Friday, May 31, 2013

A Modernist Utopia

10 Greenwood Common
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Spent the weekend up in Sonoma recently to do a photography project for the Mingei Museum. I'll post more details about that project as I'm able, but don't want to ruin the surprise... 

Anyway, the point is that I found myself up in the Bay Area on a Sunday morning with a few hours to kill with my friend Dave Hampton. He was game, so we did a quick tour of some of the modernist homes hidden up in the hills of Berkeley before I had to get my flight home. 

Our first destination was Greenwood Common, which is an enclave of modernist homes surrounded by a private park, perched on a hill overlooking Berkeley, with the great views of the bay and San Francisco, beyond. 

This house above and below was designed by the architect John Funk. Though not well known outside the Bay Area, Funk was a pioneer of the modern genre particular to this region - simple, organic forms that just work... 

10 Greenwood Common
Photo ©Darren Bradley 
The idea for this little enclave started with celebrated architect (and dean of the architecture school down the hill), William Wurster. Wurster's own house had been renovated extensively by Rudolf Schindler in the early 30s (see below):
7 Greenwood Common
Photo ©Darren Bradley
Wurster apportioned out the land around this house into lots around a private park (which is accessible to the public), and seemingly had a hand in selecting both the owners and the architects who built their homes. It's a veritable who's who of 50s modern architecture. In addition to the aforementioned Mr. Funk, there are homes by Harwell Hamilton Harris, Joseph Esherick, Donald Olsen, and others. And to cap it all off, Wurster invited landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to create the park and the surrounding natural landscaping.

But that's not the end of the story with this house, as it later belonged to the well-known landscape and architectural photographer, Morley Baer. (Back in the days when such a profession apparently paid enough to afford a nice home in the Berkeley Hills).

Greenwood Common is a wonderful little surprise hidden up in the hills of Berkeley, in an area that's just packed with little surprises. And it's remarkably well preserved after all of these years. Seems like all of the homes are intact and in fairly original condition. Not surprising, it has landmark status with the city... 

I'll end this post with a shot of my favorite house of the group, Number 1 Greenwood Common by Donald Olsen. It even comes with a cat. 
1 Greenwood Common
Photo ©Darren Bradley

1 comment:

Dana S. Whitney said...

Breathtaking! (love the cat in the driveway AND the brilliant skies you got). For what it's worth, I think a book on the Mingei artist's home, full of photographs and written for children might be plausible. I can imagine lots of Tolkein/Eragon fans getting excited about building their own houses....