AR­CHI­TEC­TURE & GAR­DENS

Cal­i­for­ni­ans have al­ways built in tune with their en­vi­ron­ment

2017 Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY DAVID ARM­STRONG

Har­mo­nious by De­sign

MIS­SION SAN CAR­LOS BORROMÉO DEL RÍO CARMELO

Also known as Carmel Mis­sion, this his­toric church, above, was the sec­ond mis­sion built in Cal­i­for­nia, first es­tab­lished in Mon­terey in 1770 and moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion in Carmel-by-the-sea in 1771. It was the head­quar­ters of the Cal­i­for­nia mis­sions and home of Saint Junípero Serra un­til his death in 1784. His re­mains are buried here. It is one of the most au­then­ti­cally re­stored churches of all of the Cal­i­for­nia mis­sions, a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark, and on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. To­day it serves as par­ish church, mu­seum and com­mu­nity cen­ter. Ar­chi­tec­ture in Cal­i­for­nia and the lush pub­lic gar­dens that add grace notes to the Golden State be­gan to take shape in the late 18th cen­tury, when the Span­ish ad­vanced north from Mex­ico City to the rus­tic, re­mote prov­ince of Alta Cal­i­for­nia.

The Cal­i­for­nia mis­sions, 21 Ro­man Catholic churches built from 1769 to 1823, set the tone. The adobe-walled, orange-tileroofed churches erected by the Fran­cis­can fri­ars even­tu­ally formed the heart of ma­jor ci­ties such as San Diego, Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco. The mis­sions’ gar­dens were strictly util­i­tar­ian, in­tended to pro­duce food. Eye-pleas­ing gar­den de­sign blos­somed later.

Mis­sions to Vic­to­ri­ans

The mis­sions in­flu­enced Cal­i­for­nia ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign for years to come. The abun­dant open spa­ces, arches, tile-roofed build­ings and breezy ar­cades of Stan­ford Univer­sity’s main quad are lega­cies of the colo­nial era (stan­ford.edu). The or­nately and eclec­ti­cally elab­o­rated Casa de Bal­boa, in San Diego’s Bal­boa Park, in­cor­po­rates el­e­ments of the Mis­sion Re­vival style (bal­boa­park.org).

The 1927 San Gabriel Mis­sion Play­house is a di­rect ar­chi­tec­tural de­scen­dant of the mis­sions (mis­sion­play­house.org).

Long, deep, nar­row, high-ceilinged wooden row houses pop­u­lated boom­towns like San Fran­cisco. The Vic­to­ri­ans were built from the 1860s to the 1910s. In the 1970s, the mod­est houses were re­born as gen­tri­fied, vi­brantly hued Painted Ladies. Sur­viv­ing Cal­i­for­nia Vic­to­ri­ans are es­pe­cially nu­mer­ous in San Fran­cisco, clus­tered on Alamo Square and in the Haight-ash­bury, Western Ad­di­tion and Mis­sion dis­tricts. Ur­ban eye candy, they are fea­tured on City Guides San Fran­cisco Walk­ing Tours (sfc­i­tyguides.org).

Arts & Crafts to Com­puter Con­tem­po­rary

Amer­i­can Arts and Crafts be­came closely as­so­ci­ated with Cal­i­for­nia at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. The use of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as warm, bur­nished wood pan­els and beams, glass and stone re­flected Cal­i­for­ni­ans’ deep feel­ing for na­ture. Such build­ings, ex­em­pli­fied by the 1908 Gam­ble House in Pasadena, seemed to grow or­gan­i­cally out of the earth. The cedar brown shin­gle wooden homes of Berke­ley, fea­tured on Berke­ley Ar­chi­tec­ture Her­itage As­so­ci­a­tion walk­ing tours, are pleas­ing ex­am­ples (berke­ley­her­itage.com).

