Birge Clark (1893-1989)
Palo Alto’s Architect
FGA founding partners, Catharine and Dan, were introduced to Birge Clark’s work soon after they arrived in Palo Alto from Chicago in the 1990s. Impressed by his legacy, they have studied his designs and practice over many years. They have renovated and restored many of his Palo Alto homes steeped in this knowledge of his work. Dan has produced a local guide to Clark’s many architectural works, distributed to civic and retail buildings around town. He also often gives public presentations about his work. Catharine and Dan have used Birge Clarks’ practice as an inspiration for the work they do and the practice that they lead.
Previous photograph of Birge Clark courtesy of Palo Alto Historical Association
Clark, widely considered Palo Alto’s preeminent architect, had a major impact on the architectural character of Palo Alto. From 1922 when he opened his office until 1976 when he retired, he and his office were responsible for more than 200 residential and commercial buildings in the Palo Alto-Stanford area.
Clark designed in many styles of architecture over his long career, including Spanish Colonial Revival (which he referred to as Early California), Monterey Colonial Revival, Tudor, Ranch, and Streamline Moderne. He listened carefully to his clients and prioritized his client’s budgets, program, and interests over his own interests in style. He worked locally supporting his clients who had the means to build large and elaborately, as well as those who didn’t. He treated his employees well, looked to partner rather than preside, and was proud and supportive of the firms that his birthed. While he may have been more focused on the service he provided than the solutions he produced, the design of his projects was never compromised. Several of Clark’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including five in the Ramona Street Architectural District.
You can download an FGA map of Birge Clark's designs here: BIRGE CLARK PROJECT MAPPING
You can learn more about the history of Birge Clark produced by FGA here: BIRGE CLARK HISTORY BROCHURE
photo credit: NoeHill.com