Donald Olsen:
Architect of Habitable Abstraction

Pierluigi Serraino,
introduction by John Winter

The purist houses of Donald Olsen stand out as remarkably durable achievements among the post-war architectural heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area. Inspired by the curriculum that Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer brought from Germany’s Bauhaus to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Olsen’s designs were deeply rooted in the Modern Movement in 20th century Europe, and the architect remained committed to this aesthetic all his life. Olsen’s allegiance to these ideals drove his personal and professional itinerary, and sustained him as both an architect and an educator at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. Richly illustrated with drawings, plans, and photographs, this book fully documents these little known examples of high modernism in Northern California.

Pierluigi Serraino is an architect, author, and educator. He holds multiple professional and research degrees in architecture from Italy and the United States. Prior to opening his independent design practice, Serrraino worked at Mark Mack architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Anshen + Allen on a variety of residential and institutional projects in the United States and overseas. His work and writings have been published in professional and scholarly journals, among them Architectural Record, Architecture California, Journal of Architectural Education, and Architectural Design (UK). He has authored several books, including Modernism Rediscovered (Taschen, 2000) and NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism (Chronicle Books, 2006) and written and lectured on the subjects of mid-century modern architecture, architectural photography, and digital design at Columbia University, Princeton University, Seattle Art Museum, and LACMA and numerous other institutions.

pub. date Winter 2012

978-0-9819667-6-2