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LIVING TODAY... THE MID-CENTURY MODERN WAY

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P6 | Summer means thrills at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk P12 | Bikes, paths, greenbelts and the Strengs of North Davis P16 | 3-D images that let you envision your future remodel

Sway with nature

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Palo Alto Edition


Make Mine Modern Can we please have a timeout! Every few years, it seems, our internal referee’s whistle goes off and we feel compelled to

call a timeout. That alarm usually sets off a series of reactions inside us. We then begin to take a serious look at where we’ve come from and where we want to go, and eventually we make some informed, calculated decisions that help to clear the road ahead. While completing this exercise of self-examination is usually easier said than done, the process, at least whenever we’ve fully followed it through, has helped us over the past 20 years to keep the Eichler Network running on track. Our need for self-reflection usually comes at a time when we’re feeling satisfied about ourselves and our output, cruising along in a contented publishing groove. As neurotic as this may sound, feeling too good is sometimes the first sign TIME! Is the editor really dead? that we need to look around and ponder the possible need for change. Today, we confess, we’re feeling itchy once again, while standing at a crossroad. These days, as so many print magazines are dropping from the publishing ranks—but why do we continue to edge forward?—we sometimes wonder, in our weakest moments, whether our homeowners view receiving gratis copies of CA-Modern in their mailboxes every quarter as welcome reading or—God forbid—as fresh liner for their bird cages. Thankfully we get reassuring signs on a regular basis—and our participating service companies continue to tell us their phones are ringing at a healthy clip. Nonetheless, while we’re not inclined to hop off of the publishing train any time soon, we note that the world around us is changing quickly, seemingly by the day. But as we turn to the next logical publishing platform, the internet, we are disheartened by so much of what we see parading as upstanding publishing, even within the realm of modern architecture and the lifestyle that supports it. These days, anyone with a laptop and Wi-Fi who can shout “look at me” has the basics to launch a website or Facebook page to join in on the rampant regurgitation of content—so much of it shallow, inaccurate, redundant, irresponsible, self-serving, and pirated. The editors of the world must surely be dead—and turning over in their graves. This is the same internet that has made us fearful to leave town (and our computers) for a week’s vacation, only to return to an e-mailbox cluttered with 5,000 pieces of spam. Who’s relaxing? This is also the same internet that has made it easy for scores of devilish spammers (are they really robots?), many of them from China and Russia, signing up for the Network’s Chatterbox Lounge online forum each day, primed to bombard us with nonsensical posts nobody in our world would ever want to read. Timeout, please! The thought that CA-Modern might distinguish itself one day as the last print magazine on Earth sounds eerie, like some lonely, stranded survivor from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. However, if that day ever does come, then the prospect of receiving home delivery of a print publication that truly strives for quality content just may be seen by our readers as a novel and enjoyable luxury, not to mention as a welcome diversion from the internet’s mushrooming dumping ground, where integrity and quality control seem to have fallen sadly by the wayside. After today’s timeout, we’ll be sure to let you know where we’re headed next. –Marty Arbunich, Publisher

CA

MODERN 6 | California Dreamin’ How the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk still thrills to no end

12 | Feature Storyboard North Davis Strengs find common ground on the greenbelt

16 | Modern Renewal 3-D software that’ll help you envision your future remodel

21 | In Remembrance Farewell to Ned Eichler—Eichler Homes leader with vision

22 | Front and Center Dance great Anna Halprin and her free-flowing connection

26 | CA-Modern Flashback Plastic fantastic living: the ‘Monsanto House of the Future’

32 | Art About the House Maral Rapp turns classic mesh handbags into wearable art

34 | Dear Cherry Advice, etiquette and household tips for fine modern living

CA-Modern magazine is published quarterly in regional editions during January, April, July, and October by the Eichler Network, P.O. Box 22635, San Francisco, CA 94122. Mailed to thousands of

Join us on Facebook and Twitter—and go to eichlernetwork.com to sign up for free blog and ‘Featured Flash’ weekly e-mailers and visit the Chatterbox forum 

select California mid-century modern households (and aficionados), including all Eichler and Streng modern homes. Subscriptions and back issues available at the CA-Modern magazine section of Eichler

On the Cover

Some of you may be wondering how a publication devoted to California mid-century modern living winds up with a dancer on its front cover. Of course we could tell you all about the Halprins—modern landscape architect Larry and his dancer/choreographer wife Anna—and their modern home in Marin designed by William Wurster and their connection to Eichler photographer Ernie Braun through the arts, a common affection for nature and architecture, and a friendship that spanned decades. But, instead, we confess—it was all about that breathtaking cover photo (originally black and white, but now gently enhanced with color). We just had to give it front-and-center treatment. That’s Anna Halprin, by the way, a graceful angel in flight hovering over the Marin seashore. Anna was all of 32 in 1952 when that shot was taken. Today, 62 years later, the 94-year-old Halprin is still active in dance, choreography, and teaching—an inspiration to all of us. “I’ve spent a lifetime of passion and devotion probing the nature of dance and asking why it so important as a life force,” Anna says. For more on her fascinating life and work, see ‘Dance of a Lifetime’ this issue. By the way, on the day he shot our cover photo, Ernie Braun also photographed Anna with Dick Ford, her dance partner at the time, in couple-dancing scenes along the same beach. Two of those photos accompany our story (pages 22 and 23).

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■CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

T HRILLS

to no end

With its mix of fresh, over-the-top rides and perennial crowd pleasers, homey Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a wonderland Story: Jack Levitan

Back in the day, the best way to tell local kids from out-of-towners was to follow them into the Fun House—you entered through the toothy jaws of a huge clown’s face—and see how they did on the Spinning Barrel. “The tourists in the barrel would be falling all over themselves,” recalls Ted Whiting, who grew up on and around the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the 1950s, “and I would just be walking around them and over them, and walking out feeling like a big shot.” Whiting, whose family had worked at and helped run the Boardwalk starting in 1927, 20 years after its founding, also loved the Fun House’s Spinning Disk, which kids climbed onto—and tried to remain. “The secret to the disk was to get into the center,” Whiting says. “Others would just spin right off. You couldn’t [provide] a ride like that today because of liability. You’ll never see something like that again.” Maybe not. But in many ways, both 6 CAMODERN

on the surface and deeper down, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk today is much as it was during what were arguably its most historically important years, the mid-1950s through the 1970s— a fun, easygoing place for families, and with just enough temptations for teenagers and semi-adult thrill-seekers. “The Giant Dipper is exactly the same,” says Therese Poletti, a writer who grew up in Santa Cruz in the 1960s, of the boardwalk’s iconic roller coaster. “You can still hear the click, click, click noise, the sign that it was going down slowly into the tunnel, then it goes up, then—whip!” “Oh, remember this! Remember that!” Poletti called out to her companions when she visited three years ago. “There are a lot of things that are the same, but there are some new things too,” she says. The Dipper still looks much as it did when it was built in 1924. The Cave Train still takes riders past Flintstonesinspired creatures that were sculpted in the early 1960s. “It was kind of goofy,” Poletti says of

the Cave Train. “It was kind of fun.” Still is. And it’s nostalgic, for parents and grandparents at least, to watch their young ones ride the bouncy, smiley Sea Dragons as they bob and whiz round and round. “Up and down! Up and down! Pull it back and forth,” one dad urged his daughter on a recent visit, wanting her to get maximum action out of the ride. “A seaside amusement park! Saltwater taffy, caramel apples. It’s just an environment you don’t find most places anymore,” says Cindy Chesta, membership coordinator for the National Amusement Park Historical Association, which has a list of some 1,000 amusement parks in the country that have gone belly-up. The 1960s and 1970s saw several other parks close along the California coast, including Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica, in 1967; San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach, 1972; and The Pike in Long Beach, 1979. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the Boardwalk is the simple fact that the place still exists. No, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk may not have roller coasters that hit speeds of 150 miles per hour, like the Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, or a Cinderella Castle like the one at Walt Disney World.

UNDER THE BOARDWALK. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been a special Northern  California attraction for more than 100 years. Top: Its roller coaster is legendary. Above: Chamber of Commerce circa 1940s invites all. But the Boardwalk also doesn’t charge $90 for a one-day ticket, as do many ‘theme parks’—they’re what have supplanted most ‘amusement parks.’ “You can just go in free,” Chesta


“In this day and age, they all get bought out by the big guys.” It helps that the Beach Boardwalk is just 15 minutes walk from a real town—Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz has restaurants, a bookstore, an Art Deco cinema, you name it. Across from the Boardwalk are a line of shops and eateries, motels, a historic Spanish Revival apartment house, and acres of parking. We’ll soon hear more about those acres of parking. And mere yards away, jutting almost half a mile into the Pacific, sits the Municipal Wharf, home to restaurants, a fish store, fishermen, and hundreds of barking sea lions. And then there’s the beach. Asked about the Boardwalk, many fans answer first by talking about the beach. How they used to swim at the

ENDLESS FUN. Three shots from the Boardwalk’s 1950s heyday. Top: The beach is alive with sunbathers.  Left: Kids horse around at the Fun House’s Spinning Barrel, 1951. Above: The Wild Mouse, now just a memory.

says, “and people watch, and that’s a lot of fun.” And all-day ride-as-often-asyou-want passes can be had for $30. But what really makes the Boardwalk special is, it just feels homey. The boardwalk—well, okay, it’s made of concrete, and has been since the mid-1950s—stretches half a mile past the Cocoanut Grove, once a dancehall given over to big bands and today

used for concerts, other events, and a Halloween ‘zombie bash.’ It continues on past several game arcades and some 35 rides, along with games, miniature golf, food stands, foot wash stations, historic plaques, and the Fright Walk. The scene is hokey for sure, and noisy, especially in the arcades, where hundreds of raucous kids and adults

who should know better drive Nintendo racers, hurl pucks, immerse themselves in violent video environments, and even play such relatively old-school pinball machines as Attack from Mars. Throughout, much of the décor is fake Victoriana—even on the Giant Dipper—though some retro midcentury-styled buildings stand out, including one with Googie-style roof projections and a food stand with a folded-plate roof. Still, and unlike its hyper-corporate theme park cousins, the Beach Boardwalk comes across as altogether authentic, a bit of small town Americana alongside what Whiting, a vice president of the Seaside Co., which owns the place, brags is “the best swimming beach in Northern California.” “It’s not a chain,” Chesta points out.

mouth of the San Lorenzo River, banned now due to pollution. The immense sand castles. The rafts anchored offshore where swimmers could laze back or dive. The flock of killer whales that arrived in the summer of 1955 to feast on sea lions. They remember, too, the surfers who flocked to the sands in the early ‘60s. Some even recall Marilyn Matthews, a local girl who, serving as the Beach Boardwalk’s official swimsuit model, appeared one Sunday afternoon in 1957 in a bikini. Risqué indeed for Santa Cruz! “Nobody wore bikinis back then,” she recalled 50 years later. “It showed off my belly button and everything. [My father] had a fit.” Whiting recalls how the beach changed its look from the ‘50s, when CAMODERN 7


■CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ it appeared from the boardwalk to be a sea of umbrellas, to the ‘60s, when the umbrellas disappeared. “Coppertone, Sea & Sky,” he says, naming two trend-setting suntan lotions, “so people were out getting suntans. The beach became a more relevant piece of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.” So much so, he says, that in 1963 the famous indoor Natatorium finally closed.

