Architecture + the City Festival -- Uncovering Race, Place and Patterns of Urbanization | Mechanics' Institute

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Architecture + the City Festival -- Uncovering Race, Place and Patterns of Urbanization
A conversation between Hella Town author Mitchell Schwarzer and restoration architect Tom Lewis

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 - 6:00pm

Architecture + the City Festival -- Presented by Center for Architecture & Design in collaboration with AIA San Francisco and co-sponsored by Mechanics' Institute

Uncovering Race, Place and Patterns of Urbanization:

A conversation between Hella Town author Mitchell Schwarzer and restoration architect Tom Lewis

The conversation will explore what defines a place, its history and community through its landmarks, design and demographics. What successes and failures of the past can shape the future of SF and the Bay Area.

Mitchell Schwarzer is the author of Hella Town: Oakland's History of Development and Disruption. Often overshadowed by San Francisco, its larger and more glamorous twin, Oakland has a fascinating history of its own. From serving as a major transportation hub to forging a dynamic manufacturing sector, by the mid-twentieth century Oakland had become the urban center of the East Bay. Hella Town focuses on how political deals, economic schemes, and technological innovations fueled this emergence but also seeded the city’s postwar struggles.

Toward the turn of the millennium, as immigration from Latin America and East Asia increased, Oakland became one of the most diverse cities in the country. The city still grapples with the consequences of uneven class- and race-based development-amid-disruption. How do past decisions about where to locate highways or public transit, urban renewal districts or civic venues, parks or shopping centers, influence how Oaklanders live today? A history of Oakland’s buildings and landscapes, its booms and its busts, provides insight into its current conditions: an influx of new residents and businesses, skyrocketing housing costs, and a lingering chasm between the haves and have-nots.

Tom Lewis brings his expertise and experience with restoration of some of San Francisco's most notable historic landmarks that are icons of The City. These projects include the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco City Hall, War Memorial Veterans Building, Coit Tower (for which he won a design award), Roosevelt Middle School, the Sherman Clay Building, and the Grant Building. Their history and importance have shaped the identity of the San Francisco Bay Area.


Mitchell Schwarzer is Professor of Architectural and Urban History at the California College of the Arts, Oakland and San Francisco. In addition to Hella Town: Oakland’s History of Development and Disruption, his books include Architecture of the San Francisco Bay Area; Zoomscape: Architecture in Motion and Media; and German Architectural Theory and The Search for Modern Identity.

Tom Lewis is the founder and president of Tom Lewis Restoration and Consulting, Inc., specializing in high quality painting, masonry, waterproofing, and restoration services. His areas of expertise include restoration and preservation of all masonry, concrete, wood, metal, and other building materials that have commercial, civic, and historic value. He is a past board member of San Francisco Architectural Heritage and a member of the Lilienthal Society.


About the Festival September 10-30

The 18th annual Architecture + the City Festival is back and Mechanics' Institute is an official Festival Partner! Experience architecture and design through an array of exclusive building and home tours, authors’ series, lectures, panel discussions, and more!

You can experience a hybrid of in-person and virtual events including panel discussions ranging in topics from revitalizing urban infrastructure to pioneering handmade production processes, home tours including the residence of an architectural photographer, and walking tours led by native Bay Area architects. For more info, visit

General admission $15

AIA & Mechanics Institute members: $10

Students: $5

To register, use the link below and enter the Promo Code: ACFest21

Architecture + The City Festival: Uncovering Race, Place and Patterns of Urbanization



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Meet the Author(s)

Members of AIA & Mechanics' Institute $10 with Promo Code
General Admission $15
Students $5
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116

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