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MID-CENTURY RETREAT IN BERKELEY’S WILDCAT CANYON, $3.5M

Author:Philip Ferrato


It’s not every day you come across a Mid-Century Modern property in excellent (and almost-original condition) set on nearly an acre of Japanese-inflected gardens. Built in 1956, this Berkeley compound’s redwood-and -glass main house and guest house are an ideal retreat from the world on the edge of the Wildcat Canyon Preserve and Tilden Park.

Impeccably maintained over the intervening decades, the compound was originally designed by architect Hans Schickele (1914-2001). Born in Germany, Schickele was a graduate of both the Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs in Nice, France andUC Berkeley’s School of Architecture (since 1959, it’s the UCB College of Environmental Design) with a practice in the Bay Area before returning to UC to oversee new campus development and physical planning.

The house Schickele built perfectly reflects its era, a time when UC Berkeley was on its post-WWII intellectual trajectory and the Bay Area would become a nexus of simple, contemporary homes by innovative young architects, whether custom-built or spec-built by developers like Joseph Eichler. It was also a time where architecture was political, when one’s progressive POV was reflected in one’s home: Modern architecture was often denounced as “foreign” and it didn’t help that many of its practitioners were German or Austrian emigres.  And close to the Bay Area, regrettably or not, there was a tremendous amount of timber available to build these houses, superb redwood the likes of which you just won’t see again unless you steal a tree or two from Muir Woods.

The property has been owned since 2015 by Louis J, Silcox, one of San Francisco’s top luxury real estate agents. Previously a longtime resident of Telegraph Hill, Silcox told us with regret that he’s not ready to retire (business really requires him to be in San Francisco) and that he’ll shed more than a few tears when he has to leave his idyllic gated retreat.

Below, the sheltered main entry leads to a foyer elevated over the living room with a spectacular view, and to get an idea of the craftsmanship involved here, look for the foyer’s invisibly set closet doors. Walls throughout the main living/entertaining spaces are clear, old growth redwood planks.

Pierluigi Serraino, one the leading authorities on Mid-Century modern architecture– especially in the Bay Area–  visited the property recently and cited it as “,,,a serene compound where architecture and landscape blend seamlessly in an integrated setting.”  For many years, the extensive gardens composed of specimen trees, rhododendrons, maples and dry creek bed had been maintained by famed gardener Yoshi Kuraishi.

Below, the fully independent, 1-bed, 1-bath (and totally legal) guest house is set on the downslope just below the main house. One of the most notable things about the property is Schickele’s skill at siting the structures and framing the long views, giving it a sense of both intimacy and openness.

More: Go to the listing for additional details and images, plus a video that really tells the story best. An opportunity to own an exceptional Mid-Century property, represented by its owner, Louis J. Silcox of Compass and Bebe McRrae of The Grubb Company.

636 Wildcat Canyon Road, Berkeley
4-bed, 3.5-baths, 0.95-acres
$3,450,000

Photo Credit: © Open Homes Photography for Compass


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