Performers were also part of the scene. Local bands welcomed tourists arriving weekends on Suntan Special Trains from San Francisco and Oakland in the 1950s. The Honolulu Girls Glee Club appeared in 1951, and Nancy Long, “a petite artist of acrobatic control,” in the words of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, performed in 1955 at the Beach Bandstand along with Dwight Moore’s Educated Dogs. Surprisingly enough, for a surfer town, neither Jan and Dean nor the Beach Boys played the Boardwalk, Whiting says. “There were some teenage concerts, but they tended to get a little too rowdy so the company shied away from those events.” Still, teens loved the Boardwalk back then just as they love it today. “Cruising was a big deal,” Whiting remembers. “On a Saturday night there would be a steady stream of cars from Pacific Avenue to the Boardwalk and back.” The cruising era is commemo8 CAMODERN

rated by a 2008 mural across from the Boardwalk on the now-shuttered Anne’s Koffee Shop. Today, the Boardwalk has become a Mecca as well for folks who revel in history, and mid-century nostalgia, with historic plaques throughout, historic photos in the Captain’s Galley, early 20th century arcade games such as the robotic Grandma Fortune Teller, and

YESTERDAY & TODAY. Top left: At the entrance  to the Fun House, 1953. Top right: Giant Dipper on the way up, 1948. Above: Young girl today on the Looff Carousel. Right: Recent weekend crowd. a Laffing Sal from San Francisco’s late Playland at the Beach. But the rides attract the most attention. For little kids, there are delightful rides that also appeal to parents who

love mid-century whimsy—the Bulgy, virtually unchanged since the 1950s, with its flying whale-shaped cars; the Rugged Buggies; and the Carousel, which appeals to all ages.

“As far as the Carousel goes, oh my God! It’s one of only three in the world that still allows you to pull the brass ring,” Chesta says. Continued pg 10


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■CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ THRILLS TO NO END (continued from pg 8)

The Charles Looff-built Carousel, which along with the Giant Dipper is on the National Register of Historic Places, offers joys few children will notice—including the trio of historic organs that provide the soundtrack for the ride, complete with cherubs banging drums, angels playing, and paintings of San Francisco’s gingerbread-style Cliff House. For rides that recall the 1950s, even

ADRENALINE RUSH. Top: This spectacular photo captures an equally spectacular Boardwalk evening, with lights ablaze. Among the many rides: the Sky Glider (middle left), the Cliff Hanger (above), Sea Swings (right). if they didn’t originate then, consider the Rock & Roll, especially at night when the neon is glaring and the tiny cars with immense tailfins are snaking round and round the centerpiece, a blaring 1950s jukebox. Another fun ride in similar neon style is the Tsunami, where a warning sign suggests the care park operators take for their queasier patrons. “Warning, the ride will now go backwards. If you don’t want to go backwards, raise your hand 10 C A M O D E R N

and the operator will assist you.” Be aware, however, once you’re seated on most of the rides, there’s no getting off till they stop. When you’re riding the Fire Ball, a pendulum-style ride apparently designed by the Devil, and your head is closer to the ground than your feet and the infernal machine keeps going faster and higher—well, sure, a little praying can’t hurt. Among the reasons the Santa Cruz

Beach Boardwalk has outlasted most of its competitors is its ability to keep things fresh without discarding too much. The Wild Mouse, which lasted from 1958 through 1977, “was like a miniature roller coaster,” Therese Poletti recalls. “You’d sit in these little cars shaped like mice. It was very precarious.

You’re in these little, teeny cars and the track seems really skinny. Yeah, it was a wild ride. It was aptly named. You felt you were going to tip out of it, almost.” A new coaster-like ride, the Undertow, opened last season, with individual cars that twist and turn and, like those on the Mouse, threaten to careen off the tracks. But nothing can replace the Giant


Nothing can save you from the Dipper First it slips downhill through a dark tunnel. Then you’re in the light and heading up, up, slowly heading up. The rails are clacking away, dangerously. If you’re in the first car,

Santa Cruz’s Giant Dipper may date to 1924 and may be in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s far from the largest coaster in the world. But at 90 years of age, the

GO AHEAD & SCREAM. The many faces of terror tell the story—and the Giant Dipper lives on.

FUN YUMMIES. Top: So what are the ideal munchies on a day at the Boardwalk? Apparently tradition reigns. Our camera says favorites are still corn dogs, carmel apples, and candied ice cream (just like this smiling girl is  enjoying). Above: A recent hair-raising addition to the thrill-ride roster is the Undertow—but it’s not for the squeamish. Dipper as a coaster fan’s favorite. “I’d probably put that coaster somewhere in my top ten or top 15,” says Chesta, who has ridden some 500 roller coasters worldwide. “It’s not a straight outand-back coaster, it’s a twister.” Back in 1974, the New York Times ranked the Dipper even higher—number five in the world, noting, “There are curves everywhere and it’s a most exciting ride.” “That was a rite of passage for every young kid in Santa Cruz,” Whiting says. “Your first ride on the Dipper.” “The first time, I went with my dad,” Poletti says. “I would only go with people. I would never go on myself.” Frightening the Dipper may have been, but not half so frightening to the owners of the Boardwalk as the opening of Disneyland in July 1955. “The notion of theme parks changed the game,” Whiting says. “Most parks in Southern California, the amusement piers, went out of business. They

couldn’t compete with those types of rides and guest experiences.” There were challenges beyond Mickey Mouse as well. Amusement parks had been closing since their peak in the years after World War I, when the country had some 1,500, to the mid-1930s, when only a few hundred remained, according to Andrew Schiffrin, an environmental planner, in his 1986 article ‘Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: Survival of the Funnest.’ After World War II, amusement parks were hurt by “the growing sophistication of the middle class,” who sought “what they considered higher quality entertainment,” he wrote. The advent of TV didn’t help, nor that many amusement parks, including the Beach Boardwalk, had grown a bit seedy. Plus, many parks occupied land that had grown more valuable than the parks themselves. But the Seaside Co. had a lot going for it, too, including foresight.

you can see the crest. You see two flags flapping in the breeze—the Bear Republic, Old Glory. Surely they’re the last flags you’ll ever see. Then the Giant Dipper takes its first drop and you’re falling, held in by a mechanism even Houdini couldn’t push past—and you know nothing can save you now. You hear screaming. You are screaming.

It was during the 1950s through the 1970s that the Boardwalk faced its greatest existential challenge—and prevailed. Laurence Canfield, president of the Seaside Co. from 1952 to his death in 1984 (his son Charles is president today), toured amusement parks nationwide to see what worked and what didn’t, invested in new rides, expanded the park, and focused on families. The opening of Disneyland “stimulated this place to get with it and stay current,” Whiting says. In the early 1960s, he adds, “the Cave Train and Autorama were our attempt to offer here the kind of rides Disney was making popular.” Autorama was a miniature world of freeways, complete with hills and cloverleaf intersections, with kids driv-

Dipper remains the most exciting ride on the Boardwalk. Those wooden braces you dip beneath, convinced they’re about to sever your head from your shoulders—what ghoul installed them there? And you face those braces not once but twice before, a minute and 52 seconds after the start of your ordeal, the ride is over. “Mom! Mom! Can we ride it again?”

ing gas-powered cars. “Modernistic,” the Sentinel said. But, speaking of the auto age, nothing helped the Beach Boardwalk more than Canfield’s canny purchase of acres of land for parking. “Had that not been done,” Whiting says, “it’s very likely we would not be here today.” ■ • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s rides are open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day, and most weekends and holidays during the year. beachboardwalk.com Photography: Deborah Zajac (© Deborah M. Zajac), Susan Teefy, Rich Lewis, Jennifer Kiernan, Zhanna Zabello, tterrace (via shorpy.com); and courtesy Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Mickey McGowan of the Unknown Museum C A M O D E R N 11


■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D

Paths to pleasure In bike-friendly, eco-conscious North Davis, a neighborhood of 200 Streng homes finds common ground on the greenbelt

Story: Dave Weinstein Photography: David Toerge

When the director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation needs to cite an ideal model for a sustainable neighborhood, she doesn’t have to look far. The director, Susan Handy, lives in one—North Davis. The neighborhood is dotted with about 200 modern Streng Brothers homes from the late 1970s, as well as homes by other developers. Handy, a UC Davis professor of environmental science whose focus is on “relationships between transportation and land use, particularly the impact of land use on travel behavior, and on strategies for reducing automobile dependence,” often discusses in her classes Radburn, a world-renowned planned garden city in New Jersey. “Oh, that looks like Davis!” students sometimes say. “Or like this part of Davis,” Handy says. In many ways, the neighborhood in which she lives, with her husband, an astronomer, and two teenage daughters, may provide a model for the rest of the nation as we strive to reduce global warming. North Davis, with its homes clustered around cul-de-sacs and backing onto winding paths and broad meadows, and with its network of trails tying into bike paths and bike lanes throughout town, is just one of several neighborhoods in Davis with greenbelts. 12 C A M O D E R N

Another, Village Homes, is even more radical in its land pattern, complete with community gardens and orchards and virtually devoid of fences. Davis, with its long-term commitment to slow and compact growth, thus seems an ideal place to house a sustainable transportation center, which is funded by the federal Department of Transportation. The center’s goals include reducing greenhouse gas by getting people out of their cars, and fostering better patterns of land use. “How can we create places like this,” Handy asks, “where biking is a viable mode for a good portion of the population?” In Davis, says George Flamik, a recent arrival to the Streng enclave, “Almost everybody bikes, young or old.” No one lucky enough to walk, bike, skate—or even hop and skip—along the greenbelt trails that wind through North Davis needs to be told that the neighborhood is a delight. The broad, generally asphalted paths are shaded by redwoods in spots, open to broad meadows in others, wind past modern homes built by the Streng Brothers and past playgrounds. There’s an ornamental pond that’s home to its own island, and what appears to be a more natural pond, home to birds and fish and amphibians and bugs. There are even sculptures—immense dominoes leaning together, a ceramic frog queen that’s a memorial to a longtime environmental activist, three bronze dogs at play—one riding a tricycle.

