Bernard Maybeck drew the original designs for the town of Brookings. The following excerpts provide background.
From "Bernard Maybeck, Artisan, Architect, Artist" by Kenneth Cardwell:
"Maybeck's houses have long attracted attention and they make a strong contribution to American domestic architecture. But his ideas on site development and town planning, though little known, are also of interest to review for they are sometimes as unconventional as his approach to housing. Maybeck hoped to initiate general plans and architectural forms with a flexibility sufficient to make adaptation and change possible. He realized the difficulty of assessing needs in long range planning, and he expected that plans and buildings would be modified as the unforeseen factors appeared. However [he believed] the landscape was less mutable. He felt that it should not be changed, but only enhanced by the forms which man added."
" Maybeck's activities with the Hillside Club were effective in the development of the north [Berkeley] campus community. Other members of the club were also strong spokesman for neighborhood planning, but Maybeck gave practical demonstrations through his buildings. In addition, the small pamphlet given to prospective residents of the area, which was reprinted in the 1906-07 Club Bulletin, appears to have been prepared by Maybeck..."
Bernard Maybeck, sketch of a hillside house and road. Document Collection C.E.D. UC Berkeley.
"The message of the pamphlet was simple... It recommended contour planning of roads and lot subdivisions, coordinated planting of trees and street embankments, and houses shaped and pigmented to blend with the natural landscape. Maybeck's drawings of an ideal neighborhood. show watercourses turned into public parks; streets ascend the hills with gentle curves and gradients, forming observation terraces at their switchbacks; houses, paralleling the contours of the land and varying in setback lines, are surrounded by informal gardens. In the manner prescribed by the Hillside Club Bulletin, Maybeck designed Rose walk as a public thoroughfare in a 1912 development... Rose Walk connects a portion of the hillside area with a street which is serviced with public transportation; private walks to residences blend with the public way, 'in an immense garden with nothing to show that it is not all owned by each.'"
A sketch by Maybeck of a hillside house with passage linking front and back gardens. Document Collection C.E.D. UC Berkeley.
"Maybeck gained practical experience in town planning in 1913, although circumstances conspired to leave almost all his designs on paper. J. L. Brookings, who had acquired a timber company in the southern coastal region of Oregon, approached Maybeck with a proposal to construct some housing and community buildings for his mill workers. However, Maybeck, true to his belief in comprehensive planning, countered with the idea that a town plan should be developed to prevent costly errors of erecting structures on ill-chosen sites. Brookings agreed and, prior to any construction, Maybeck prepared drawings for temporary buildings that would serve the community until a town plan was adopted. "
"The site of Brookings, named for its owner-developer, is a superb, scenic spot with a fine harbor at the mouth of the Chetco River. A number of wooded knolls are distributed on the broad coastal shelf that slopes up to the mountains where the principal logging operations took place. In 1913 its deep water facilities and a promise of the Northwestern Pacific Railway to extend its tracks northward from Eureka, presented ideal conditions for the growth of a healthy town."
"Maybeck's plan for Brookings took advantage of the uneven contours of the land by using irregular parcels for public buildings or small parks ... The central spine of the residential community covered a mesa which connected the most distinctive knoll to the foothills. Individual lots were laid out in blocks curved to fit the contours. Pedestrian paths within the blocks led to schools, churches, and the town center. A commercial district around the base of the knoll formed a buffer between the residential area and the industrial sites adjoining the railway right-of-way at the western edge of town."
"Maybeck prepared drawings of neighborhood housing-one and two-family cottages grouped around garden courts. Some units were developed as bachelor houses with five or six living-bedrooms combined with common dining and kitchen areas. None of the grouped arrangements was built, but some of the existing single-family houses located on the streets of the original town are patterned after Maybeck's designs. His house plans were modest, providing bedrooms, a living room, and a large kitchen for family use. No allusions to classic details or Gothic ornaments embellished the designs his approach called for common carpentry using the products of the Brookings mill but Maybeck provided sketches of varied fencing which the owners might build in order to add an individual note to their homes."
"Of all the community facilities that Maybeck planned for Brookings, only the hotel exists today. The building, with additions and alterations through the years, has an unpretentious character. It is a structure of few distinguishing features, more properly described as a dormitory for mill hands than a hostelry of elegance. Maybeck's notes to the contractor reveal that he viewed the hotel as a temporary building. He expected that it might be moved to a new site and put to a different use." [This building was remodeled in this last year. It is now a care facility] "Maybeck's drawings of the town's school called for a wooden framed assembly hall with two wings of clerestory lighted classrooms enclosing an open court a variant from his Randolph School.
