Maybeck's Senger House
by Lucia Howard, David Weingarten and Daniel P. Gregory
Known in the San Francisco Bay Area with considerable affection as Brown Shingles, these redwood shingle–swathed buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries embody a signal period in the region's history.
Set with lush gardens, alongside and occasionally across brooks and streams, planned around and complementing the topography and landscape of their sites, made of natural materials, Brown Shingles gave architectural form to distinctively Bay Area social values in the realms of nature, art, and freedoms of all types.
These are precisely the same regional values that fueled a range of local movements over the course of a century, from the Sierra Club to the Summer of Love, and gave rise to diverse characters from John Muir to Allen Ginsberg.
In Berkeley, especially, where shingled houses, churches, and institutional buildings surround and infiltrate the great university campus, and hold their ground among a dense hodgepodge of later buildings, the Brown Shingles embody the legacy of the early naturalist intellectuals who during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries set out the relationship between this place and ways of living within it.
Living, working, learning, meeting, and praying in redwood-sheathed Brown Shingles, set in the midst of a dense, left coast Edenic landscape, was at once reality and metaphor—a modern, artistic life inhabiting the redwood trees of the ancient, primeval forest.
The Senger House
Set closely alongside its North Berkeley street, the Senger House, like other Brown Shingles, follows an unusual logic in siting. Rather than occupying the center of their sites, these houses often hug their property lines, leaving wide swaths for large, sunny gardens.
Stretched adjacent to the street, the Senger House transforms along its length from a simple Brown Shingle exterior to a half-timbered stucco building ornamented with stencils. As it rounds the corner, the far more ornate stucco facade morphs into an elaborate Maybeckian arrangement of extended, broken eaves and decorative crossed beams inset with carved ornamental devices.
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Bernard Maybeck's Senger House, in Berkeley, California, is at once Teutonic and mysterious, straightforward and symbolic. Matching gables, one clad in unfinished redwood shingles, one elaborately rendered in half-timbered stucco, flank the entry.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston
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Even when just complete, the Senger House provided the impression of a medieval structure, built and modified over centuries.
Photo: Courtesy University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design
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