176 Palo Alto Avenue

Craig Ackerman Presents 176 Palo Alto Avenue, A Mid-Century Masterpiece Overlooking San Francisco Bay Sold for $1,925,000

  • Maintained in excellent original condition
  • Suitable for registration as a house of historic significance with the California Office of Historic Preservation
  • 3 bedroom/2 bathroom
  • Custom office suite featuring original built-in desks and cabinets
  • Extensive unfinished redwood architectural features
  •  28-ft open beam, barrel vaulted ceilings
  • Bay and city views from the Golden Gate to Bay Bridge
  • Adjacent to open space at the top of Twin Peaks
This unique, hand crafted home, located atop Twin Peaks in San Francisco, CA, was commissioned by Dr. Cloyce Duncan in 1959 and designed by acclaimed Bay Area architect Warren Callister. The house sits on the largest lot in the Twin Peaks community and boasts unobstructed views of the San Francisco Bay and city skyline.
Duncan House is sterling example of some of Callister’s best work, weaving together Northern California Modernism and historic Japanese architecture with an Arts and Crafts influence. In finishes throughout the house, Callister borrowed heavily from the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the three marks of existence. At Duncan House, trios of wood and glass are used to create rhythm and visual texture while groundling the occupants among soaring 28-foot ceilings.
Callister’s eclectic approach to architecture drew heavily from the artifacts of the landscape in which he worked. At Duncan House, with its tremendous views of the city and Bay, cable cars and ferry boats were the muse behind the centerpiece of the house: an immense, arched roof of unfinished redwood that took nearly two years to complete.
Built on a hillside, the position and form of the house integrate with the demands of the site. Contrasting horizontal and vertical spaces tie seamlessly through carrying ceiling heights, culminating in dramatic, light-filled spaces. This architectural device has a profound effect on the spatial experience and is designed to evoke appreciation, awe and inspiration.
A stairwell leads to the main entry below sidewalk-level, placed strategically to capture the dramatic view when the door is opened. From the foyer, a barrel-vaulted skylight adds lightness to the extensive overlay of wood trim. In the main living area, a cast concrete fireplace adds boldness and balance to the exaggerated vertical lines of two-story windows framing views of San Francisco.
Callister considered the changing spatial proportions of Duncan House to evoke two moods – ‘party’ and ‘temple’. Architecture, he said, “is not building a shelter, but a mood, a feeling, a sense.”
Forgotten Modern, California Houses 1940-1970, Alan Hess and Alan Weinstaub (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2007)
Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave Weinstein (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2006)
NorcalMod, Icons of Northern California Modernism, Pierluigi Serraino, (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2006)
Warren Callister
A celebrated career spanning 60 years

Warren Callister settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1946, making a name for himself as an early pioneer in the modern Bay Region Style of architecture. His project, with partner Jack Hillmer, (Hall House in Kentfield, CA) gained him national recognition in both the professional and popular press as one of the first and finest examples of free-form experiential geometric design.
In 1950, Callister established and independent practice in Tiburon, CA designing custom homes, churches, and planned communities. Callister won numerous awards throughout his career, including the prestigious San Francisco Art Commission Award of Honor 1983.
Callister was an admirer of the purity and simplicity of the Japanese approach to design and shared a passion for contemporary architecture. In 1950 he wrote, “My concern is not with recreating the old, but rather with creating our own unique eclecticism.”
Climate, geography and lifestyle all contributed to the development of each of Callister’s projects, using a technique he described as “listening” for the architecture to manifest itself.
An iconoclast, Warren Callister has an architectural expression of modernism all his own. An admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, Bernard Maybeck and the Greene brothers, Callister drew beauty from organic materials creating an easy blend of modernism and traditional form. Like many of his contemporaries, he was inspired by the possibility of modern materials and ideas.
Callister used his imagination as a framework for originality, breathing new life into a fundamental aspect of California architecture: the freedom to express his unapologetic individualism and the talent to turn that freedom into well-crafted design.
The Architects Newspaper, Richard Ehrenberger and Charles Sholten, 4/30/08
Forgotten Modern, California Houses 1940-1970, Alan Hess and Alan Weinstaub (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2007)
Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave Weinstein (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2006)
Northern California Modernism
Architecture as art

Northern California Modernism was an expression of a California social movement to break from the conservatism of traditional American values. Captured by Nancy Reynolds, a late 50’s and early 60’s political activist from San Francisco and author of the song “little boxes made of ticky-tacky”, performed and popularized by Pete Seeger, the movement reflected Northern California’s individualistic expression of Modernity.
Northern California Modernism embodies the use of natural materials and borrows from regional styles to create an eclectic arrangement of contemporary and traditional. The Modernist principal of incorporating nature into living environments is echoed in East Asian tenants such as Zen Buddhism, which encourages individuals to learn to live life through the senses.
California’s location on the edge of Pacific inspired some modern architects, like Warren Callister, to incorporate Japanese themes throughout their designs.
In an interview with author and journalist Dave Weinstein in 2004, Callister said, “the Japanese current that foes past us out here is really an influence,” noting that in both places, the climate fostered an architectural tradition based on the availability of wood.
Relevant today, Modernism is an aesthetic position that raises architecture to the level of art, worthy of reverence as a canvas of its own. Modernism moves the home beyond a practical appliance or repository for material possessions, to an expression of individuality: the body that holds the heart.
Toward a simpler way of life: the arts and crafts architects of California, Robert Winter (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1997)
Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave Weinstein (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2006)


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Contact Craig Ackerman

Craig Ackerman
Broker AssociateAckerman Realty GroupcalDRE# 01466633415.989.8884 officewww.ackermanrealty.com