Tag Archives: Berkeley architecture


Op-ed: Calling Le Corbusier as a witness in Berkeley

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The Court of Public Discussion on current Berkeley development matters now evokes Time magazine’s ‘Architect of the Century’ for his take on things.

When the leaders of post-Great War Paris decided on massive ‘slum’ clearance—the second in 60 years—the rising, Swiss-born Le Corbusier presented a comprehensive solution, gratefully not taken. Influenced by the emerging International Style, stiffly formal French and English gardens, and the motorcar, he envisioned in 1922 a gridded flatness of towers isolated by gardens and expressways as … Continue reading »

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11 Berkeley projects recognized for design excellence

Eureka! restaurant. Photo: AB Design Studio Inc.
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Berkeley Design Advocates, a volunteer group of architects and urban planners, showcase the best contemporary design in Berkeley — as well as the best restoration of the city’s historical buildings — with their bi-annual awards.

For 2015, the group has selected the buildings and projects they consider contribute to Berkeley both aesthetically and in terms of civic engagement.

This year the awards fall into three categories: Restoration and Re-use, New Construction/Civic Institutions, and Food and Drink. A total of eleven buildings were recognized, and DBA also gave out a special award for Successful Urban Intervention.

The award winners are listed below, with caption excerpts from the Berkeley Design Advocates award write-ups. Read full details, including the names of the developers and architects, in the Berkeley Design Advocates awards brochure. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The former Rivoli Theatre

Former Rivoli Theatre, 1941 San Pablo Avenue.  Photo: John Storey
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I venture to say that most people who have driven by the 99¢ Only Stores on San Pablo Avenue just north of University Avenue have never stopped and gone inside. I further venture to say that most people who have shopped at the 99¢ Only Stores have never stopped and looked up. Those who stop and those who look up are in for a quirky treat.

The 99¢ Only Stores at 1941 San Pablo is the former home of the Rivoli Theatre, built in 1924-1925. It seated 1,402 and changed shows four times a week. As a result of changing movie-going habits, the Rivoli first limited screenings to weekends, then closed as a movie theater in the 1950s. Since then, it has been a Long’s Drugs, a Smart and Final grocery store, and now – a 99¢ Only Store. … Continue reading »

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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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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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56 years after her death, Julia Morgan wins top award

Julia Morgan
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Last month, the American Institute of Architects awarded its highest honor, a Gold Medal, to architect Julia Morgan — 56 years after she had died. She is the first woman to ever be given the award.

Morgan, who practiced for 50 years and designed more than 700 buildings, studied civil engineering at UC Berkeley and caught the eye of the architect Bernard Maybeck, who taught there. After graduating from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, Morgan returned to Berkeley where she went to work for John Galen Howard. That was the beginning of a long history of designing structures in Berkeley. Her name was in the news just last week when a building she designed on the Cal campus, Girton Hall, was relocated to the UC Botanical Garden.

Sandhya Sood, AIA, has a Masters in Architecture from UC Berkeley and is Principal of Accent Architecture + Design in Berkeley. Her research on the sustainability of Morgan’s work contributed to the success of Julia Morgan’s AIA Gold Medal 2014 nomination. Berkeleyside invited her to share her thoughts on Morgan’s work and influence: … Continue reading »

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Berkeley architects, Berkeley home on East Bay tour

The Roll-Up House in Berkeley, designed by Leger-Wanaselja Architecture. Photo: AIA
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A fresh twist on an artfully crafted contemporary home by a Berkeley architecture firm, and a sensitive updating of a historically significant home in our city by another Berkeley architect known for his dramatic modern designs: the result is two stunning homes that are open to the public, with four others, on Saturday, August 10, as part of the American Institute of Architects’ East Bay Home Tour.

It’s the third East Bay tour for the AIA and the theme this year is “Listening to the Past, Designing for the Present.” The six homes on show — one in Berkeley, three in Oakland and two in Lafayette — highlight historic remodels, airy modern houses, sustainable ideas and clever solutions.

Berkeley firm Leger-Wanaselja Architecture were asked to update a home they had built in the hills after the 1991 Oakland firestorm, when it was bought by a new owner who had previously lived in a downtown loft. The architects used exposed wood, steel and concrete give the house a raw, loft-like feel, and created a genuine indoor-outdoor setting through, among other things, a wall of roll-up garage doors. The home, referred to as the Roll-Up House, also has a host of eco-conscious aspects. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s brown shingles: The original party houses

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“Shingle Style: Living in San Francisco’s Brown Shingles,” (Rizzoli, 2013), is a new book by Bay Area architects Lucia Howard and David Weingarten, with photographs by David Duncan Livingston. The book showcases 20 Bay Area homes that epitomize the classic brown shingle style and, despite its title, 12 of those homes are in Berkeley.