NATURAL OUTLOOK. North Davis is filled with nature—winding paths, broad meadows, and a network of biking trails. Adding to the appeal of the paths is that they are part of a network that, while it doesn’t provide pedestrian-andbike-only paths throughout the town, does serve significant portions, especially areas built from the 1970s on. And throughout this city of 65,000 people (plus another 6,000 living on campus), bike lanes and a bicycle loop ensure that Davis deserves its title of the Bicycle Capitol of America. The symbol of the city is a big-wheeled bicycle. “We have more bicycling than any place in the U.S.,” Handy says. “It’s true.” She cites census data showing that 15 to 20 percent of Davis workers commute via bike, versus one percent nationwide, and ten percent in Boulder, which may be runner-up bikers’ heaven.

“Bicycling is the perfect mode for Davis, and Davis is the perfect place for bicycling,” she says. “Given the size of the city, at most it’s five miles from this end to that end, and downtown is no more than two or three miles from anybody. So that’s a very reasonable biking distance, and of course it’s perfectly flat.” And unlike, say, San Francisco, where bike-car and bike-pedestrian conflicts are common, and bike groups like Critical Mass sometimes take over streets entirely, “our bicyclists are pretty well behaved,” Handy says. And, George Flamik says, “Drivers are aware of bikers, because almost everybody bikes.” About 35 percent of kids in town bike to school, using a route that starts


on the North Davis greenbelt and includes a pedestrian-bike bridge over Covell Boulevard—which means they never have to bike on or cross any streets. But rather than boasting about that 35 percent figure, Handy wonders:

“Well, shouldn’t it be higher than that? Over half the kids are still driving or being driven to high school!?” Handy and her husband both bike to campus, as do much of the faculty. Even the north winds that blow down

Oak Avenue many spring afternoons don’t deter her. “I’ll see her on a morning when it’s so cold you don’t even want to stick your nose out of doors, ride her bike to work,” says Handy’s neighbor, Karmen Streng. Davis created the nation’s first bike lanes almost 50 years ago, Handy says, spurred on by an academic family who, after a sabbatical in the Hague amidst a sea of bikes, concluded, “You know,

still a sprawling suburban town, not a compact downtown like San Francisco, where people can leave the car at home and take public transportation or walk. The university runs a transit service open to all, but in the main, walking is for recreation more than for transportation. “When you want to get somewhere, you get on your bike,” Handy says. “The distances [from place to place] are a little too far [for walking].”

BIKES PREVAIL. The Handy-Richter family plays together in more ways than one. After their bike ride (top left), the foursome returns home for a musical session (above). L-R: Eleanor (bassoon), Matt (tuba), Hannah (French horn), and Susan Handy (pianist, sitting). Far left: One of the numerous variations of Streng front facades found in North Davis. Near left: Unique sculptures, including this one of a dog riding  a tricycle, can be found on the greenbelt Below: The  Flamik family—George, Dina, and daughter Anastasia— getting set for a bike outing in front of their Streng home.

Davis should be like the Netherlands.” The president of UC Davis at the time promoted bike use big time, telling architects to “plan for a bicycle-riding, tree-lined campus,” and urging students to bring bikes to campus “so you can get to classes on time.” Handy emphasizes that for bikes to take hold requires political commitment to pay for bike lanes, bike racks, and the like. When one city council in the mid-1960s hesitated to spend funds on bike infrastructure, the populace voted them out of office. This was, not coincidentally, a few years before the Strengs began developing in North Davis. Their earlier Davis neighborhoods are charming but lack greenbelts. Bike town though it be, Davis is

While almost everybody in Davis bikes, the appeal of the paths goes beyond those who do. Many of the cul-de-sacs that make up much of North Davis are sociable places, with neighbors walking together on the paths, and gathering at the meadows and playgrounds that are part of the greenbelt for get-togethers. “It helps people socialize more,” says James Millar, who grew up in a Streng home in the neighborhood. “Otherwise people wouldn’t get out so much and talk to their neighbors.” Garda Johnson, an original resident, loves the neighborhood because it is so friendly. “I’ve thought about downsizing,” she says, “but I really can’t leave.” And, folks say, the greenbelt doesn’t encourage criminals to visit or even attract many rowdy teens. Motorized C A M O D E R N 13


■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D traffic of any sort is banned, though on a recent weekend a golf cart was spotted puttering along. On a recent sunny Sunday, a group of neighbors, some of them among the many original owners who remain in the neighborhood, gathered at the ‘meadow’ where Hermosa Place meets the greenbelt for snacks, soft drinks, and wine. Among them was Bill Streng, who developed portions of the neigh-

borhood with his brother Jim. Bill and his wife Karmen bought the first Streng home built on the cul-de-sac and one of the first in the neighborhood, and they’ve lived there since. Streng is surely one of the few tract home developers who has lived so long surrounded by his customers. The Strengs enjoy the greenbelts as much as anyone. But Bill was far from a greenbelt visionary when he, the engineers he hired, and the landscapers they hired laid out the greenbelts in the late 1970s, tying them into a network that had been begun by a different developer. The Strengs provided the greenbelts not because they loved nature, admired the 19th century English planner Ebenezer Howard’s book Garden Cities of To-morrow, or even saw greenbelts as a marketing tool. They did it because “the city had a policy. They wanted ten percent of the dirt to be green,” Bill says. “The city of Davis wanted the greenbelts,” he says. That cut into profits. “So many acres go for greenbelt. That reduces the amount of lots you get paid for,” he says, “and in addition to setting aside acreage for greenbelts, it costs money to make it green, and then it costs money to keep it green.” Shortly after the greenbelts were installed, the land was turned over to the city as a park. The city maintains the greenbelts, which are pristine. “There’s very little trash. People really police it,” 14 C A M O D E R N

says Brian Millar, James’ father. In fact, the greenbelt did not attract buyers to the neighborhood when it was new because, although the greenbelts could be seen on paper, they did not exist. Nothing existed. “There was nothing,” Vickie Moering remembers, when she and her husband Paul arrived in the new neighborhood in 1978. “We could see clear to Sacramento. You could see all the way to the Sierras.” Part of the site had been tomato fields and part, says Carl Klein, an original owner a few streets down, were “the alkali flats.” “The clay was so hard,” Bill Streng recalls, “we had to have one bulldozer pushing another bulldozer” to grade it. But the grass grew quickly, Bill recalls, and soon Paul and Vickie’s daughter was selling lemonade from a stand along the greenbelt and there were Easter Egg hunts. Jackie Kinney, a 14-year resident, has particularly enjoyed ‘Halloween on Hermosa’ parties on the meadow.

GREENBELT ATTRACTIONS. One of the most beautiful parts of the North Davis greenbelt is the pond at Northstar Park (top right). The family of Canada geese (top left) we spotted there seems to agree. Center left: Streng owner Jeanette Ganahl with scrub jay buddy Sammy, who never fails to show up for a handout. Above: More Streng exteriors. Today, the greenbelt defines the neighborhood visually—and in more forceful ways. The first-time visitor to the neighborhood invariably gets lost—if he is

in a car. That’s because most streets are cul-de-sacs that stop a few tantalizing feet from one of the neighborhood’s few through streets. But you can’t get to the through


street by car—only by a pedestrian path, “so driving can be rather convoluted,” Susan Handy says. “But it’s easy enough to walk.” Throughout the neighborhood, she notes, “It’s a shorter distance to walk or bike than it is to drive.”

greenbelt,” says George Flamik, who moved in three years ago with wife Dina and two young daughters. They’re refugees from San Francisco, where George still works, commuting by train. They were attracted to the area by fine schools and by the modern archi-

Dina, who pilots a tandem bike that can handle both Anastasia, 4, and Tatiana, 2-1/2, often heads for the greenbelt’s playgrounds. “There’s one playground 200 yards away, there’s another in the other direction,” she says. “There are two playgrounds within a few hundred yards. On weekends we go from one playground to the other.” “The trail system was a big plus for us,” says John Privara, who moved to the neighborhood from Chicago in 1991 with his wife Diana, originally from Uzbekistan. The Privaras chose Davis after research revealed it was a ‘bicycle town,’ and a college town with an appealing downtown. Every Monday Diana walks the greenbelt with a regular group of friends. The architecture was also an appeal. “We walked in, saw the skylight,” John says, referring to the Streng-style domed atrium, “and said, this is cool.” Diana has livened up the home with a turquoise-colored, Native Americanstyled gate and interior furnishings. Jeanette Ganahl, a 12-year resident, enjoys several routes along the greenbelt, which she walks, jogs, and bikes.

he’ll come.” The neighborhood is also home to rabbits, turkeys, river otters, and frogs. When the Strengs were built in the late 1970s, the area was the northern limit to Davis. “We were told this was going to be the last development to the north,” recalls Garda Johnson, who, with her late husband, was among the first residents in the neighborhood. But in the 1990s several blocks of larger homes were built just to the north, forming the Northstar neighborhood. When that happened, Northstar Park was built, its broad soccer field and manicured pond strengthening the greenbelt. The more natural-looking pond alongside Northstar Park was built by Streng as part of the neighborhood’s drainage. Northstar remains the city’s northern limit. Past the Northstar homes is a drainage ditch, which Handy and other naturalists have been planting with native plants as part of the North Davis Riparian Greenbelt Project. Handy appreciates that Davis has “such a strong edge. We don’t just sprawl outward and have the city fade

BIKETOWN FOLKS. Above right: North Davis neighbors hang out together on the Hermosa Place cul-de-sac, where Streng co-founder Bill Streng still lives: (L-R) Garda Johnson, Vickie Moering, Paul Moering, Bill Streng, and Karmen  Streng. Above left: At home with Diana Privara, who moved to Davis more than 20 years ago with husband John to take advantage of its bicycle orientation, college, and appealing downtown. Top: Another unusual greenbelt sculpture. The trails may not have been a selling point when the neighborhood was new, but they are today. “Quite frankly, I don’t know if we would have been here if it weren’t for the trail,” says Brian Millar, who moved to the neighborhood with wife Angie 11 years ago. “That’s the reason we bought the house. We just fell in love with the

tecture, as well as by the greenbelt. “I did not want to have the stereotypical suburban house that looks like everybody else’s house,” says Dina, who grew up in Estonia. But it’s the paths that make the neighborhood most appealing, they say. Their home borders one of the many short connectors that connect streets to the paths.

