Palo Alto Eichler
Fairmeadow, Palo Alto - Eichler's Loopiest Neighborhood
Looking at an aerial photo or street map of Palo Alto, the eye is immediately drawn to a curious group of curvilinear streets in the south end of town. This is "Fairmeadow," one of two Eichler Homes neighborhoods built in the 1950's, and one of many in the area. But this is the only one with the funky, memorable street layout. This in itself probably makes it one of Eichler's most photographed works.
For those who aren't familiar with Eichler Homes, "Eichlers" (as they're known locally) are mod-style tract houses built in the 1950's and 60's by developer Joseph Eichler. Inspired by his tenancy in a local Frank Lloyd Wright house, Joseph Eichler set out on a mission of bringing high-design contemporary architecture to the masses.
On the ground the street layout loses its impact somewhat. It's not to say that it's imperceivable, but more that it turns out not to be as big a deal as one might have expected. The streets do indeed go round and round in a sort of dizzying and disorienting way, but if one hadn't seen the street map beforehand, it's unclear whether the concept would be apparent. This may be why the fad for concentric street layouts, seen elsewhere in the 50's in 60's in places like Sun City, Arizona, was short-lived. But no matter -- here, it gives an extra touch to what is already a distinctively surreal 1950's high-design suburban development model.