The stream­lined power of early 20th cen­tury tech­nol­ogy found mes­mer­iz­ing form in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. Per­haps the no­blest ex­am­ple of func­tional Art Deco in North Amer­ica is the 1937 Golden Gate Bridge. With its taut sus­pen­sion ca­bles, thrust­ing tow­ers and trade­mark In­ter­na­tional Orange color, the Golden Gate Bridge dra­ma­tizes the en­ergy, am­bi­tion and power of Art Deco (gold­en­gate­bridge.org).

The next break­through for ar­chi­tec­ture came around the turn of the new mil­len­nium with what could be called Com­puter Con­tem­po­rary style. Here, too, the Golden State shines.

Frank Gehry’s bril­liantly re­al­ized 2003 Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall in Los An­ge­les, with its swooping roofs and shin­ing metal­lic skin, is a fan­ta­sia that couldn’t have been re­al­ized with­out so­phis­ti­cated com­put­ers or built with­out modern al­loys (laphil.com). The rip­pled gray-white sur­face and hor­i­zon­tal win­dows in the 2016 tower of the greatly ex­panded San Fran­cisco Mu­seum of Modern Art are of a piece with the con­tem­po­rary, cut­ting-edge art­work in­side (sfmoma.org).

Gar­dens North & South

Ma­jor for­mal pub­lic gar­dens blos­somed in Cal­i­for­nia in the early 20th cen­tury.

The splen­dor of Hakone Gar­dens, opened in Saratoga in 1915, showed the way. Hailed as the old­est Ja­panese and Asian es­tate gar­dens in the Amer­i­cas and spread­ing over 18 hilly acres, serene Hakone Gar­dens is known for koi ponds, wa­ter­falls and strolling and med­i­ta­tive walks (hakone.com).

In 1925, Casa del Her­rero (House of the Black­smith) opened in a dec­o­ra­tive Span­ish Colo­nial Re­vival man­sion, a style still hugely pop­u­lar in host city Santa Bar­bara. The es­tate is cel­e­brated for its Moor­ish gar­den with its wa­ter foun­tain and hedged out­doors “rooms” (casadel­her­rero.com).

Both Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco host distin­guished pub­lic botan­i­cal gar­dens. San Fran­cisco de­buted the Stry­bing Ar­bore­tum in 1940 on 55 acres in Golden Gate Park. Now called San Fran­cisco Botan­i­cal Gar­den, it is renowned for its rhodo­den­dron dell, mag­no­lia col­lec­tion, red­wood grove and na­tive Cal­i­for­nia plants (sf­b­otan­i­cal­gar­den.org). The Los An­ge­les County Ar­bore­tum and Botanic Gar­den was opened in 1956 in aptly named Ar­ca­dia, with a lovely wa­ter­fall, Queen Anne cot­tage and gar­den of peren­ni­als (ar­bore­tum.org).

The Men­do­cino Coast Botan­i­cal Gar­den, opened in 1961, shows off an in­spired pro­fu­sion of blooms on wind­ing High­way 1 at Fort Bragg. More ma­jor pub­lic gar­dens fol­lowed (gar­den­bythe­sea.org).

Among them: 654-acre Filoli, nes­tled in the hills of Wood­side south of San Fran­cisco. De­but­ing in 1975, Filoli is known for quiet paths and ponds, a charm­ing rose gar­den, 250-year-old live oak trees and 16th­cen­tury-style English Re­nais­sance Gar­den (filoli.org). In 1993, the former es­tate of Pol­ish opera singer Ganna Wal­ska pre­miered near Santa Bar­bara as Lo­tus­land, fea­tur­ing fruit or­chards, a suc­cu­lent gar­den and a but­ter­fly gar­den (lo­tus­land.org).

WALT DIS­NEY CON­CERT HALL in Los An­ge­les, right; Hakone Gar­dens, a tra­di­tional Ja­panese gar­den in Saratoga, be­low; Vic­to­rian houses on Steiner Street across from Alamo Square, op­po­site bot­tom.

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