She keeps an extra bike at home for friends to use when they visit. She appreciates how much wildlife the greenbelt attracts—geese to the pond, and other birds. Her favorite, a scrub jay she’s named Sammy, will land in her hand when she offers a peanut. “His mate will come to the tree but won’t come into my hand,” Ganahl says. “In the morning, if I whistle,

away. They’re right there, the tomato fields or the corn fields.” ■ Additional photography: Dave Weinstein

• Take a hike: The Streng homes of North Davis can be found mostly on Hermosa Place, Isla Place, Catalina Drive, Anza Avenue, Iris Place, Lago Place, Inca Place, Lindo Place, Mercedes Avenue, Norte Avenue, Luz Place, and Grande Avenue C A M O D E R N 15


■MODERN RENEWAL

One of the biggest challenges of embarking on a home remodel is the thought of spending a lot of money for improvements without really knowing whether or not you will like the finished product. To help present the possibilities, more architects and designers are embracing the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software to help their clients envision their options. “You basically work a design schematic and get a presentation drawing in the moment,” says Curt Cline of Modern House Architects, based in Burlingame. “The software allows you to play with scale and proportion and camera angles to get a feeling of a space.” You’ve probably seen this software in action on popular television shows on HGTV, such as Property Brothers and Income Property. In both shows, the designers virtually walk the homeowners through several design options using a combination of 3-D and animation software to help them decide which plan is right for them. “You can choose elements of a house, such as cabinetry and whether it has drawers or doors, then you can look at it from any viewpoint and do a walk-through to see how the floor plan, design, and colors flow,” says architect John Klopf of Klopf Architecture, based in San Francisco. There are many different types of BIM software, but each helps designers to create, visualize, and continually modify digital models of possible project designs. ArchiCAD, Revit, and Sketch-Up are just a few of the common BIM programs used for home remodels. With a few clicks of a mouse, the software can tweak a building’s geometry, floor plan, and room configurations; change wall thicknesses or ceiling heights; adjust window and door placements; and insert different cabinetry, colors, and surface materials for each room. With each tweak, the computer software immediately adjusts and displays 16 C A M O D E R N

LL REMO A B DE L A T LI S Y

the entire digital model to reflect the change. A design can be represented with as little or as much detail as needed, showing any or all of a project’s many components and systems. “This works really well for residential remodeling because it helps everyone on the project work together and be on the same page, and you can use the tool in different ways,” says San Francisco architect Michael Tauber of Michael Tauber Architecture. “For example, if you are trying to demonstrate to a contractor what to do with an intersection of a wall and a soffit, I could create that detailed drawing within an hour and explain it.” One of the beautiful things about virtual models is that they can be uploaded to online ‘cloud’ storage, and clients can review the images from any portable device, such as an iPad. Instead of having to schedule face-toface meetings with their designer or architect, clients can take their time walking through virtual doors, up and down stairs, or around the outside,

G N

Story: Tanja Kern

CR

Like gazing into the future, this 3-D software helps you visualize the end result of the home remodel project you are about to undertake

3-D AT WORK. Three architects who like the benefits of BIM (L-R): Curt Cline, John Klopf, and Michael Tauber. and reflect on the options in their own space and at their own pace. In the old days, two-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) helped architects develop blueprints and architectural plans fairly efficiently. However, creating a 3-D perspective then took a lot of time, requiring drawing a perspective over a photograph or building a physical 3-D model. Thanks to the newer technology, old-fashioned CAD may soon be a thing of the past. Klopf and his firm switched to a 3-D system, ArchiCAD, in 2005. “There was two-dimensional CAD that

replaced the hand drawings we learned in architecture school, and now we have 3-D,” he says. “When you think of a traditional image of a drafting room, with a drafting table and men in suits and ties, it’s not like that today. At our firm, we have a drafting table, but these days it has a pile of stuff on it.” While BIM technology is useful, not every remodeling professional is using it. Some are reluctant to take on BIM because it can be complicated to grasp and there can be a hefty upfront cost for hardware and software. “It was a good investment for a small


4 projects with BIM at the core

firm when it was just me doing all the projects, because I could send this cool stuff to clients, and they could see big differences in communication and still be able to meet deadlines,” Klopf says. “It saves time going back and forth with a draftsman when one person can do so much with software.” A home remodel or addition is one of the largest investments many homeowners will ever make. Having the opportunity to test drive the plans before construction begins can save a lot of time, reduce poor design choices, and improve overall satisfaction with the outcome. VIRTUAL SPACES. With a few clicks of a mouse, BIM software can tweak a building’s geometry,  floor plan, room configurations, and much more. Above: Eichler living room model by Curt Cline.

4 projects with BIM at the core We asked our three featured architectural firms to walk us through some of their recent designs for home-improvement projects to illustrate how BIM software helped their clients develop a plan they could better understand and be satisfied with for years to come.

“With 3-D, you have much more of a feeling of comfort in making the decisions,” Klopf says. “I’ve had clients in their older years, maybe in their 80s, who worked with architects 40 or 50 years ago—and during that time period, you basically trusted the architect to design it. The architect sold you on the design. “Now, clients who are 30, 40, or 50 years old have more exposure, from ideas they found in magazines and on websites like Houzz, and they have more interest in participating in the design decisions.” ■ Photography: David Toerge, Assassi Productions (courtesy Modern House) Illustrations: courtesy the participating architectural firms

would have done—if the technology and budget were there originally,” Cline says. “We took out the sheer wall, handled the earthquake resistance through steel-reinforced posts, opened up the back to the outside with even more glass, and created a gallery in the courtyard.” The software helped showcase how the back of the house would open to the kidney-shaped pool, and how the three original small bedrooms could be converted into a master bedroom and a guest room. “The 3-D design is closer to reality,” Cline says. “If people can see what they are getting, they are more likely to be satisfied with the result.” Continued pg 18

1 Whole-House Remodel that Opens the Floor Plan Curt Cline of Modern House Architects has been using a European BIM software program for 14 years. It has been handy in his new construction and remodeling work, which includes several Eichlers. For a recent project, a redesigned 1963-era Quincy Jones Eichler in Sunnyvale, BIM software helped his clients visualize the indoor-outdoor connection and an even more open floor plan than the original design. Due to some poorly executed retrofits in the 1970s and a cracked concrete slab, this atrium model Eichler had to be reconstructed from the ground up. “We did a structural analysis that would allow us to do what Joe Eichler

REALITY RESTORED. As part of their design for a whole-house remodel, Modern House Architects reconstructed the exterior and pool area at the rear of this Sunnyvale Eichler above. Three images tell a story: ruin in before photo (top left), BIM model looks into the future (top right), photo of final restoration (above). 

C A M O D E R N 17


■MODERN RENEWAL 4 PROJECTS (continued from pg 17)

2 K  itchen Plan Tied to the Work Triangle Architect John Klopf of Klopf Architecture designed an Eichler kitchen in Sunnyvale using ArchiCAD. He started with some hand-drawn plans and then, after a discussion with the homeowners, moved the most promising of those plans to the 3-D software. “This was a master plan we created for the owners to help them envision the project and get some ballpark pricing from contractors,” he says. “This project hasn’t been built yet, but it could be developed from here into working drawings that could be built in the future.” Since the focus of this remodel was the kitchen, Klopf’s 3-D renderings show a few different designs (two are

shown here) for the kitchen work triangle: sink, range, and refrigerator. The center of the design revolved around an island that housed the kitchen sink and dishwasher. In one version, the refrigerator, oven, and microwave were installed against the garage wall and the cooktop placed across from the kitchen sink. In another, the appliances swapped locations, placing the cooktop on the garage wall and the refrigerator, oven, microwave, and storage across from the island sink. The three models included in Klopf’s presentation allowed the homeowners to think about how they cook and interact in the kitchen to determine which layout best suited their family’s lifestyle.

Kitchen design #1 Kitchen design #2

18 C A M O D E R N

Living/dining design #1

3 Boosting Flow and Storage IIn this MCM house, architect Michael Tauber of Michael Tauber Architecture redesigned the main living space—living room, dining room, and kitchen—to create better flow and storage. “The owners had a fireplace that they weren’t sure they wanted to keep, so we looked at different options that included the fireplace, and did some without [a fireplace],” he says. For the three sets of designs Tauber presented to his clients, the idea of


4 T  hinking Small for a Bath Remodel

Kitchen design #1 using cabinetry as a wall between the spaces became a practical solution that provided storage while maintaining some sense of openness thanks to a small pass-through window. Each of the designs also reconfigured the work triangle in the kitchen, positioning a professional-style range on different walls to see which layout better suited the homeowners’ cooking style. In addition, the 3-D rendering provided the clients some options to consider for refacing the fireplace with different materials instead of eliminating it all together.

3-D modeling can assist even with small remodels. In this modern bathroom, architect Michael Tauber used the technology to create a space to accommodate a couple and their growing family. Tauber said his first step was to create three design options: an obvious layout, one that is slightly less obvious, and one that is more out of the box. Then from those three options, the homeowners usually combine different features to create a fourth design. If the walls don’t need to move much, he will meet with the client at the location and run through the simulation on his laptop so that they can discuss the renderings and compare them to the physical space. They will use the software to focus in on problem areas and troubleshoot any design issues. “In this case, it was the palette and materials that helped the couple

decide the option to choose,” Tauber says. “They didn’t really have any idea of what they wanted, so I came to one meeting with three different palettes that incorporated different materials.” One design was sleek and modern, one was warmer and more touchy-feely, and then a third version. “Sometimes a client will say that they really want to keep the plumbing where it is, so at that point we are relying on repositioning the materials to create the space, which was the case here,” Tauber says.

