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Bertrand Goldberg (1913 - 1997)


Model for San Diego Theatre (ca. 1967-69) on a 'cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean'

Architect Bertrand Goldberg was born in Chicago and attended Harvard College before attending the Bauhaus between 1932-33. Following a short stint in Mies van der Rohe’s office, Goldberg worked for George and Fred Keck, Paul Schweiker, and Howard Fisher, in Chicago, prior to opening his own office in 1937.

During World War II, Goldberg worked for the government and developed portable medical labs and gun crates. After the war, he formed a partnership with Leland Atwood, which lasted through the early 1950’s, when he launched Bertrand Goldberg Associates.

Early in his career Goldberg focused on single family residences and industrial design work. Throughout the 1950′s, his design proposals covered a broad spectrum: union halls, art centers, office buildings, and residential developments. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the office of Bertrand Goldberg Associates grew significantly – including in-house engineering and computer software development. Design work focused on numerous large scale hospitals and other major institutional projects up until 1992.

Goldberg is known to have designed only one project connected to San Diego – the San Diego Theatre. Designed and presented (ca. 1967-69) as “…more than a theater-- but one with a community center where actors, audience, and students could congregate and exchange information and theatrical experience.”

Developed to fit the changing earth forms of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the project was to contain three theaters, theater workshops, a restaurant, a club and offices. He wanted the design to harmonize with the natural landscape, as stated by Goldberg, "the earth surface has been deeply eroded by water for many centuries, and the building shapes are intended to grow out of the terrain." Goldberg went on to describe the design as "a kind of organic living form. It moves around, following the land and functions."

He described the interior of the theater as "a great space bubble, with no one more than sixty feet away from the action, and seats at various levels either below, above or at stage level." A full size mock-up of the design was built inside the abandoned Piccadilly Theater in Chicago in order to test the site lines. The design for the theater was glowingly described in an article from the period as "one of the world's finest repertory theaters", but the project was unbuilt.

See more at Bertrand Goldberg Dot Org