they represent, be preserved.

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Arts

Donald Olsen: A Berkeley architect of high modernism

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The homes designed by Donald Olsen stand out as remarkably durable achievements within the Bay Area’s post-war architectural heritage. The architect, who was a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, was inspired by Bauhaus, and his designs are rooted in the 20th-century Modern Movement. His own striking, landmarked home, on San Diego Road in North Berkeley, is a draw for architects and architectural students.

A recently published book by local architect and writer Pierluigi Serraino, Donald Olsen: Architect of Habitable Abstractions (William Stout, 2013) — richly illustrated with drawings, plans, and photographs — celebrates Olsen’s work and documents his little-known examples of high modernism in Northern California.

Berkeleyside spoke to Serraino about the book and the process of writing it:

You are a practicing architect who has written several books about architecture, including NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism, and Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered. What is your impetus for choosing your subject?

My first exposure to architecture was through my father, who was a structural engineer. He was passionate about books and made me aware of the importance of informed action. Attending the School of Architecture at the University of Rome only reinforced this approach. To operate being cognizant of your environment culturally as much as technically is a first principle in Italian education. You are not called a historian if you are learning about what has been: it is part of the job. My passion for mid-century modern and architectural photography is the result of my personal exposure to Julius Shulman, with whom I spent several years doing research in his archive and discussing the ramifications of photography. It was an extraordinary experience that made me realize how architecture, its image, and its memory are completely intertwined. … Continue reading »

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Community

Berkeley’s Good Shepherd Church to reopen on Sept. 21

Good Shepherd Church rebuilt
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Nearly two years after an electrical fire destroyed much of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in West Berkeley, the congregation will finally return to their newly rebuilt space for services this fall.

The church, on the corner of Hearst Avenue and Ninth Street, plans to open its doors on September 21 for an 11 a.m. service. Afterwards, it will host a party for the neighborhood to celebrate the new space.

On arrival, however, the churchgoers may be forgiven for thinking there was never a fire at all. The exterior of the new building is identical to the old one. According to Rev. Este Gardner Cantor, the city mandated that the new exterior match the original design since the church is considered an architectural landmark. … Continue reading »

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Salvaged trees to be used in Berkeley’s new art museum

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Seven Canary Island pine trees that were cut down in order to allow construction of the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive in downtown Berkeley were salvaged and will be used for several interior elements of the new museum, its director, Lawrence Rinder, revealed last week.

At a May 12 presentation made at Berkeley’s Skydeck, which afforded birds’-eye views of the site of the emerging museum on Center Street and Oxford, Rinder said Paul Discoe, a highly regarded wood craftsman known for designing Larry Ellison’s Japanese-style Woodside home, as well as Berkeley’s Ippuku restaurant, will use the pines, along with other reclaimed wood, to design elements such as the museum store, the admissions desk and seating. The trees used to be on Oxford Street, clustered near the corner of Addison.

“The wood is curing in a mill in Oakland right now,” Rinder said, adding that he was thrilled Discoe would be contributing the warm quality of his work to the museum.

Rinder brought the new museum into focus in other ways, with more details of its build-out and events leading up to its scheduled opening in January 2016. … Continue reading »

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Initiative aims to tighten ‘green’ parts of Downtown Plan

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Update: 6//14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, some members of the environmental community, the labor community, and preservationists are circulating a ballot initiative that would drastically overhaul elements of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan endorsed by voters in 2010 and codified by the city council in 2012.

The initiative would restore the “green” in the “Green Vision” part of the plan, according to Arreguín.

It would essentially mandate that all buildings in the downtown core taller than 60 feet high follow the more stringent “Green Pathways” provision of the Downtown Area Plan, rather than making that an optional track for developers. … Continue reading »

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How quirky is Berkeley? Topiary art

Topiary at 1322 Milvia.  Photo: John Storey.
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We tend to think of topiary as an art form of the Establishment rather than as a manifestation of oppositional values. For example, the sundial topiary above from University House on the UC Berkeley campus screams out “Dominant Paradigm!” The classical revival/neo-classical house was designed by Albert Pissis, and the landscaping plan was created by John Galen Howard. … Continue reading »

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