Bathroom design #1 Bathroom design #2

STORY RESOURCES Klopf Architecture

klopfarchitecture.com Michael Tauber Architecture

michaeltauberarchitecture.com Bird’s eye view of the two room designs above

Modern House Architects

modernhousearchitects.com C A M O D E R N 19


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■IN REMEMBRANCE

Leader with vision After many years of frustration under his father’s direction at Eichler Homes, Ned Eichler found greater success elsewhere

The Thrift Debacle, about the savings and loan implosion of the 1980s. He also wrote a memoir and personal essays about writers and historic leaders. Ned also defined himself as an “outsider by temperament”—someone who could study a situation dispassionately,

Ned reorganized Levitt and Sons, the developer of various Levittowns and one of the nation’s largest builders. “Ned was the person who ran the company, the intellectual force and management behind it,” said John Koskinen, an attorney who worked

Ned Eichler began his homebuilding career as second banana in the company founded and run by his father, Joe Eichler. Ned, a naturalborn leader, had big responsibilities but little power. “I, like everybody else there, was an instrument of his vision,” Ned recalled, “and also of his need to be in control of everything.” Naturally Ned found it frustrating. By the late 1970s, after his father’s death, Ned was president of a major homebuilding firm of his own— Levitt and Sons, once the nation’s largest, which he’d helped slim down, turning a near-insolvent firm into a going concern. But when the firm’s owner started telling Ned how to run the business, Ned walked—even though, as his then-colleague and longtime friend Jay Krinsky, recalls, doing so lost him a promised fortune. “I think he left $1 million on the table,” Krinsky said, “if he had just stayed for not too much longer.” “But that was Ned. If he became unhappy in a situation, he would give it up. Money wasn’t the biggest motivation. It was the challenge, having a vision of something and seeing it through.” Edward (‘Ned’) Eichler, who died March 27 at age 83 of Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia, played an important role in the success of Eichler Homes, which his father founded in 1948. Ned, who oversaw purchasing in 1951 and 1952, devised the company’s efficient system for buying materials in

bulk and delivering them to job sites. As marketing manager from 1954, he oversaw the photo shoots by Ernie Braun that helped bring fame to the firm’s distinctive homes. But Ned disagreed with many of his father’s business decisions—including building semi-custom homes, building high-rise apartments and townhouses in San Francisco, and expanding to Southern California, New York, and Sacramento, arguing that all were distractions from the company’s core business. In retrospect, it is clear that Joe Eichler’s forays into urban developments helped lead to the firm’s bankruptcy in 1966. “I predicted it all,” Ned said years later, “except that it was far worse than I thought it would be.” Ned studied economics at Dartmouth College, rather than history or literature, to please his father, he said. He served from 1952 to 1954 with the Signal Corps in France and Germany. Ned wrote several books, including

LOOKING BACK. Ned Eichler played an important role in the success of Eichler Homes. Pictured through the years: at the Eichler X-100 kitchen in San Mateo Highlands, 1956 (above), with father Joe in 1960 (top), in recent years (left). make tough decisions, and “not give a damn if somebody important was mad at me.” These were qualities that served him well once he left Eichler Homes. Ned served as chairman of the California Housing Commission in the early 1960s, headed up the New Communities Project at UC Berkeley from 1964 to 1966, taught at the university’s business school in 1966, and developed apartments in California with the Klingbeil Co. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Working with the Victor Palmieri Company on the reorganization of the Penn Central railroad in the early 1970s, Ned handled the tricky task of disposing of the firm’s 100-acre rail yards in Manhattan—giving the young Donald Trump his start in the business. Also for Palmieri in the mid-1970s,

on the project. Ned served as the company’s president for several years. He was particularly proud of his success in the 1980s and 1990s as an innovative mortgage lender to apartment developments through his Eichler Corp. Ned was a very good golfer—a sport he took up as a boy because he got to spend time golfing with his father. Ned, who married four times, said he got it right once—with his fourth wife, Ava, who survives him, along with sons David and Steven, daughter Gina Tomaselli, stepdaughter Erika Elliott, and granddaughters Taylor and Catheryn Elliott and Sarah and Lauren Eichler. ■ Photography: David Toerge, Ernie Braun; and courtesy American Builder magazine C A M O D E R N 21


■FRONT AND CENTER

Dance From her legendary openair deck, dance pioneer Anna Halprin carries on a free-flowing connection between inside and outside

Story: Dave Weinstein

At first glance there is nothing about Anna Halprin’s dances that suggest the look or feel of mid-century modern design. Mid-century architecture was cool and spare, sedate, and generally softspoken. It was also optimistic about the future of America and its burgeoning suburbs and suburban society. Halprin’s dances, by contrast, are intense, sometimes hilarious, and often confrontational. Some are unrecognizable as dance at all—more ritual than performance. Anna Halprin, a dancer and choreographer in the Bay Area for nearly 70 years, has become legendary as much for her spiritual and healing work as for her art. Over the years, thousands of people, both locals and from around the globe, have fallen under her spell, learning movement and learning about life on her famous dance deck in Marin County. Her followers have taken part in mass rituals, including her ‘Planetary Dance,’ an annual event on Mount Tamalpais that invites one and all to create what she calls “a moving mandala.” Yet her work and that of her late husband, the famous modernist landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, are in many ways one. There are few artistic couples that have influenced each other more than Larry and Anna. For one thing, Larry Halprin wouldn’t have become a landscape architect were it not for his wife, Anna says. And, while she was a dancer from childhood, Anna admits she would never have taken the direction she did if her husband hadn’t brought her from the Midwest to California—or built her the dance deck, today a legendary performing arts space. Most of her performances have been out of doors, many in public places, 22 C A M O D E R N

of a lifetime often without warning—aircraft hangars, beaches, plazas. Other of her works have been shocking, including ‘Parades and Changes,’ which featured dancers stripping while locking eyes with members of the audience. Many have been, well, challenging. Consider ‘Slope Event,’ a piece that took place in 1964 right outside her home, a Bay Area Tradition design of redwood and glass by William Wurster on a steep, redwood-shaded slope in Kent Woodlands with a view of Mount Tam. A group of architects hung ropes down the steep hillside, part of an investigation into how environment affects performance, and vice versa. Halprin describes: “The dancers had to climb up the rope on the slope. They were naked. The architects were up above with big trash cans, big trash cans, full of water. And they would dump the water down on the dancers as they were coming up. So there they were in the full moon naked as a berry, climbing up, beautiful movements, climbing, and this water rushing down on them. “The light was nothing but the full moon, so it was very beautiful.” Few dancers are as serious about their work as Anna Halprin—not least in the scientific sense. At the educationally progressive University of Wisconsin, in the 1930s, she studied with mentor

MOVEMENT & LIFE. Above: Anna Halprin, 94, captured recently in the midst of one of her dance classes on the  famous outdoor deck in Marin’s Kent Woodlands. Top: Anna in 1952 dancing on the beach with then-partner Dick Ford.   Margaret H’Doubler, not just dance but kinesiology, human movement, bones, muscle. When Larry, whom she met at the university, attended one of her classes that involved dissecting a human cadaver, he fainted. Yet Halprin began her performing career best known for her “deadpan comedy,” in the words of poet, film-

maker, and her frequent collaborator James Broughton. An “incredible clown,” he called her, “absolutely hilarious.” Dance historian Janice Ross compared Anna to “another curly-haired, red-headed comedienne,” Lucille Ball. Halprin, who at 94 still teaches almost daily on the dance deck of her Mountain Home Studio, a good 70 wooden treads


OUTSIDE & IN. Anna in the mid-century in a variety of movements, scenes, and dress. Above: A clowning moment  in Boston for ‘The Lonely One,’ 1944; with husband Larry, circa 1950s; practicing for ‘The Prophetess’ near Mount Tam, early 1950s; in the midst of performance, early 1950s. Top: kicking up the waves with Dick Ford, 1952. below the level of her home, works with a model of a human skeleton. “This is our instrument,” she tells her class. “We can’t go out and buy a new body.” A poor student in her girlhood but good at sports and immersed in dance, Ann Schuman began teaching her friends dance at age 12 and figured

early on she would make her life work as a dance teacher. She has. Never interested in ballet (“everybody laughed at me,” she recalls about her first ballet class as a girl), she gravitated to modern dance instead, impressed by Isabella Duncan. She

briefly danced for Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, two pioneers of modern dance, in the Broadway show ‘Sing Out, Sweet Land,’ with Burl Ives singing ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’ But she turned away from modern dance, complaining the choreographers were developing “a very rigid style.” Their choreography, she says, “was very hierarchical. It was very personality oriented.” Humphrey, Weidman, Martha Graham would create movement and instruct their dancers to do it. “I’m not interested in choreography. I’m not interested in other people creating my vision,” Halprin says. Instead, over the years, Halprin has developed her own ways of generating dance, starting with what she called “task oriented movements,” building something, or carrying something—wine bottles, say—or walking up and down hills. “Everyday movements that everybody could identify with,” she wrote. “That was a way to get away from the preconceived styles,” Halprin says. Halprin often starts with improvisation —which was not part of professional

dance in the 1940s or ‘50s. Dancers come from different backgrounds, have different ways of moving, of thinking. Their natural movements should contribute to the dance, she argues. “Anna preferred that movement have its own meaning rather than stand as a symbol for something else,” Ross wrote, adding, “and the way she arrived at this meaning was through guided improvisatory work.” Halprin also addressed different subjects than other dancers, and in different ways. She focused, she said, on “real life themes,” on “dances…[with] a real purpose in peoples’ lives.” “Tapping into our personal stories,” she wrote, “the dances we made had transformative powers. I began to call them rituals and identified the materials that created them as myths.” Anna and Larry, who married in 1940, took a trip at Anna’s suggestion later that year that would deeply affect Larry’s career, as well as significant chunks of Northern California landscape. “Who the hell is that?” Larry asked when she proposed visiting Frank C A M O D E R N 23


