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  • The Architectural Detail: Maybeck and Aalto

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    The Architectural Detail: Maybeck and Aalto

    by Edward R. Ford

    The San Francisco-based magazine Architectural News ceased publication in 1891 after only three issues, so there is no way of knowing what the specific contents of a planned future issue, a translation of Gottfried Semper's Der Stil by Bernard Maybeck, might have been. There is no evidence that the translation was ever made, of what sections he would have chosen, or what Semper's influence on Maybeck's work might be.

    Maybeck's biographers have found possible links in the polychromy of his work and tent-like wood roofs over stone hearths, but how he interpreted Semper's ideas on cladding, whether metaphorical or real, is uncertain. Maybeck's first client and subsequently first biographer, Charles Keeler, described Maybeck's devotion to the no-finishes, bare-bones, unclad structural architecture. Keeler wrote in 1904:

    "If wood were to be used, then it should look like a wooden house. He abhorred shams. A wooden house should bring out all the character and virtue of wood — straight lines, wooden joinery, exposed rafters, and the wooden surface visible and left in its natural state."

    Much of Maybeck's work prior to 1904 confirms this. The Keeler House (1895) exposes every stick of its construction. The University of California Faculty Club at Berkeley (1902) is a bit more complex, showing only part of its structure.

    The Berkeley Hillside Club (1904) for the most part followed a no-finishes style, although it appears the lower columns were clad in thin redwood boards.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from The Architectural Detail by Edward R. Ford, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.

    ArchWeek Image

    A.C. Schweinfurth designed the simply detailed, shingle-clad First Unitarian Church (1898) in Berkeley, California. Image does not appear in book.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Small shingled buttresses punctuate the side wall of the First Unitarian Church. Image does not appear in book.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/ Artifice Images Extra Large Image


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