On Thursday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m., Howard will host an illustrated lecture on Berkeley’s brown shingle homes at the Anna Head Alumnae Hall at 2537 Haste St., in collaboration with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.  

Berkeleyside caught up with Lucia Howard to ask her about the book and the beautiful homes it features.

A good number of the homes you feature in your book are in Berkeley. What was it about Berkeley that led to so many brown shingles being built here?
Berkeley was the epicenter of brown shingle architecture. The town’s vibrant mix of professors, writers, artists and free-thinkers drawn together around the University, many of whom pursued what Charles Keeler termed “The Artistic Life,” provided ideal clients for these houses. Built before the silver screen came along to define entertainment, brown shingles were a species of “party house,” designed for people to gather for performances, readings, worship, and events of many sorts. … Continue reading »

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Modernist Donald Olsen house in Berkeley sells for $1m

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An architecturally distinguished mid-century modern home in north Berkeley changed hands this week for the first time since it was built in 1952. It sold for just over $1 million.

The Kip House, at 775 San Diego Road, was designed by architect Donald Olsen and is located across from John Hinkel Park.

Olsen was a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. His home, which is next door to the Kip House and is of a similar design, was landmarked by the city in 2009.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Built: Bernard Maybeck’s Senger House

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Berkeley Built is an occasional series in which Berkeley’s David Stark Wilson of WA Design takes a look at a notable Berkeley structure or building. 

I’ve always been a fan of Maybeck’s work and this building is no exception. These images show the interior and exterior street entrance of a home Maybeck designed for J.H. Senger, a professor of German language at UC Berkeley.

The exterior of the home is a mixture of brown shingle and the medieval half-timbering seen in these images. Maybeck is remarkably playful in his use of different window motifs all tightly composed in this one façade. The original bright blue of the front door and the stenciling further demonstrate Maybeck’s often whimsical approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley firm, project win AIA SF architecture awards

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The American Institute of Architecture San Francisco announced the winners of its annual Design Awards on Friday and two Berkeley names made the grade.

The renovation of Berkeley’s North Branch Library on The Alameda, by San Francisco firm Architectural Resources Group and Tom Eliot Fisch, earned a Merit Award for Historic Preservation. “This publicly funded project preserved, expanded, and updated the City of Berkeley’s beloved 1936 North Branch Library on The Alameda,” AIA SF wrote in its award list. “The $4.5 million, LEED Silver project included rehabilitation of 5,700 sq ft of historic spaces and a new 3,900 sq ft addition and was completed in 2012.”

It was the second architecture award for the North Branch Library this month. It was also one of nine Berkeley buildings recognized for representing the best recent design work in Berkeley by Berkeley Design Advocates in early April. … Continue reading »

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Nine Berkeley buildings win ‘design excellence’ awards

UCB - Stadium and SAHPC6
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Nine buildings have been singled out as representing the best new design work in Berkeley for 2010-2012. Berkeley Design Advocates, a volunteer group of architects and urban planners, selected three UC Berkeley buildings, a restaurant, a senior home, two retail spaces — one newly built, one restored — a wine store, and the renovation of a branch library from a list of 15 submissions, and handed out the award certificates at a ceremony on Thursday, March 28. (See the 2013 Awards Brochure for full details.)

This year threw up a particularly impressive crop of winners, according to Anthony Bruzzone, President of BDA, who said that two years ago, with the recession having put the kibosh on many construction projects, the group was concerned it might have no buildings to consider at all in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Lovingly restored mid-century modern opens for a tour

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Joanne Koch knew it was a tall order: she wanted a mid-century modern home in Berkeley within walking distance of a Peet’s. Even her realtor told her she might have to revise her thinking. Most homes built in that period are perched in the hills to take advantage of their inherent indoor-outdoor design and to offer the best views of the bay.

But the Berkeley architect struck lucky. In 1999, a level-in home designed in 1952 by the well-regarded Bay Area architect Roger Lee came on the market. The 1,125 sq ft home needed attention, but this was not a deterrent for Koch who had the remodeling chops, as well as a passion for mid-century homes. She and her husband snapped it up for $365,000 and moved in with their young daughter. The icing on the cake? The house is three block’s from the original Peet’s on Vine Street.

Koch’s Oxford Street home, which she has sensitively rehabilitated and extended, will be one of five homes on the East Bay Modern Home Tour on Saturday Oct. 20. … Continue reading »

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