■FRONT AND CENTER Lloyd Wright at Taliesen, a short drive from their university. Larry had been studying horticulture, planning to return to a kibbutz in Palestine where he had lived as a teenager. But after visiting Wright, he shifted to landscape architecture. “I said, ‘Boy, this is what I really want to do,’” Larry recalled. Larry soon made his influence felt on his wife’s career, going to Harvard in 1941 to study landscape architecture at the Graduate School of Design, which had become an American version of the Bauhaus under the direction of that school’s former chief, Walter Gropius. While writing her own graduate thesis, ‘Hebrews: A Dancing People,’ Anna became immersed in the modernist thinking of such ex-Bauhaus instructors as Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. She also taught dance at two schools: an upper-crust girls school that had never before hired a Jew, she says; and, to assuage her social concerns, a settlement

had been hit by a kamikaze flight.) The move itself had a major effect on her development as an independent voice in dance, away from the heady, self-centered New York scene. “I wouldn’t have blossomed in a place like New York,” Anna says. “Too much pressure. I’m not an urban person. I was brought up on a prairie in a suburb of Chicago.” The house that Wurster designed for the Halprins, in collaboration with Larry, also influenced Anna’s work, she says. The house, she wrote, “influenced me and my art on a daily basis.” “A free-flowing connection between inside and outside, a major theme in my own work which would develop through exploration of dance both inside and outside the theater,” she wrote. The living room has a view of Mt. Tam. Shortly after they moved in, Larry suggested building his wife the dance deck. He designed the meandering redwood deck with lighting designer Arch Lauterer. “I thought it was brilliant,” Anna says

EXPRESSION AS ART. In the 1960s Larry Halprin’s landscape design and Anna’s dance began to blend. Their collaborations at the newly built Sea Ranch, in Sonoma County, was a prime example. Top right: Scene from  ‘Experiments in the Environment,’ one of Anna’s summer workshops at Sea Ranch, 1968. Above: Anna in the midst of performance, 1969. Near right: A movement session with students on Anna’s Marin dance deck, 1970s. house school for poor minorities. Anna also taught a class in dance and movement to architecture students at Harvard. “What does a curve feel like to experience in your body,” she asked, “as opposed to an angle?” But Larry’s major influence on Anna’s career came some years later, after they moved to California in 1945 following his discharge from the Navy. (The destroyer he served on in the Pacific 24 C A M O D E R N

of Larry’s suggestion, adding that she would not have thought of it herself. “That dance deck had no proscenium arch. It took me straight out into nature,” she says. “I didn’t like dancing on stages anymore. I don’t like being shoved into this little box.” The deck clearly met a need. For several years, during the 1950s, Anna and a partner had been operating a popular dance school in San Francisco.

They had also been performing in theaters. But San Francisco did not have much of a dance scene, so Anna was feeling isolated.

And there weren’t many places to perform. “I left the city and began to dance in this invigorating outdoor environment,”

10


she wrote. “I was the first person, because of Larry’s influence, who said you don’t have to dance on the stage, you can dance on the street, you can dance on the river, you can dance anyplace you decide to be,” she says. Because there were so few dancers in the Bay Area, Anna was soon collaborating with non-dancers, poets, painters, and, soon, a psychoanalyst. Collaborators included dancers A.A. Leath; composers Morton Subotnick,

Pauline Oliveros, and Harry Partch; artist Bruce Conner; and self-described ‘Zen-Jewish’ psychoanalyst Fritz Perls, who, starting in the mid 1960s, led Halprin into the hippie-era Human Potential Movement. This was the era, dance writer Sally Branes has written, when Halprin “gradually moved from dance as theatrical art to dance as a healing art.” Dance was no longer entertainment. It was a way of understanding the self, of healing both the individual and the world. After Anna came down with cancer in 1972, and survived, healing became an ever more important part of her art. She did a performance, ‘Dancing My Cancer,’ went on to work with AIDS sufferers, and wrote a book, Dance as a Healing Art. As time went on, Ross wrote, “Anna didn’t seem to mind whether the results of her experiments were prosaic…or radically unexpected. Her focus was

Using a score, Anna sets out certain rules for a dance—how to move, whether or not to touch, how much force to use, what props to use—then lets dancers improvise to develop the final piece. In 1966, summer workshops were held at Sea Ranch, the trend-setting community of wood-sided modern homes, some designed by architect Charles Moore, who took part in the workshops. Larry designed the ecosensitive landscaping for Sea Ranch. Throughout her career Anna has addressed social and political issues in her work, driven, she says, by the antiSemitism she has faced since she was a girl in suburban Chicago. She has created such immersive events as ‘City Dance,’ first performed in 1977 in San Francisco, with scored performances by amateurs and professionals throughout San Francisco, and ‘Planetary Dance: A Call for Peace.’ “I’m drawn towards situations going on in the world around me,” she says. “What I seem to be drawn to right now BACK TO TODAY. Far left: Dancers of racial diversity from that has been happening recently is Anna’s ‘City Dance’ event in San Francisco, 1977. Above: what is going on in Israel. I’m conToday, inside the rustic living room of Anna’s Kent Woodnected to Israel.” lands home, designed by William Wurster on a steep,  Her next work will be a collaborative redwood-shaded slope. Near left: Anna in recent years.  effort with an Israel dance group, first in New York, then in Israel. on how to generate movement from a Despite her distancing of herself source beyond conscious and deliberfrom mainstream dance, Halprin has ate control, and yet remain true to the been amply recognized, winning many physical logic of the body.” top dance awards. Among the legendToo much can be made, however, ary dancers and choreographers who of Anna’s use of dance as a healing art, trained on the dance deck and acknowlas an experiential more than an artistic edge her influence are Yvonne Rainer, thing. Throughout her career she conTrisha Brown, and Meredith Monk. tinued to create dances that were deeply Halprin says her public dances personal and expressive. helped inspire the current vogue for self“Expression,” she told a recent class, expression in the streets. “Flash mobs are “takes you closer to dance as an art.” doing wonderful things now,” she says. “When you take movement and “When we did it, it was very new.” make it your own, then it becomes art.” “It’s a reflection of a need for Anna and Larry continued to release,” she says about flash mobs and influence each other throughout their similar unscripted events, “because we careers. In the mid-1960s Larry develare living in a world that is so threatenoped a system that involved graphic ing. Every day you read something ‘scores’ to solve design problems when more about what’s happening with the working with clients or the commuwater, with the environment. People nity. Anna translated the process for have a great need for releasing stress. dance. Landscape design and dance “There has been some progress. began to blend. There’ s less anti-Semitism. But there’s Larry began to see landscapes not been enough progress for survival, in terms of dance, and used the so I think people need spontaneous process to design urban landscapes, expression more than ever.” ■ bringing in residents to take part in workshops and semi-theatrical events. Photography: David Toerge, Ernie Braun,  “An environment,” he wrote, “is in fact Edloe Risling, William Steig, Peter Larsen, simply a theater for action and interacPaul Ryan, Shawn P. Calhoun; and courtesy tion to occur.” Anna Halprin C A M O D E R N 25

3


■CAMODERNFLASHBACK

Disneyland’s spectacular ‘Monsanto House of the Future’ combined science, showmanship and dreams

Plastic fantastic Living

Story: Dave Weinstein

It was a house of many wonders and many names. Back in the mid-century, it was officially the ‘Monsanto House of the Future’—but nicknames quickly followed. The ‘experimental house,’ the ‘push-button house,’ the ‘airborne house’—and there were more. The House of the Future, erected at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, caught everyone’s fancy. People flocked to see it—thousands a day, day after day, for almost ten years—until more than 20 million people had visited. Although purportedly designed as a scientific investigation into how plastics could be used to produce inexpensive, mass-produced housing, the House of the Future was more than that. It was a dream. Little Wendy Stuart, all of 11, who visited the house the day before it opened to the public, understood that right away. “Gosh, I must be dreaming,” she said, after touring the home. The organizers of the event gave Wendy the key to the house and named her ‘the housewife of the future.’ The reporter covering the event called the house “a forerunner of the dwelling the typical American family of four may be living in ten years from now.” Dreams, of course, rarely come true. But the tale of the House of the Future, which remained on display from 1957 to 1967, says much about that era’s faith in science and technology to solve human problems. It also says a bit about good old American hucksterism. The dream began, prosaically enough, with the men in Monsanto’s chemicals division wondering ‘how can we sell more plastic?’ It was a dream material, Monsanto knew—so why weren’t people building houses of it? Plastic, Monsanto noted, could be molded into any shape, readily massproduced, was lightweight, needed little maintenance, and came with its own integral color. They claimed the house would ride out earthquakes—and resist corrosion 26 C A M O D E R N

FULL OF WONDERS. The ‘Monsanto House of the Future,’ the ambitious brainchild of Monsanto Chemical Co. and MIT and erected of plastic at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in 1957, caught everyone’s fancy for most of a decade. and termites. “They’d wear their teeth out on this place,” Monsanto engineer Robert Whittier told the press. In May 1954, according to a technical report produced by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monsanto Chemical Co. approached MIT’s architecture school in Cambridge “with the idea of having them design a house of plastics.” Monsanto also offered funding. The school’s dean, Pietro Belluschi, deemed the idea “both exciting and worthy of investigation.” Belluschi was known for experimentation with new materials and structural forms. Among his buildings are St. Mary’s Cathedral In San Francisco, with its soaring reinforced concrete interior, and the multi-level ‘Life house’ he designed for Joe Eichler in the San Mateo Highlands. The House of the Future proved an exciting project for a pair of young architects who taught at MIT. Marvin Goody was 33, Richard Hamilton a few years older. “The design team,” the architects

noted in the MIT report, “was unencumbered by traditional solutions for enclosure of space and provision of living facilities.” That’s not something you can say about every project. Their charge was ambitious—not just to provide a market for plastics in homebuilding, but to do so in a way that was true to the material. Truth to materials is, of course, intrinsic to modernist thinking. “Simply substituting plastic for steel and wood was not enough,” the Associated Press reported. “The ultimate form” of the house, the architects wrote, “had to be one that was peculiar to the plastics fabrication process.” Also in line with modernist thinking was the social goal—to provide a functional family dwelling that could serve as a prototype for affordable plastic homes. “We hope this house may lead to a mass-produced plastic home,” Monsanto’s plastics division vice president Robert Mueller told the press. Although the project cost $1 million,

