Open House Obsession: Joseph Esherick’s Bermak House Is A Mid-Century Dream Come True, $2MAuthor:Philip Ferrato
Where: 5999 Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Montclair Hills/Oakland
When: Saturday and Sunday, April 14/15 from 2:00pm-4:00pm both days
What: An early Northern California Vernacular house by Joseph Esherick on a spectacular site, overlooking Berkeley all the way to the Golden Gate, and in excellent, almost original condition. Although his work’s probably best known today in the Bay Area, Esherick was one of the most influential architects of his time as a professor and mentor at Berkeley’s famed architecture school.
Below, in what could have been a wall of glass overlooking the bay, Escherick honed the view to a framed panorama while also cutting back the Western glare.
Pedigree: Built for Dolores and Gordon Bermak, who insisted that no trees be removed from the site in the construction, this is a house built a time of intellectual tumult in architecture and the beginnings of two (eventually divergent) directions, vernacular architecture and Brutalism. Esherick would become a master at both, as seen in his Sea Ranch homes, the Monterey Aquarium, and his looming, massive Wurster Hall at UC Berkeley.
Cited by Charles Jencks in his architectural cult classic Adhocism: The Case For improvisation for its use of exposed steel pipe for the chimneys and “deliberately fragmented” form, the house is supported between an immense reinforced concrete “H” soaring out of the canyon floor and the hillside; both the living room and master bedroom beneath it have imposing, exposed concrete hearths. Walls and ceilings are sheets of mahogany plywood; original windows (some have been replaced) were stock catalogue items. Esherick was not alone; the same year, in East Hampton, New York, the Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning was building a vast studio and home out of steel airplane hanger trusses and lumberyard stock. The guiding principle was not novelty, but the use of these casually industrial materials appropriately. Originally, the deck railings framed chicken wire panels, now replaced by steel wire.
What We Love: The exterior is so graphic you can almost imagine it as a drawing.
The subtly renovated kitchen, period-appropriate and without kitsch.
More: Go to the property’s dedicated site for additional information, images and a video. Represented by Andrea Gordon at Red Oak Realty.