The Architecture of Bernard Maybeck

If I had the power to revise architectural history, I’d replace the cold machine aesthetic of Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier with the quirky, organic and dreamy work of California architect Bernard Maybeck. If you’ve visited Northern California you might have seen a Maybeck building, most likely the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Poet and ornithologist Charles Keeler lived in a Maybeck home. In his book, The Simple Home (which you can read online for free) Keeler says,

The home must suggest the life it is to encompass. The mere architecture and furnishings of the house do not make the man any more than do his clothes, but they certainly have an effect in modifying him. A large nature may rise above his environment and live in a dream world of his own fashioning, but most of us are mollusks, after all, and are shaped and sized by the walls we build around us.

The Simple Home is a book length ode to the work of Maybeck and, alas, a manifesto for an architectural road not taken. Somehow we ended up with a world full of parking garages and mini malls.

Let me, at this point, note that Keeler has the best ever author photo:

Maybeck also had a good publicity photo:

Is it time to bring back the smock? But I digress. Here’s Keeler’s library, designed by Maybeck:

Maybeck made masterful use of redwood, sometimes as in a simple way and at other times in an elaborate neo-gothic style as in the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Berkeley:

And if you know what this building is please let me know:

Both Maybeck and Keeler envisioned a paradisaical California of intertwined gardens and homes:

Keeler’s words and Maybeck’s architecture are just as relevant today as they were in the early 20th century.

Lastly, a programming note: my computer problem turned out to be nothing more than a bad power strip, thankfully. Regular blogging and podcasting will return soon.

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  1. Pingback: Bernard Maybeck Mystery Solved | Root Simple

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