Monsanto pointed out that 90 percent of that amount paid for three years of research, not for the house itself. Mueller suggested a commercialized version of the house might sell for $10,000 to $15,000—before hedging his bets. “Of course it may never be commercially available.” Ernie Kirwan, then a graduate


be arrayed like a Greek Cross from a central concrete core that contained bathrooms and utilities. Rooms were made from curved, prefabricated plastic sections. “I was a bit dubious about the Greek Cross [plan], sitting on a base with the four cantilevered sections,” Kirwan says. “It was not very practical, and it was expensive to erect, holding all the pieces together with a tension ring at top.” “I was interested in building houses for moderate income people. This would not satisfy that. I mentioned it.”

student of architecture in his 20s, came onto the project with dreams of his own. Socially progressive, he believed the House of the Future really was all about designing a prototype house for affordable living. Kirwan worked on the House of the Future for seven months, starting in August 1955, drawing perspectives and elevations and making the model that caught the attention of the ‘Man Behind the Mouse.’ Kirwan admired his boss, Goody— a man of his own height, 6-foot-4, equally rail thin, a nice guy, quiet, almost taciturn, “very well thought

of, an influential guy,” and a guy who enjoyed visual flair. “Marvin had an eye for form-giving,” says Kirwan, now 85, who lives today only a mile from MIT. “He was more interested in the gestalt of the thing than its application. He was interested in powerful design concepts.” Goody was the prime designer of the house, Kirwan says. Hamilton served as organizer and engineer. A second grad student completed the design team, Kirwan says, which worked closely with Mike Gigliotti, Monsanto’s master of molded plastics. Kirwan, who later became a partner

ON THE WAY UP. Top: From 1957 to 1967, nearly 20 million people, including the ones in this late 1950s shot, toured the House of the Future. Above left: The design team meets with Walt Disney in the mid-1950s to review the scale model and plan: (L-R) Monsanto project manager (unknown); Mike Gigliotti, Monsanto project engineer; Ernest Kirwan, design assistant; Marvin Goody, project architect; Walt Disney. Above right: Construction at Disneyland begins. in a leading architecture and engineering firm, designing about 150 schools, industrial plants, and other buildings, was more interested in buildings that worked than in powerful forms, and as Goody’s design evolved Kirwan voiced doubts. The plan called for equal-sized U-shaped plastic rooms—a living room, a family room combining dining and kitchen, a parents’ bedroom, and a kids’ bedroom. The rooms, raised five to eight feet above the ground, would

One person he mentioned it to, who worked in marketing for Monsanto, brushed off Kirwan’s concern. He said Monsanto loved Goody’s design because of the ‘My God’ factor. “We want people to say, ‘My God, it’s great!” or ‘My God, it’s awful!’ ” the marketer said. “If they say ‘My God,’ we’ve got their attention.” At that point Kirwan realized the project was more about selling plastic than building a mass-market house. “Marvin kind of went along with C A M O D E R N 27


■CAMODERNFLASHBACK Monsanto,” he says. “They wanted something dramatic.” “That’s why Disney built it, because it was something dramatic,” Kirwan says. “We could have done something more practical as an outgrowth of this research.” Kirwan remembers a dinner in a hotel ballroom in New York City— two dozen people, architects from MIT, Monsanto execs, the model of the House of the Future on rapturous display, and Disney himself regaling the crowd about his early days with Mickey. “It was spectacular for a green kid like me,” Kirwan recalls. But Disney didn’t see the House of the Future as just another attraction— and he took Tomorrowland seriously. “He said he saw Tomorrowland as an opportunity to exhibit things that will affect people for generations to come.” In any case, Kirwan says, Monsanto couldn’t have found a better place

wrote, adding, “It is not just a hokedup, wildly imaginative novelty.” “All furniture and furnishings in the model will be plastic,” another publication reported, “with 14 different types of plastics used.” Families poured through, admiring the curved walls and corners that did not trap dust, the rooms that were as much window as wall, and the scented air conditioning. “Since the air in each room is individually controlled,” the Wall Street Journal reported, “you can have the living room smell like a pine grove while a bedroom is filled with the scent of roses.” Special attention was paid to lighting. In the living room, according to the Associated Press, “the overhead lighting fixture resembles a mobile. It has no bulb but draws its light from a projector aimed at it from the floor.” And when it was time for mom to

KEY PLAYERS. Top: House of the Future architects (L-R) Marvin Goody and Richard Hamilton. Above left: Tomorrowland, late 1950s. Above center: Walt Disney in his prime. Above right: Fall 1957 Disneyland Holiday magazine. to install its House of the Future— a place with beautiful weather and immense crowds. The house, which opened to the public in June 1957, was an immediate hit with the public and the press. “If a dozen of the nation’s leading manufacturers of building products have predicted accurately, the home of tomorrow will be radically different from today’s house,” the New York Times 28 C A M O D E R N

dress for a night on the town, “special controls [in the vanity] enable the woman making up to simulate the lighting in which she will be seen.” The all-electric Kelvinator ‘family food center’ was particularly rich with gadgetry. The dishwasher and three refrigerators were stored out of sight, magically appearing at the push of a button. Ditto the electric range and the

microwave oven, quite a novelty at the time. “A steak is cooked by microwave in just 30 seconds,” one paper reported. This was, moreover, “the first kitchen to make special provision for foods prepared by atomic energy,” The Architect and Building News magazine reported, adding, “a light dose of [gamma] irradiation combined with moderate refrigeration increases the life of many food products by a matter

of months.” Oh, yes, the dishwasher. Rather than gurgling suds, it used ultrasonic waves to do its job. Throughout the house all was plastic—sink and toilet, upholstery, pillows and rugs, built-in furniture, and all 13 telephones, “conveying images as well as sound.” No need for Bluetooth either. You Continued pg 30


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C A M O D E R N 29


■CAMODERNFLASHBACK HOUSE OF THE FUTURE (cont. from pg 28)

could walk about the home talking on the phone unencumbered by anything—microphones embedded in

plastic walls would pick up your voice in perfect clarity. It does need to be noted that some of these ‘advances’ were theoretical only,

CLOSEUPS. Above: Fountain and garden that ran beneath the house, 1963. Right: Original floor plan and tour route.

Eichler’s X-100 was on its own futuristic mission It’s made of steel, not plastic, and it was built in the San Mateo Highlands —not Disneyland. But Joe Eichler’s X-100 ‘experimental research house’ from 1956 was on the same mission as Monsanto’s House of the Future.

“The idea of the X-100 was mine, and it was done for promotion” of homes in the Highlands subdivision, Ned Eichler, Joe’s son and the firm’s marketing manager, said in a 2008 interview. The X-100 was designed by

MARVELS GALORE. Three photos of Eichler’s X-100 from late 1956: front door entry (top right), interior gardens and  living room area (bottom right), and its stunning kitchen with dining table that slides open for at-the-table cooking (above). Its goal was “testing new design concepts, new materials, and new techniques of construction,” as Eichler’s brochure proclaimed, while accomplishing the more prosaic chore of marketing the company’s everyday wares. 30 C A M O D E R N

architect A. Quincy Jones, who clearly saw steel as more than a gimmick. He had earlier designed a steel house for himself in Los Angeles. The X-100 reflects a gentler future than the Monsanto House. It’s not nearly

so strange. Unlike the House of the Future, the kitchen of the X-100 does not propose the use of gamma radiation. But there are marvels galore in the X-100, including a hygienic-white dining table that slid open to reveal burners for cooking or keeping food warm while

dining; movable track lighting, unusual for the time; walls treated with plastic for easy cleanup; compact, paired bathrooms with a sunken tub; and a master bedroom separated from living areas by a motorized curtain. The name of the house may have evoked an experimental spacecraft, but there is nothing flying saucer-like about the X-100. In fact, in many ways, the future foreseen by the X-100 looks much like the mid-century present that Eichler was already building. The structure and ceiling of the X-100 may be steel, but its interior walls are covered with Eichler-like wood paneling. The home also has Eichler’s trademark indoor-outdoor flow, enhanced through indoor ‘living gardens’ illuminated by plastic ‘skydomes.’ By contrast, despite walls of glass, the House of the Future isolated inhabitants from the landscape by arranging the living areas on a pedestal high above the ground. Although Eichler concluded steel construction was too expensive for building tract homes, the X-100, its nomination pending for the National Register of Historic Places, remains occupied today—and fits nicely into its neighborhood of less futuristic Eichlers. That’s another contrast with the Monsanto house. As architect Ernie Kirwan, who worked on the House of the Future’s design, says, “I don’t think a neighborhood of Monsanto shapes would have a lovely look.”


awaiting further development—including gamma irradiation. Also notable is one futurist prediction the designers of the house got very, very wrong. They assumed—as many people did at the time—that the major problem facing future families would be an excess of leisure. The house was designed to expand to accommodate extra rooms as needed. “The expanded versions of the house could reflect the added leisure time available to the family by providing doit-yourself hobby rooms, TV areas, sewing rooms, etc.,” the architects wrote. The designers also failed to predict that future generations would demand bathrooms the size of bowling alleys. The House of the Future provided only

AN INSIDE LOOK. The interior of the House of Future was redecorated at least once, if not several times, to keep up with changing technology and fashion. The three  interior shots featured here (children’s rooms, living room, kitchen) represent the interior look from the early period. Above: Pictorial Living, the Los Angeles Examiner’s  magazine, gave the house top billing in July 1957. “two small Pullman-like bathrooms.” Although the house really did look airborne, promoters said the plastic U’s that made up the rooms were strong, a fiberglass sandwich with a foam-plastic insulating core. “Fifty or more people can move about inside the house,” the New York Times said, “without vibrating it in the least.” In the MIT report on the house, the designers reached an important conclusion: “It is feasible to design and construct large structures made from plastics material which will perform their engineering function in a satisfactory manner.

