Claude Oakland and Balboa Highlands Eichler Homes
Architect Claude Oakland, while perhaps not as well-known as Jones and Emmons, left a legacy with his designs for Eichler housing alone, forging an alliance with Joseph Eichler that contributed significantly in realizing Eichler’s vision.
Oakland was born in Louisiana in 1919 and attended Tulane University, winning awards for design. Apparently quite impressed with Oakland’s work, Bruce Goff contacted Claude Oakland and invited him to come to California and work with him in his new practice. Though they worked together for less than a year, their collaboration resulted in the ground-breaking architectural design of the Leidig House in Hayward, California.
Oakland worked for Anshen and Allen in the decade prior to his joining Joseph Eichler. He made his association with Eichler during this time, refining the Eichler prototypes and simplifying them for economy and mass production. Oakland’s innovations resulted in fewer building elements and reorganized the structure of the beams to allow them to flow in one direction, a stroke of genius which led to the unique design characteristic we appreciate in Eichlers today.
In 1950, he joined Eichler where he focused his expertise on the Sunnyvale development. He formed his own company in 1960, continuing to work as an independent architect for Eichler and receiving awards from Architectural Record. Oakland is responsible for designing the stunning Eichler gallery models as well as multi-family housing. Oakland was contracted by Eichler to work on multi-family housing in San Francisco and designed the Summit apartment building and Geneva Terrace townhouses.
In the 1970’s following Joseph Eichler’s passing, Oakland’s company continued to design single and multi-family residential architecture, including the San Francisco Housing Authority. He was honored with a fellowship from the American Institute of Architects in 1979. Oakland is remembered not only for his tremendous talents but for his warmth, personable nature and intense ideals. He passed away in 1989 from lung cancer.