For more than 25 years national, state and local preservation groups have given annual awards to the owners, architects and contractors of buildings that have been restored, stabilized or adaptively reused in ways that are sensitive to the original building. The awards serve to demonstrate that old buildings can be reused, rehabilitated and given a new life and to encourage the preservation of older buildings. All types of buildings are eligible for these awards: from once common 1920s gas stations to warehouses, hotels, or single-family homes.
The building pictured here is the Town and Gown Club and it has received two preservation awards, one from the state-wide California Preservation Foundation, and one from the local organization, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.
A building that receives an award need not be the work of a famous architect, but the Town and Gown Club happens to have been designed by Berkeley and the Bay Area's most famous architect, Bernard Maybeck. The building was constructed in 1899 and is one of Maybeck’s early surviving buildings; several from this period were destroyed in the 1923 Berkeley fire, and a few more have been lost to redevelopment.
The club building exemplifies Maybeck's interest in creating a visually interesting structure without the use of applied decoration. It is wood-frame construction and finished on the exterior with redwood shingles. The overhanging roof is supported by a system of outrigger joists and verticals wood pieces.
Richard Longstreth in his book On the Edge of the World described the building: "Maybeck was fascinated by the expressive potential of structural elements…[the club is] a tall, unadorned box with a structural cage that bursts out near the top, extending nearly six feet from the wall plane… This network projects just as far into the upstairs assembly room, where it appears to hang from the roof…the relationship of structure to space is made all the more tenuous by the absence of revealed posts…instead, the paneling and fireplace are improbably elongated, as if they hung from the beams." Stabilizing this building to make it safe for future generations of users and yet retain its unique character, required complex engineering and planning.
The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association will present this year's awards on May 23. To nominate a building for an award, please call 841-2242.
Susan Cerny is author of "Berkeley Landmarks" and writes this in conjunction with Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.