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New York

Le Gran Six: Curtis Street at West Grand Avenue, Oakland
by Andy Ritchie



Le Gran Six--Gran, of course, being French for Condo--would stand out in its neighborhood for simply being clean. Now pile on quantities of ornament usually reserved for welfare bankers. Now sticker them so the mildly rich can settle in West Oakland. What? And more importantly, How did THAT get here? Yeah, the ghost of Elias Kingston couldn't have said it better. Architect and project prognosticator, Jon Havrilesko, seems more verbose about his design philosophy ("strings") than his particular taste for the town's West.

Gran Six 2

So...I'd advise to just shut up and gawk. It's such an overabundance, a sating plate of clashing styles, it's either hideous or gorgeous. Of course, I'm an alchemist of the plaid and stripe, the new and old, the green-hat-with-an-orange-bill--you can guess which side I sidle on. The official Youtube video for Le Gran Six (posted by the property's agent) lays loud string-plucking over quiet Havrilesko's words--cryptic enough on their own to reinforce any mysterious origins. The video also romances, with extra cheese, the extreme and varied details produced by local artists.

Gran Six 3

The photos I found (mostly acquired via, if you can believe) accurately project a sense of the incredible care in exterior craft common in Havrilesko's projects. At ground level, the structural concrete is pressed with de Chirico-inspired graphics while bright-orange rusted ironwork seeps everywhere, often mimicking the grape vines up north. Correction: they're courting the mildly rich LUSH. Stone planters dot the sidewalk, and key-lime stucco (with a hunter-green second floor) sets off the more natural tones. I can see this is going to degenerate into a list: marble tiles, slate patios, etched windows, hand-made awnings and gates, etc. This, of course, only describes the superficial, not the design of the space, which seems equally punctuated with originality.

Gran Six 4

I've been watching this go up since I moved to Oakland, and it makes the West Grand Lofts across the way look like dreck (although, in their favor, they do accept Section 8). Call and set up an appointment for Le Gran Six; dress fancy and they might let you inside. Don't dress H.E.Pennypacker rich, though. $529k will make you the coolest/most hated person in the ghetto--well, except for that guy who got the top floor. This is a CA oddity along the lines of the Watts Towers--but unlike Watts, when you get firebombed here, you'll have double-paned windows to protect you.

-Andy Ritchie, artst and writer living in Oakland, CA

Posted by Andy Ritchie on 12/21/09

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yeah i live a few blocks from this house. . . . . does anyone live there yet? w oakland is a funny place.

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