Events + Media

Donald Olsen: Architect of Habitable Abstractions

Donald Olsen: Architect of Habitable Abstractions
William Stout Publishers
September 2013

William Stout Publishers has released a new monograph on Bay Area architect Donald Olsen, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design. Written by Pierluigi Serraino with an introduction by John Winter, Donald Olsen: Architect of Habitable Abstractions is brimming with stunning photographs, drawings, elevations and more, documenting Olsen's remarkable achievements and contributions to California architecture.

The volume explores Olsen's distinctive style of modernism, inspired by California regionalism and the Modern Movement in 20th century Europe, and offers a close look at his designs of UC Berkeley's Wurster hall (with Joseph Esherick and Vernon DeMars), modernist landmark Kip House in Berkeley Hills, large-scale unbuilt corporate projects and more.

Olsen's works are primarily residential, and he designed with a steadfast emphasis on integrating his buildings into their natural settings. According to Serraino, Olsen's "architectural syntax" is characterized by "a rule-based approach to space-making, where planning, strict adherence to rectangular geometries, and openness to the outer landscape [which] deliver a tight, unified statement of unrivaled discipline." Olsen studied architecture at the University of Minnesota before studying at Harvard University under Walter Gropius. Prior to starting his own practice in association with Francis Violic and Herman Ruth, Olsen worked in the Bay Area for Anshen + Allen; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; John Lyon Reid; and Wurster, Bernandi and Emmons.