Olsen, Donald and Helen, House, Alameda County, California
Constructed in 1954, the Olsen House in Berkeley, California was designed in the International style by Donald Olsen, an important mid-20th-century Bay Area architect. Originally from Minnesota, Olsen studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard, and during World War II, designed buildings for the Kaiser shipyards in Oakland. In 1953, he opened his architecture practice in Berkeley. The Donald and Helen Olsen House is sited on a hillside slope in the North Berkeley hills on a winding street adjacent to the underdeveloped upper reaches of John Hinkel Park. Bounded by a creek to the north, the main floor of the house is raised over the ground level and was originally constructed to take advantage of views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge but today mature trees dominate this view. The house’s design is specifically the International style popularized in Europe by architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier. The Olsen House displays the geometries, ethos, strict formalism and rigor that embody this utopian style.
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