Feb 12 2010

Berkeley Rose Walk

When we were roaming around Berkeley on one of the pedestrian connections I mentioned, we stumbled upon the famous Rose Walk. This space is simply fabulous. What is it you ask? It is an open space pedestrian courtyard surrounding by an eclectic collection of highly detailed homes. Automobile access is from the rear, with alley loaded garages. This space has a plaza, and is extensively landscaped, including roses. I have been designing and pushing neighborhood planning like this for years, and was very pleased to find this space, built around the 192o’s I guess from the style of architecture. There is no front yard demarcation, all the spaces blend into one larger space. Wouldn’t a place like this be fabulous to live in?

This open space is heavily landscaped.


This walk leads to adjacent streets.

This is a classic pedestrian plaza, complete with seat walls.

Check out the detail on this fabulous home. While the styles vary, this level of detail is typical.

Feb 3 2010

Fort Collins Designated a Distinctive Designation

Today it was announced that Fort Collins has been designated as one of twelve distinctive designations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This is quite an honor, and is a distinction that is highly competitive to obtain. The award is given to those cities and towns that offer an authentic visitor experience by providing dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, sustainability and revitalization. The other towns and cities that have been selected are Bastrop, Texas, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, The Crooked Road, Virginia (what a fun name!), Huntsvills, Alabama, Marquette, Michigan, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Rockland Maine, Simsbury, Connecticut, Sitka, Alaska, and St. Louis, Missouri.

Now comes the fun part, you can vote for your favorite town or city, and you can vote as many times as you want! The more votes Fort Collins gets, the more recognition! Simply click on this link to the Trust for Historic Preservation, and vote away!

Jan 1 2010

Berkeley Neighborhoods

Berkeley neighborhoods, esp. those around the UC Berkeley campus are rather quirky. For one thing, they are built on steep hillside, so you will find lots of curvy narrow streets, which has to be a nightmare for the fire fighters. We wandered around the western portions of Berkeley Hills, immediately north of the campus. One of the things we liked about this neighborhood were all the staircases. The streets here are steep and narrow, but in many areas, there are staircases built for pedestrians to rapidly gain altitude, and not have to wander about with the streets. Talk about pedestrian connectivity. Of course, built at the turn of the last century, it is hardly handicap accessible. We also found many sidewalk connections that provided shortcuts between streets and different neighborhoods. Pretty cool, you can see why planners now push these connections on developers now. I always did think it was a good idea, in spite of the NYMBY’ers.

An example of one of the staircases.

Another thing I was really impressed with the area, was how the homes were large, and very expensive, but not pretentious. They are built into the landscape, and don’t overwhelm it. Of course, it helps that the landscape in CA grows quickly. Below are a few photos of what we found.

This one, while not really in the Hill neighborhood was really cool. I liked how it actually addressed the corner lot it is on, and the second floor balcony.

There are entry gates like this all over.

A grape vine is taking over this fence.

This is a rare brick home in the area.

This is a really cool, and huge Agave!

While not rare in these parts, still a huge Redwood.

I really like how this house, though huge, is not imposing and fits into the landscape. McMansions could take a lesson.

A cool hillside house. Notice the garage built into the retaining wall.

This one is for you Lalie.

Just a cool house, cool yard, and cool artwork.

To see more pictures, check out my Picassa Album here.

Dec 27 2009

UC Berkeley Campus

My friend and I spent a few hours walking around the UC Berkeley campus, and burt off a butt load of calories as this is a very highly campus. And a gorgeous one at that. It contains several historic buildings, as well as some extremely well done newer buildings.

One of the beautiful historical buildings on campus, off the main drive.

This one is the old library on campus. I found it amusing that there was no walk leading up to the grand staircase. (The entrance had actually been moved).

Historical Clock Tower. I think all cities should have some sort of icon like this.

This is the new business college building. I found it to be delightful. This is a huge building overall, but it was designed to resemble a series of buildings, complete with a village square. I also liked how they brought a lot of the craftsman style detailing indicative of the area into the building. They also pulled a lot of  classic detailing such as the arches into the building. Very well done.

Part of the central ‘Village Courtyard’. Did I mention this campus is hilly?

One of the things that really impressed me, among many, was the architectural detailing. The ‘lap’ siding, the window trim, the board and batten, the corbels, and all of it 100% concrete. Talk about fire proof, and it won’t rot either.

For more pictures of my visit, checkout my Picasa Web Album at

Dec 27 2009

Visiting Oakland, CA

A couple months ago, I visited a friend of mine in Oakland, CA. This trip was a bit different from other visits I have made to metropolitan areas. Usually I stay in a hotel, and visit the touristy spots and roam around in a rental car usually looking specific neighborhoods or development projects. This time, I stayed with my friend and did all of our touring using public transportation, or our own feet to get around. One day, we walked around a significant portion of Berkeley, visiting the campus, The Berkeley Rose Garden, and neighborhoods in between. I will have to admit, while I have been to the bay area several times over the years, I have never spent any real time in Oakland or Berkeley. Of course, I have heard all the rumors about how Oakland is rough and tumble, the gangs, the high crime rate, etc. I admit, from the places I have lived, I have been pretty sheltered, not really exposed to a wide range of diversity of ethnicities or lifestyles. Oakland and Berkeley are very diverse cities, having huge variety of ethnic populations. Touring the UC Berkeley campus I quickly figured out that being a white male, I was a distinct minority. Not that this bothered me at all mind you, it just opened my eyes some more. One thing that I did really appreciate though, was the overall tolerance and acceptance of not only the diversity, but for different lifestyles. I saw openly gay and lesbian couples roaming around, mixed race couples, and about everything else too. I found it all to be refreshing and enjoyable. In my opinion all communities should be this way.

Oakland and Berkeley both have a significant population of older working class homes, of all vintages. Oakland also has one of the oldest and strongest historic preservation programs in the country. Over the coming days, I will be posting several pics and descriptions of what I saw, both old and new. These posts will be organized by subject, so it will be easier to find images.