Monday, July 25, 2011


Charlie Hallowell, the chef-owner of Pizzaiolo.
On Saturday, I met the architect Christopher Andrews at Pizziaolo, a cafe-restaurant in Oakland's Temescal district. I hadn't spent a lot of time there of late, but I worked nearby in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The area is now totally different - a very vibrant scene. 

Chris helped design the garden behind the Pizziaolo, including the chicken coop, which a few years after he built it is now hidden beneath the leaves.

Chris Andrews showing me his chicken coop.
Along with chickens, there's an apiary - a fancy word for beehive. The presence of chickens gives a bucolic flavor to the shared outdoor area behind Pizzaiolo.

Chickens at Pizzaiolo.
The apiary at Pizzaiolo.
Chris and I sat in the art-filled backroom, which wasn't as crowded as the main space. There's a small-town feel to the restaurant, which must reflect the owner. A look at their website puts a lot of emphasis on local ingredients. Hallowell came from Chez Panisse, so Pizzaiolo is in the Alice Waters tradition, but without the French overtones.

Art, bike, and man.

Cow's head painting, not sure by who.
Here are some scenes from the patio, which will give a sense of the ambiance. It reminded me of towns in Italy and Spain, not so much designed as produced by artisans whose aesthetic sense is applied directly, drawing on tradition and memory. Speaking of his chicken coop, Chris spoke of his delight in building it - something that architects don't often get to do.

Detail of the brick terrace, garden, and chicken coop.
Looking west from the terrace.
The bocce ball court.
Outdoor storage for the other restaurant.
The summer's film schedule.
Wood for the Pizzaiolo ovens.
On my way down Telegraph, Chris phoned me and gave me a helpful hint about Pizziaolo, which I'll pass along: you can park in the Walgreen's lot across the street. That was the deal that Oakland cut with the drug chain, and it will save you time and dimes (or dollars, to put it in 2011 terms) to park there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Helios update

Cal's new Helios Building, designed by SmithGroup.
I took BART this morning from downtown Berkeley. On my way, I took this photo of the Helios Building. It shows work on the north facade, using an interesting hybrid of a construction elevator and a window-washing platform to get the crews up in the air. Here's a closer view:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scenes from the FS Bus

The wetlands park near the Bay Bridge in Emeryville.
My car died last Friday. While waiting for it to be repaired, I started riding the FS bus, which stops at Shattuck and Vine, a mere four blocks from my house. It's a surprisingly fast ride that ends up at the temporary Transbay Terminal, two blocks from my office (in the 1925 George Kelham-designed Hills Brothers Coffee Building). The over-the-bridge route is interesting. I've always liked the wetlands park that borders the freeway in Emeryville. It's full of white herons. The mudflats to the north used to be an informal sculpture park, too, but that tradition has fallen away. 

The mast of the new east span of the Bay Bridge.
Another sight is the new east span of the Bay Bridge. The mast of this single-tower suspension bridge is fast rising, and details of its construction are now visible. The east span itself is taking form, although for some reason it still has a gap in it. 

The gap in the Bay Bridge's new east span.
As the photo above shows, the span has two separate lanes. (I took it from the lower deck of the existing east span.) I wondered how they will connect to the two-level tunnel through Yerba Buena Island: more elegantly, presumably, than the current S-curve that gets the existing roadway out of the way of the new construction.

San Francisco viewed from the FS bus.
My friend and neighbor Katherine Rinne noted on Facebook that part of the appeal of the FS is the skyline view as you approach the city. I agree. (She's an independent scholar and the author of The Waters of Rome, a prize-winning monograph published by Yale.)

I usually park at the North Berkeley BART Station and take the train into the city. It's easier to read on the train, but there's something to be said for the FS. I may start varying the rhythm of my commute, at least during the summer. The bus is quieter than BART, too. As the BART cars age, they've gotten really noisy, especially in the bay tunnel.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Earthquake preparedness

My neighbors Ness and Arash Farahmand at the neighborhood get-together.
The terrible events in eastern Japan in March prompted my neighborhood to get more serious about the likelihood of an earthquake closer to home. On 12 June, people gathered in one of our backyards for a party hosted by Debra Barnes and Kathleen Dolan. There was a mercifully short rundown of our to-do list, the immediate aim of which is to secure a city-donated cache of tools and supplies. All of us in 94708 live in the shadow of the Hayward fault, which runs north-south along Euclid Avenue. There hasn't been a major earthquake on the fault since the 1860s, which means we're overdue. A sharp tremor a while back gave me a sense of how this might go: it was as if a giant were shaking the house. A couple minutes of that would definitely make a mess! That experience prompted us to rebuild our foundation. We joke about laying in some gin against the possibility of "a big one," but in reality, it's worth taking seriously. The rule of thumb is three days' worth of supplies, but I would bet it will be a week or two, in reality. I don't think the powers that be are very well prepared, either.

Helios goes up

The new Helios building, viewed from the north.
The Helios building, replacing the demolished State Health Lab building, is topping out. The colorful facade is temporary, if the rendering on the University's sign is to be believed. In reality, it will look a lot like the Warren Hall replacement by the same architect, SmithGroup. The scale of it isn't too bad - it forms street walls along Oxford and Hearst and is relatively compact in relation to the site. The height seems reasonable from the north. I assume the intent is to redevelop the entire site over time, but I haven't seen the plan, if any, for that eventuality. The design is less interesting than SmithGroup's Sutardja Dal Hall to the east. This is pretty standard university lab fare, as is Warren.