In the world of the modern, architect Barry A. Berkus was known for his innovative designs on mass-market housing. He began following suit to the architects and great idea men who came twenty, or even ten years before him in the vernacular of modern style and design in architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright, Paolo Soleri, John Lautner, Donald Wexler and William Krisel were some of the greats to inspire his life’s work. Berkus, as well as his predecessors, looked for the space, the light, the cantilevered details, the soaring roof lines and mouth opening entry ways that signified great modern design implemented in our daily architecture.
Berkus created the most alluring and beautiful of architectural designs of residential communities for all of us regular people to afford and enjoy. His designs were innovative, mostly contemporary to modern, spanning some of my favorite time periods for modern design — the 1960’s and 70’s. As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I was fortunate enough to live in one of his up-scale planned residential communities, Westlake Village in Southern California, which was in-land from Malibu Beach.
Berkus was a architect of bold modern visions creating a new and beautiful style for the production home market place of the 1970’s. There was a new generation at that time who wanted something much more then the war time housing tracks of the 1950’s. Barry Berkus delivered this concept with affordable architecture for the masses. He left a deep imprint on many people, like myself, who were lucky enough to live in his modern dreams of architecture that he created. It was this new contemporary architecture and excitement in the 1970’s that I experienced while growing up in the Berkus age of design, that influenced me and formed the designer that I am today.
In February, 2011 during Palm Springs Modernism Week, I had the pleasure of meeting Barry Berkus and photographing him during the 50th Year Celebration of Park Imperial South Homes, a Palm Springs modern home community that was one of Barry’s first architectural design projects. The residents of Park Imperial South Homes had a special home tour and cocktail reception in honor of the architect and his masterpiece Mid-Century Modern community which was built in 1961, the year that I was built, or rather born!
Spending time talking with Barry Berkus and his lovely wife Jo was such a great pleasure. Happiness showed on my face when I had this opportunity to share with him my appreciation of having lived in the magnificent community that he designed and express how much his architecture had influenced me. This truly wonderful, loving and kind man shared some real life stories behind his architecture. Seems like all architects have this keen sense of humor that transcends the average person’s conversation.
Barry Berkus was the founder and president of B3 Architecture and Berkus Design Studio before his death in December of 2012. At the time of his death, Barry Berkus was surrounded by all of his friends and family and some of his colleagues, the way he wanted it, and so he began another journey into another realm, the dreamer, the architect, and the man, who left us some very special architecture that will forever stand the test of time.
Mark G. Picascio
Photos by Mark G. Picascio