"All of Maybeck's provisional designs and long-range planing were to no avail, for the inexperience of J.L. Brookings in timber operations, augmented by mismanagement of funds by a trusted assistant, led to Brookings troubles, the railroad decided not to extend its tracks northward, and in a few years the state highway, which Maybeck had planned to skirt the edge of the town, was constructed through its commercial center, destroying forever the very heart of his ideal company town."
We hope to realize some of Maybeck's unrealized ideas for Brookings in our design for the Harbor Hills. We also are tempted
Bernard Maybeck, Brookings Hall
Document Coll. C.E.D. Our reproduction
Sally B. Woodbridge, in her "Bernard Maybeck, Visionary Architect" offers further insight into Maybeck's Brookings work:
"In 1951 the American Institute of Architects awarded Maybeck the Gold Medal of Honor, citing him as a pioneer who had the 'hunger of an artist after beauty.' By this time he was eighty nine and so feeble that he could not attend the award ceremonies in Chicago. Instead, he taped his speech and sent Wallen [his son} in his place. It may have been in connection with this award that Maybeck compiled his undated "Autobiographical Notes," which provide a personal assessment of the benchmarks of his career. Not surprisingly, he cited Hearst Hall and the Palace of Fine Arts. But he did not mention many other of his well-known buildings-- such as the First Church of Christ, Scientist-- or his work for Earl C Anthony, or any of the houses discussed in these pages. He did state that he was founder of the Architecture Department of the University of California, and that he prepared the General plan for Mills College and for the new company town of Brookings, Oregon, for the Brookings Lumber Company. (Neither of these two general plans was ever fully implemented.) He noted his work for Principa College and stated that he was the advisory architect for the Temple Emanu-el in San Francisco and the San Francisco Memorial Opera House. Under awards he listed two silver medals from the Ecole de Beaux Arts, gold medals from the 1904 Saint Louis world's fair and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and a medal from the New York Architects' Society which he received for the Hearst competition. Perhaps this is only a partial list that he later amended, but the omission of buildings that have spread Maybeck's fame around the world is still puzzling."
"The list reveals that Maybeck regarded urban design, then called "the art of civic design," as the architect's major contribution. Since virtually none of his commissions for such work went beyond the planning stage-- Principa College is the sole exception-- we may wonder if his citation of planning projects was a way to gain a kind of reality for them that had been denied by circumstances. Not that many architects succeeded in the field of large-scale planning. Like Maybeck, Frank Lloyd Write wrote about and drew up ideal plans for cities and governmental complexes. In Wright's case only the Marin County Civic Center, started just before he died, was ever partially implemented. Even Daniel Burnham, who had more civic centers and city plans to his credit than anyone else of his generation, had to content himself for the most part with drawings on paper. His famous dictum 'Make no little plans; they have no power to stir men's minds' was grand but rather empty advice. Maybeck's training at the Ecole made a knowledge of planning on a grand scale the centerpiece of an architectural education. Given his pride in his training and his periodic involvement throughout his career in large-scale plans, his need to commemorate them is understandable."
"A comprehensive discussion of Maybeck's ideas about civic design and their relationship to the planning concepts of the times is too large a topic to be covered here. But it is worth noting that in both his planning and his building projects, Maybeck applied the principles he had learned in Jean-Louis Andre's atelier at the Ecole and always gave the natural landscape the highest priority. At Mills College [as at Brookings], for example, he began with the existing features of the site and planned the landscape and the infrastructure of roads and gateways around them..."
"Inspired by the life and work of architect Bernard Maybeck, the Maybeck Foundation was established in 1995 to broaden public awareness of the art of architecture. In promoting the Bay area's legacy of artistic and humane design, the Foundation seeks to forward this message-- that art is essential to life. To this end, architecture must be an inspired and inspiring art as it sustains our daily lives."
The foundation has just completed a $30,000,000 restoration of Maybeck's and San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.
Thanks to the courtesy of Waverly Lowell, director of the Documents Collection of the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley, and the efforts of Kelcy Shepherd, Archivist we were recently able to reproduce many of the original, never published, documents. We'll present many of them here. The collection is a resource of extraordinary value. It is also badly in need of funds. It does not receive public funding. If you can contribute, please follow the link above.
School for Brookings
Brookings Community Hall
Brookings Town Plan: the design's development
9th Church of Christ, Scientist. San Francisco
Maybeck on Hillside Building
Maybeck on Civic Design
The Palace of Fine Arts: Maybeck on Architecture
The Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco. Perhaps the first Maybeck building and an important seed of west-coast architecture, mission furniture and more. To understand Maybeck we suggest starting with understanding the space between and connecting this rustic church and the Palace of Fine Arts. Physically, that space is just Lyons Street. Artistically, culturally and emotionally it is much greater.
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original reproductions copyright 1998 Bill Buchanan