Sand hoppers, Berkeley, 2002. Photo: David Wilson

By David Wilson

Berkeley Built is a new occasional series in which architect David Stark Wilson of WA Design takes a look at a notable Berkeley structure or building. He begins by considering an industrial structure not far from his practice in West Berkeley.

These sand hoppers are at the Monterey Sand Company plant on Second and Cedar streets in Berkeley. I included this image as the only urban structure to appear in my 2003 book, “Structures of Utility” (Heyday Books) and explained why:

I became captivated by the agricultural buildings that punctuate the landscape of the Central Valley. The vertical forms of grain elevators, like erratics deposited by a long-receded glacier, interrupt the valley’s level terrain… The elevators are equaled in eccentricity by oversized storage sheds housing lanky, intricately evolved agricultural machinery. In the foothills, long-abandoned mines reveal only their head frames, an extension of the mines’ subterranean architecture… Their origins were in simple utility, in adaptation to functional requirements, yet they had attained an elusive and austere elegance.

Industrial buildings are no longer common in West Berkeley. It’s even more rare to see a standalone iconic structure like this one. The corrugated steel roof and side walls appear to have been cut away from below to reveal the silos inside. The helmeted composition that results is a strange building typology — and it’s right in our back yard.

Sand hoppers 650 Second Street (at Cedar)
Date: Circa mid-1950s
Architect or Engineer: Unknown

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