Architecture and Regional Identity in the San Francisco Bay Area 1870-1970

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This work examines the creation and expression of the San Francisco Bay Area’s sense of regional identity, which it expressed through its unique architectural idiom – the Bay Tradition. In the late nineteenth century, Bay Area elites developed a sense of what Bay Area living meant, based on contact with (and appreciation of) the region’s attractive landscapes and mild climate, and from this emerged an architectural style that expressed eclecticism, cultivation, and appreciation for the physical environment. Architects such as Willis Polk, Bernard Maybeck, William Wurster, and Ernest Kump used urban landscapes as a means of regional self-expression, much like Appalachia expressed its regional identity through music and folk arts, the Deep South through literature, and New England through history-based tourism. By the 1930s, it incorporated modernist ideas but retained its essential identity through its use of native woods (particularly redwood), large windows, and open, airy spaces that allowed comfortable contact with the mild, clement outdoors. In the 1940s and ‘50s, the Bay Tradition was popularized by Sunset Magazine, which began in the Bay Area and conflated its concept of the region’s lifestyle into its larger vision of “Western living;” although the Bay Tradition fell out of favor by 1970, its influence remains widely visible.


“Dr. Bernard’s vision of a region as a regional artifact is a major contribution to architectural and cultural history, and his analysis of the Bay Tradition is the widest-ranging of that regional expression to date. A clear-eyed account of the rise and fall of a noble cause, this book is an important, highly original case study of the tremendous promise and problems of translating regional forms into mass reality and the difficulty of larger attempts – as essential they might be – to cultivate sense of place and regional identity in a globalizing, increasingly placeless world. The general hope that Lewis Mumford expressed sixty years ago for a humane architecture in touch with nature and the needs of a variety of people is still with us today, and books like Dr. Bernard’s provides groundwork for building this high ideal.” – Professor Michael Steiner, Department of American Studies, California State University - Fullerton

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 Creating the Bay Area: The Beginnings of Regional Consciousness, 1850-1920
2 Building Naturally: Architectural Practice in the Bay Area and the Beginnings of the Bay Tradition, 1876-1929
3 The Modern Pastoral: The Bay Tradition and Modernism, 1926-1945
4 Paradise Built: The Bay Tradition and the Bay Area, 1940-1970
5 Common Grounds: The Bay Tradition Compared to Other Modernisms

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