By September 28, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Interview – Bob Barzan

InterView – Bob Barzan 
Thanks to Bob’s inspiration we are bringing back an old favorite ModestoView feature called “Can You Find It!  We want our readers to explore Modesto and see and experience thingsthat most don’t see.  We want you to be Modesto experts.  So look for this architectural feature each month and see if you can find it and tell is where it is.   The first person each month to find and identify it will win at $25 gift certificate to Fuzio and 2 movie passes from Brenden Theares.  So, start looking, and can you find it???Bob was born in Canada, moved to San Francisco as a child with his family. He moved to Modesto in 1963, graduated from Grace Davis High, MJC, and Cal State Stanislaus. Bob retired from the state University system in 2003 serving primarily as a career counselor at SFSU, moving back to Modesto in late 2000. Bob founded the Modesto Art Museum with a wonderful group of local citizens and served for three years on the Modesto Public Art Committee
What was the biggest loss in the renovations in the 60s and 70s?Is there a period or style that you find the most interesting?
It is the only art form that we can regularly go inside of, be totally surrounded by, and it is the one that is most often unappreciated. Kind of like a fish in water not noticing the water.



By Chris Murphy


There is more to Modesto than meets the eye.  Every city in the world is more fascinating the closer you look.  When you walk around, do your eyes look for small details, the railings, the borders, the corners, the trim, the shape, the landscape design? If you don’t it is time to start. Take your camera some day and just go on a Modesto tour and look a interesting buildings and some of the impressive and famous architecture here in town.   It is fun and you can make a lot of pit stops doing it and make it an expedition.   This month, we take this expedition to a whole new level with the Modesto Architecture Festival happening Sept 13-18.  We introduce you to Bob Barzan, one of the founders of the festival, one of only 6 Architecture festivals in the world. Very cool. 


New Feature!




Bob Barzan


Keeping an eye out for the small and amazing details in Modesto




For the most part, wherever you see a parking lot downtown, there was probably a wonderful building that did not need to be torn down. The loss of the hotel Hughson and Covell, as well as the Strand and Burge’s are regrettable.




What is the biggest architectural secret in Modesto?


That Modesto has a long tradition of being on the cutting edge of architecture, It was a model for other cities and a laboratory for the development of a distinctive California style of architecture. Many of the best known architects of western US even with world reputations designed buildings and landscapes in Modesto.




What do you find the most fascinating about architecture?




Contemporary, what is happening now in architecture. Architects are pushing limits of sustainability, green design, artistic exteriors, concern for community building, and livable cities.




What would surprise the average Modestan about our local architecture?


There are lots of things about local architecture that would surprise Modestans, that many books, magazines and journal articles have been published about Modesto architecture, that the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured a home in Modesto on the cover of it important exhibit on modern architecture in 1944, that some of the most important architects and landscape architects of the mid 20th century designed projects in Modesto, many when they were at the peak of their careers, and that it was forward thinking Modestans that hired these men and even some women.




Many are also surprised to learn Modesto has one of about 6 architecture festivals in the world, with San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, and Barcelona. We recently had a contact from Santiago, Chile, from a group there that would like to start a festival. They would like to work with the Modesto festival. Last year we had speakers and presenters from France, Canada, Germany, and the states. It is truly an international event.




Do you feel that we understand the role of historic preservation?


Not at all, that is why we will address historic preservation at the architecture festival this year, at the Wednesday evening Architecture Cafe




What first attracted you to art and architecture?  


My parents.  My dad from Italy and my mom from Canada of Italian descent, instilled in us an appreciation for the arts from when we were small. It was assumed that this was valuable and important to a full life.




What are your most artistic skills?


Appreciating the art of others.




What is your favorite spot in Modesto?


Any one of the several cafes in downtown Modesto. They are great places to hang out and run into people.  Cafes have been part of urban life since the 1700s. I host the architecture cafe at Picasso, hang out after garage saling at Deva or Queen Bean, or meet with friends at Serrano.




My favorite building in the old World Saving building at 10th and I. it is a great mid century building. The light fixture is worth getting off the freeway to see. 




Why did you create the Modesto Art Museum? 


Because Modesto was the largest city in the country without a nonprofit art museum, no successful city has gotten to the place it is without art and an art museum. I think there is a correlation between the amount of art in a city and its overall livability and success as a good home for people. The Modesto Art Museum is not like other museums though.  We want to infuse the community with art, address community problems through the arts, bring art to the people. Our Meet Your Neighbor installation downtown is a great example of the kind of art we want to do in Modesto. We want to make art a natural part of life and at the same time shake people up with the visual arts.




How do you describe Modesto to people you meet when travelling?


One of the largest cities in the country, it’s the 101st largest, but with few amenities and an almost overwhelming number of urban problems, but lots of potential. I also mention that it has a great mid century modern architecture heritage worth exploring and I suspect manytreasures yet to be remembered.




What is your ideal evening in Modesto?


Having a bunch of friends or family over for dessert, an evening of conversation, would be one, but also meeting friendssomewhere for dessert and conversation.




Are there are there any architecturally notablebuildings that are at risk right now?


Oh yes, most notably the old post office building, who knows what will happen there.  Any empty building of note, like the World Savings building is in danger.




Why do you think Modesto became so architecturally significant?


Because there were people living here not afraid to embrace the future. Modesto’s architecture, until recently, was at least keeping with the times, Victorian in the 19th century, bungalows in the early 20th, art deco in the 30s and then on the cutting edge for the mid century period in a way not seen in many cities, especially such a small city. WhenModesto was getting national attention for its architecture, it had less than 25,000 people, and many of them were forward thinking and expressed it in the residential, landscape, government, and commercial projects.


 Schedule for the festival


THURSDAY, 15th: 
Keynote and Architecture Design Awards – The State Theatre 6-9pm

FRIDAY, 16th:
Architecture Cafe – Picasso’s Deli 8:30-10am
Architecture Film NIght – The State Theatre 6-9pm

Kid’s Model Workshop – McHenry Museum – 12:30-3pm
Architecture Graffiti – 10th and I Streets – 7-9pm

Details about these events along with information on architecture tours and exhibits can be found on website at:


Most important ModestoView question.


Beatles or stones ?


Beatles, but the stones are number 2



About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.