Berkeley's Got Great Bones

BY Trevor Chetlin August 15, 2018

Lace up! Berkeley is super walkable: leafy streets, diverse neighborhoods, trendy shops, and cafes. The more time you spend walking Berkeley, one aspect of the city stands out: it's all about the architecture!

Memories of John Galen Howard
The in-your-face grandeur of UC Berkeley is an obvious highlight of the city’s architectural landscape. The campus is filled with historic buildings in the Beaux-Arts architectural style; tall, arched windows and decorative stone facades adorn towering monuments to education like Doe Memorial Library, Wheeler Hall andCalifornia Hall. Many campus highlights date from the early 20th century, when architect John Galen Howard, the founder of the university’s renowned architecture program, was tasked with overseeing the campus master plan. Galen’s footprint can be seen in some Cal’s most famous landmarks, including the Hearst Greek Theatre and Sather Tower

Campanile, UC Berkeley

The touch of legends
UC Berkeley might be the crux of the city’s architecture, but wider Berkeley is no slouch. From Old City Hall to the Downtown Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley is an amalgamation of styles citywide. Not one to be boxed in, some of Berkeley’s most famous architectural wonders draw from a wide range of influences in themselves. Bernard Maybeck’s wholly unique and uniquely holy First Church of Christ, Scientist, widely considered the illustrious architect’s masterpiece, incorporates Roman, Byzantine, Gothic and Japanese elements.

Maybeck’s mentee Julia Morgan is a favorite daughter of the Bay Area for her contributions to the city’s landscape and her status as the first licensed woman architect in California. Morgan’s Berkeley City Club and St. John Presbyterian Church (now the Julia Morgan Theater) are staples of the city’s southern side that provide a sterling example of the range of Morgan’s styles and influences. Both now exist on the National Register of Historic Places.

Modern city


The past few years have seen Berkeley catapulted into the modern day. From a slew of new ecologically-friendly buildings like the LEED Platinum-certified David Brower Center to UC Berkeley's Chou Hall, to Downtown Berkeley’s new crown jewel, the one-of-a-kind Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), from the magnificent bay-view houses of the Berkeley Hills, to the beautifully recaptured industrial spaces of the Gilman District, Berkeley is a place where sweeping architectural masterpieces and subdued residences come together to form a whole that bursts with character.  BAMPFA fuses a historic UC Berkeley printing plant (the original United Nations Charter document was printed here) with a sleek modern metallic flange that houses the state-of-the-art Pacific Film Archive's theatre, complete with a Meyer Sound System and perfect pitch.  

 Ready to explore?
Sparked your interest? All of the buildings listed here and more are featured on Visit Berkeley’s curated microguide, available from Bravo Your City. The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) is another authoritative resource. BAHA’s “41 Berkeley Architectural Walking Tours” book is available for purchase at our Visitor Information Center.