20 or so buildings in West Berkeley share an unusual trait: they were build with Crete-Glass, diamond-like patterns of block glass devised by the long-gone Berkeley Concrete Form Company. Photo: John King

By John King

Like many older cities, Berkeley has architectural facets that set it apart — not only the shingled landmarks of Julia Morgan but the diamond patterns of block glass in 20 or so workaday West Berkeley structures. They were formed using Crete-Glass, a system sold by long-gone Berkeley Concrete Form Co. with the promise that it would both “save time and labor” and provide “a most cheerful atmosphere for workers.” Many of these buildings now hold uses far different than when they began. But together, they remain an element of the local scenery as distinct as the commuter trains that rumble past Fourth Street.

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John King, the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic, took his regular Cityscape series to Berkeley in August. Reprinted by permission of the Chronicle: Click through for many more images of West Berkeley’s Crete-Glass buildings.

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