Category Archives: Architecture

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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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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BAHA SPRING HOUSE TOUR Maybeck, Morgan, Ratcliff… This Sunday is the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s annual who’s-who tour of Berkeley architecture. The 39th annual Spring Tour follows Rose Walk, which was designed by Bernard Maybeck 100 years ago. Participants will see the storybook houses that were built by the Berkeley architectural greats following the destructive 1923 fire, and will visit the beautiful secret gardens that abound in the neighborhood. Tickets cost $45 or $35 for BAHA members. A tour map, illustrated guidebook, and refreshments are provided on the self-guided walk, which lasts from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on May 4. Be prepared to climb some stairs. … Continue reading »

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How quirky is Berkeley? The Giant Orange of Spruce St.

Giant orange at 722 Spruce St.  Photo: Colleen Neff.
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Of the thousands of examples of quirky material culture that I have seen in Berkeley, my favorite is a giant orange on Spruce Street. It has nothing to do with Roald Dahl, but everything to do with old, weird America, a brilliant phrase coined by Berkeley’s extraordinary cultural writer Greil Marcus. … Continue reading »

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Free events celebrate Berkeley’s revamped libraries

Kids browse the bookshelves at the December 2014 opening of the South Branch. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Call it a “library warming.”

As a way to celebrate the completion of its branch renovation campaign – and highlight the dozens of community programs it presents each month – the Berkeley Public Library is hosting a month-long party.

The Branch Out! celebration will bring concerts, art exhibits, pop-up libraries at food truck gatherings, a sleepover party for stuffed animals, mindfulness meditation, and that beloved event – author readings – and much more to a branch near you in April. … Continue reading »

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Fairmont group and Richard Blum buy Claremont Hotel

The Claremont Hotel & Resort has been purchased by the  Fairmont hotel group and Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein Photo: Paula Steele
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Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein and a member of  the UC Board of Regents, has joined forces with FRHI Hotels & Resorts to purchase the Claremont Hotel and Spa.

Blum and the Fairmont group closed the deal on March 21, a few weeks later that initially expected. Terms of the deal were not announced. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley home with personality, built for famed geologist

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Idiosyncratic and lovely. Both words describe the recently listed home at 1555 La Vereda Road in North Berkeley.

The three-bedroom house with separate cottage, which is priced at $1,095,000, was built for — and in part by — the renowned geologist Andrew Cowper Lawson in the 1930s.

Lawson was a traveler, art collector and enthusiastic builder. He had already had one distinctive home designed for him when he decided to have his next one built right behind it. Bernard Maybeck created the now landmarked “Pompeian villa” on La Loma Avenue for Lawson in 1907. … Continue reading »

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