The latest additions to our American Classics/Rare Historical Plans Collection include copies of four mid-century modern Eichler home designs. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs spent part of his childhood in an Eichler-like house (it was not actually an Eichler). The new Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs: "Eichler did a great thing. His houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower income people." Isaacson writes that Jobs said his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market. Another quote from Jobs: "I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn't cost much...It was the original vision for Apple."
California developer Joseph Eichler brought modern architecture to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s when he hired contemporary architects like Anshen & Allen and Jones & Emmons to design his tract houses. At Anshen & Allen the principal designer for Eichler homes was Claude Oakland, who had studied architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans before working briefly for maverick architect Bruce Goff in Berkeley. In 1960 Eichler contracted directly with Oakland, allowing him to start his own firm where he worked with longtime colleague Kinji Imada. The latter received his masters in architecture from Harvard, where he studied with Walter Gropius. The firm became Oakland and Imada Architects in the 1970s. While most of their work was for Eichler, they also designed redevelopment housing and other projects. Oakland died in 1989; Imada in 2005.
The four Claude Oakland plans shown here were designed for two Bay Area developments – one in Mill Valley and one in the Oakland Hills – during the 1960s and include classic modern features like atriums and galleries. They’re all about casual indoor-outdoor living. A percentage of the price of each plan supports the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley, which preserves the original Oakland/Imada drawings and the records of other significant California architects and landscape architects.
For more about Eichler homes see the excellent Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream (Gibbs Smith, 2002) by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich with photography by Ernie Braun. Information about Eichler communities is available from Eichler Network (www.eichlernetwork.com) and the quarterly CA Modern.