In the Normandy Village, even the back door to the fire escape and laundry room is weird and wonderfully overdesigned.
In comparison with the pathways between buildings in Northern New York (mostly shielded against the elements), I’m a bit disoriented by the semi-exposed stairwells and walkways of California. The mixture of features I associate with being inside (like the door with full glass window) and those I associate with being outside (like the tubular steel guard rails) makes for a juxtaposition.
Capturing pictures of the everyday and mundane details of living in a place as odd as Berkeley’s Normandy Village means that I can look back to the little details. This maroon fire escape served as the back door to our apartment, but also easy access to the shared laundry room—and thus a route I frequently traversed, trying to find a time when the machines were free.
The Downtown Berkeley BART stop was about to be closed for renovation when I last visited Berkeley. Have those changes been brought to fruition? Does that mean the end of the weathered bright entrances and weirdly sharp stairs? I know a quick search could answer these questions, but for just a moment I’m embracing the mystery.
That the hills of San Francisco are so steep that sidewalks become stairs is fantastic. (In literal sense of being fantastical.) Traversing the city feels less like plotting out positions on a grid than navigating a mountain labyrinth. Climbing Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower in the light of the setting sun only serves to amplify the sense of strange magic that San Francisco offers.
Today is a rare double-post, featuring my favorite structure on Berkeley’s campus: the Hearst Memorial Mining Building. This beaux-arts-style hall was finished in the early 20th century, and I find it particularly notable for two reasons (beyond just being aesthetically pleasing):
1. The interior atrium reminds me of the Bradbury building, and I get a fantastic cyberpunky (see Blade Runner)/steampunky (see Steamboy) tingle every time I step through the doors.
2. The building was updated in a seismic retrofit from 1998-2003, yet is still just as gorgeous as ever. This is a case of a putting a lot of effort into saving a building that is worth saving, and doing it in a way that doesn’t obliterate the elements of the building that were so appealing to begin with.
Just pass those enormous, varnished wood doors is this stunning atrium. Today, I’m showing only a small part of it. Come Friday, I’ll offer a wider view of the space.