1939, North Bay, Owens house
Sausalito
Esherick & Dailey

  After some time in Europe, in 1938 he [Joseph Esherick] made his way to San Francisco, where he found part-time work in the office of Walter Steilberg, structural engineer and former head draftsman for Julia Morgan. Through Steilberg he was introduced to the work of this earlier generation of architects of the shingled and woodsy Bay Area Tradition. He met Maybeck, studied his work, and also greatly admired the spatial composition of Willis Polk's Russian Hill house, where he visited Wurster in his small apartment. The strength of the tradition seemed quite clear to him, although, as he observed, it was less layered with a variety of images than that of the East. During an early friendship with John Yeon, a brilliant designer from Portland, Oregon, he was taken on a tour of barns and rural vernacular architecture that made a lasting impression on him.

His work with Gardner Dailey on such early milestones of the Modern Movement as the Owens house of 1939 in Sausalito and the Coyote Point Training School of 1942–43 shows an emphasis on modular expression in wood frame construction. A strong belief in the consistent use of a module to clarify design at times put Esherick at odds with Dailey, who favored changing modules to achieve spatial variety. Much of Esherick's interest in the possibilities of prefabrication for standardizing the construction industry in the postwar world lay in his belief that the public would be better served by buildings whose consistent use of a module would clarify the plan for the occupants (Woodbridge 1988: 183).

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1942–43, Peninsula, Coyote Point Training School
San Mateo
Esherick & Dailey

  His [Joseph Wurster] work with Gardner Dailey on such early milestones of the Modern Movement as the Owens house of 1939 in Sausalito and the Coyote Point Training School of 1942–43 shows an emphasis on modular expression in wood frame construction. (Woodbridge 1988: 183).

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1946, North Bay, House
Ross
Joseph Esherick

  In a 1946 house for himself in Ross, Esherick first dealt with the problem of packing the box. The game was to fit the living requirements into a hierarchy of spaces, with the living area given the greatest volume through height rather than floor area. The house is a straightforward box on the exterior; the interior is carved out to make the appropriate one– and two–story spaces. Their interpenetration is emphasized by an interior sheathing of hemlock whose fine, even grain makes a satin–smooth wood skin. Here also for the first time Esherick used the device of a large window wall set flush with the corner of the room to was the adjoining wall with light. By his own account he felt the need during this period for large opposing glass areas to open up the interior and permit the outside to flow through (Woodbridge 1988: 193).

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1950, North Bay, House
60 Altwood Av., Sausalito
Joseph Esherick

  comment (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1988: 209).

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1950, North Bay, House
444 Woodland Av., Kentfield
Joseph Esherick & Assoc., Lawrence Halprin, Landscape Architect

  These houses [436 Woodland Ave. 1970; 444 Woodland Ave. 1950; 445 Woodland Ave. 1963] exhibit a range in design concepts of this famous Bay Area firm from early to recent work (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 224).

In the second house he designed for himself, with Rebecca Woods Esherick, in 1950, full homage was paid to the California barn. The gable is set across the long axis, as Esherick had often observed in real barns, to open up the largest area to the sun and air. The long sweep of the gable gives ample space to fit the service and sleeping quarters to either side while opening up the main living area to the full height of the structure to create a feeling of spaciousness with a relatively small floor area. Landscaped by Lawrence Halprin, the house is perfectly sited to take advantage of a magnificent live oak on the garden side. From the street side it offers a closed facade punctuated simply by an opening in the middle with a balcony over an understated entrance (Woodbridge 1988: 195).

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1950, Pacific Heights, House
2960 Vallejo St., San Francisco
Joseph Esherick

House

This shingled house carries on the Cow Hollow tradition of rus in urbe. The south court below street level creates an inviting entrance for visitors (Woodbridge, Woodbridge and Byrne 2005: 163).

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1951, Presidio Heights, Goldman Townhouse
3700 Washington St., San Francisco
Joseph Esherick

Goldman Townhouse Goldman Townhouse

A straightforward wooden box that balances the barnlike informality of vertical siding and double–hung windows with delicate railings and concrete columns that used sonotubes as forms. The L–plan creates an elegant garden court and a processional entranceway sheltered from the street (Woodbridge, Woodbridge and Byrne 2005: 213).

Walk west on Jackson and turn left on Spruce. As you approach Washington, note the Goldman House (47) (1951) on your right, which sits on the corner of Washington and Spruce. You are entering another enclave of the extended Haas family, which owns Levi Strauss. Rhoda Goldman is a Haas. The delicacy of the framing and the expanses of glass give Esherick's design an airy, see–through look (Wiley 2000: 279).

The Bay Region blending of informality and elegance is shown here in the unexpected but successful combination of barn siding and double–hung windows with delicate iron work and a formal entry (Gebhard, Winter, and Sandweiss 1985: 39)

By contrast [with a 1951 townhouse by Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons] the Esherick house deals equally and formally with the Bay view and the position of the house on a corner lot. The L–shaped plan creates a private garden and processional entranceway culminating in a two–story, glazed entrance and stair hall. The vertical emphasis of the focal space is carried throughout the living areas. The stark simplicity of the form is lightened by a generous use of glass—welcome in foggy San Francisco—on the south and east elevations (Woodbridge 1988: 184, 185–88).

At the turn of the century, the 3700 Washington Street property belonged to the Charles Stetson Wheelers (1863–1923). The house that occupied the lot was evidently built by J. C. Newsome for O. D. Baldwin, who sold it to Wheeler in the late 1890s. The original brick retaining wall serves as the base of the house designed by Esherick. Therefore, the site is of particular interest, as it is associated with more than three generations of San Francisco history dating back to the late 19th century (C. Walton, personal communication).

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1951, Pacific Heights, House
75 Raycliff Terr., San Francisco
Joseph Esherick

House

[One of a] catalog of two generations of local domestic architecture, none of them outstanding examples, but interesting as a group (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 43).

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1951, North Bay, Esherick House
30 Acorn Wy., Kentfield
Joseph Esherick

  An outstanding example of the early work of this architect with a barnlike simplicity which recalls vernacular architecture of early California (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 223).

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1953, Pacific Heights, House
3074 Pacific Av., San Francisco
Joseph Esherick

House

In his third San Francisco town house Esherick spaced four–by–fours across the facade to express the structural module of the frame. Compare this very restrained structural decoration with the 19th–century designers' elaboration of structural members as surface ornament in the so–called Stick Style houses (Woodbridge, Woodbridge and Byrne 2005: 161).

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