“The result, although not altogether faultless, is felt to be a valid step in the direction of the collaboration necessary to enable architecture, industry, and technology to maintain pace with the needs of HUMAN BEINGS.” Popular it may have been, but as we know, the House of the Future became the ‘House of the Past’ in 1967. But it fought hard to survive. “Neither steel balls, torches, chain saws, nor jackhammers were able to help the wreckers,” a reporter recalled, two years after the house came down. “What finally solved their problem, after two weeks of effort, were choker cables that tore the modules into pieces small enough so they could be carted away.” Goody himself outlived the house by less than a decade and a half. An avid sailor, he died of a heart attack at the helm. MIT twice a year provides an award in his name “to extend the horizons of existing building techniques and use of materials,” and the firm he founded, Goody Clancy, continues to win honors. Plastic has yet to become the material of choice for homes. In the late 1960s, when the house came down, folks in the industry blamed a lack of understanding among designers [the same problem the House of the Future was designed to eliminate], troublesome local building codes, the “attitude of labor unions,” and pending environmental regulations regarding disposal of chemical waste. One exec admitted that “structural plastics have a way to go” as an architectural material. Although few of us today live in a plastic house, many of us live with plastic components, including Kirwan and his wife Constance, who recently installed a prefabricated plastic Jacuzzi walk-in tub in their home near Harvard Square. “As a social progressive, I did not think [the House of the Future] was very successful in accomplishing what I would have liked to see it do,” Kirwan says. “But it was influential in getting people to use plastics in architecture.” ■ • Special thanks to Mickey McGowan of the Unknown Museum and David Eppen of Gorillas Don’t Blog for their archival assistance Photography: Ernie Braun, David Eppen; and courtesy Goody Clancy, Ernest Kirwan, Monsanto Company, Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles Examiner C A M O D E R N 31


■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE

Maral makes mesh modern San Francisco designer Maral Rapp turns classic mesh handbags into contemporary wearable art is so beautiful that it deserves to get out and about again. All too often, she says, the vintage bags simply “sit in drawers.” Rapp’s work is unique, says Giselle Gyalzen, who runs the design shop Rare Device in San Francisco. “I have actually not seen another designer that uses vintage mesh and transforms them into this specific look that Maral’s pieces have,” she says.

There’s something special about a Whiting & Davis handbag. Manufactured in Massachusetts, by hand at first, the metal mesh bags shimmered and moved, as generations of sophisticated ladies carried them to big band dances and cocktail parties in hotel sky rooms. “During the 1920s,” Hillary Miles wrote in the online publication Savvy Examiner, “no respectable flapper would be caught without a cute Art Deco mesh handbag.” The silver- and gold-plated brass bags still have fans today, though one of their biggest rarely carries one. Rather, she takes the bags apart. Maral Rapp, a San Francisco designer who crafts an increasingly popular line of “modern vintage mesh works,” uses as her raw material old Whiting & Davis handbags. Her earrings, necklaces, and bracelets remain reverential to the material, and to the Whiting and Davis heritage, while striving for something different. “I wanted to take these iconic bags and make something modern out of them,” says Rapp, a fan of modern design who once enjoyed living in “an Eichler knockoff in San Jose.” While she works in a variety of styles, some suggesting Art Deco, when she hits the town she prefers wearing “the simpler pieces—which is what I want to be promoting.” Rapp, who began as a graphic designer, got into the metal mesh busi32 C A M O D E R N

finds, involves “a ridiculous amount of math.” Not to mention intense labor. “It all has to fit exactly.” By itself, the mesh has no shape. But on the body it comes alive. “I really like the way they feel,” says Victoria Smith, a San Francisco blogger who helps run a workspace for crafters. “They’re very tactile. They feel very nice in your hand, a little like a fish lure.” “I like the combination of vintage and modern,” she says. Rapp’s work is available at Bay Area shops and through her website. She hopes to get into stores in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, and envisions moving beyond her current workshop with a couple of assistants to a larger production house—but local, she insists. Rapp is trying to balance the business of production with the thrill of creation. “I’m always discovering what the

REVERENTIAL RECYCLING. Designer Maral Rapp (top left) creates an increasingly popular line of “modern vintage mesh works” from old silver- and gold-plated handbags (top right). Right: A few of her earrings, necklaces, and bracelets that remain reverential to the material. ness, ironically perhaps, when she was unsuccessfully seeking to buy a rare Whiting & Davis long purse. Unable to acquire one, she made her own, taking apart and reconfiguring a different Whiting & Davis bag. There was something about the way the material looked, its texture, its movement, its endless possibilities. “I became obsessed with it,” she says. “I just went crazy.” A collector of vintage fashion since she was nine, Rapp says that disassembling her first vintage purse gave her pause. “Listen, I had my qualms,” she says. “It was difficult to do, the first.” “I don’t want to be too cavalier about it,” she says. “There are certain [collectable] bags I haven’t been able to take apart.” But the feel and look of the mesh

“Her jewelry is something so unique that you will not find it anywhere else. If I see someone wearing it on the street, I can definitely tell that’s it’s a Maral Rapp piece.” Using tweezers to open the tines that connect the mesh, edging the mesh to provide structure, and adding hardware to control its shape, Rapp

mesh can do. It’s endless what you can do with it,” she says. “It’s just a sheet of articulated links. You could build anything with it.” Photography: David Toerge; and courtesy Maral Rapp

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Readers’ queries—from design and decorating to household hints, entertaining and etiquette… Dear Cherry, My bathroom bathtub has an old glass door enclosure. The glass is cracked, and I found out the replacement was going to cost more than I care to spend for a look that I don’t even like. What do you think about removing it? –Tina in Orange County Dear Tina, Glass shower doors are not all they’re cracked up to be! Unless you have one of those fabulous original etched-artwork doors (you know, the ones that show mermaids swimming or palm trees swaying, etc.), I do not frown on removing them.

Once you’ve done the deed, I also recommend buying a curved hotel-style shower rod. It will give you more elbowroom in the shower, as well as keep that cruddy shower curtain away from you. Speaking of crud…don’t forget to buy a shower-curtain liner, especially if you’ve landed a nifty plastic shower curtain with a design that you love and want to keep around for more than a season. Usually people opt for clearplastic or translucent liners to put behind fabric shower curtains. But you can also layer a plastic liner behind your show curtain, allowing things to look fresh season after season. And when the inside liner gets old, why not just fold it up and recycle it as a paint drop cloth. Good luck cleaning up your act, and your shower enclosure! Dear Cherry, There are a lot of marches on the streets against Monsanto Chemical Company for GMOs [genetically modified organisms–ed.] and such. What do you have to say about the Monsanto company’s mid-century  ‘House of the Future’ now? –Conspiracy Theorist in East Bay

CLEAN ACT. Even in her shower, with its mid-mod look, Cherry always wears her proper white gloves! Sometimes glass doors are more trouble than they’re worth. They need to be cleaned and squeegeed after every shower to keep them properly maintained. And the ones that have opaque bumpy surfaces can be very difficult to clean without harsh chemicals. Plus, there are so many great midmod graphic shower curtains out there that can spruce up your bathroom design. The other fun thing about shower curtains is that you can easily switch out the design on a whim, or for a party, or for special guests. I say, get out the screwdriver and chisel and take out that enclosed shower. You will also likely find that this change will open up the bathroom to make it feel bigger than before.

34 C A M O D E R N

Dear E.B., The 1950s and 1960s represented an era of innocence and optimism for sure. I think this is one of the reasons why we are all so attracted to that period. Also, as we all know, it was a time filled with so many great designers who worked their mid-mod magic. Mixed in with that magic were some unpleasant historic realities in the socioeconomic and political realms. But does that mean we reject mid-mod altogether? No, we embrace those things that we love, and we leave behind and/or learn from the rest. Nothing on Earth (including ourselves) is perfect. We are all works in progress—companies, too. Sometimes they produce winning products, sometimes not. While Monsanto can be credited for many technological innovations of merit over the years, it has to be said that, yes, they are one of many companies that produced the GMO products that are receiving a lot of scrutiny these days. But it’s up to our personal discretion

whether or not we wish to buy those products. While these companies are indeed in business to make money, they are also known to respond to consumer feedback while eyeing their goal. With that in mind, I prefer to vote for what I want my future to look like by how I spend my dollars at the store. Regarding Monsanto’s marvelous ‘House of the Future’ (you can read all about it this issue, beginning on page 26), I think we all love the idea of living in our own personal utopian world— whatever that may be. The Monsanto house was certainly a fascinating utopia for a lot of folks back in the mid-century. It was perfect for its time and place—and helped us to form a vision of a future we thought was just around the corner. But flashing forward 60 years, we see that none of us is living today in a Monsanto house. However, most things in our lives are certainly different than they used to be, and they’re still forever evolving. Our view of the future now includes a home more sustainable than a cool plastic shell. It also includes more natural materials, renewal energy technology, and social integration—things we feel so strongly about today that we’re sure they’ll bring joy in our ‘world of tomorrow’! Dear Cherry, Summer vacation is here. I’m bored. Now what? –Joe Blow Dear Joe, Hey, it’s okay to be bored now and then. When you are bored at work, nothing beats taking a stroll outdoors in the fresh air. Even simply choosing a different side of the street to walk on can make a world of difference. If you have a day off and are bored—boy, am I jealous! You need to get busy. Look around your house— there must be some ‘honey-do’ list items that need your attention. Wash those sliding-glass doors and windows. Give your classic car a detail job. Polish your philodendrons! Nothing beats boredom like getting something accomplished. If boredom lingers, then maybe what you need is a geographic change of scene. I find the best way to beat the doldrums is to go for a drive, or for an all-day road trip. See a local site, hit the local amusement park.

BEAT BOREDOM. Cherry never gets bored—and  why is that? There’s always some silly sliding to do. Can’t afford the gas? Then get out your bike or buy a bus pass—and tour your own town in a random way, and see it through new eyes. Hit the local park and swing the swings, slide the slides, and ride the merry-go-round. No, not on a carousel with horses, but on one of those handdriven metal circles in the playground sandpit, the one you push around to make it spin—and then go jump on and get yourself dizzy! If you belong to Overeaters Anonymous, then please ignore my final piece of advice. But I say, when bored, go eat. That’s right, go find a new restaurant or café that you have never been to—and eat something new. Make friends with the wait staff—and definitely order dessert! Like the National Restaurant Association sugar packets used to say: “Enjoy life. Eat out more often!” But, regardless of which move you make, just get out there—and give it your best shot. Photography: Taso Papadakis, Cherry Capri


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