Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - December 17, 2010

Celebrated architect Goodwin Steinberg, 89, dies

Steinberg left his mark on Palo Alto and Stanford architecture and was internationally known

Famed architect Goodwin Steinberg, who designed scores of buildings in the Palo Alto area and at Stanford University and founded an international architectural firm, died Tuesday at his Palo Alto residence following a period of declining health. He was 89.

His son, Rob, who joined Steinberg Architects as a principal, said his father's "creative talent combined with good timing helped transform the Valley of Hearts Delight into the economic engine known as Silicon Valley."

Steinberg and his wife, Geraldine, who served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s, resided at Vi at Palo Alto (formerly the Classic Residence by Hyatt), a senior community that Steinberg helped design. Steinberg was diagnosed with lung cancer eight months ago.

Memorial services are planned for 12:30 p.m. Friday (Dec. 17) at the Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Steinberg's interests went far beyond buildings. He was an advocate of regional planning and was dedicated to the concept that the hills surrounding Santa Clara Valley and above the Peninsula should be protected from urban sprawl. He also provided design advice for the winding Guadalupe River Park, which provides natural spaces in the heart of San Jose.

Steinberg was particularly noted locally for his initiative on Congregation Beth Am, where he functioned as much more than an architect in his efforts to build the temple and school.

He established Steinberg Architects in 1953, and during a 50-year career he designed thousands of buildings, including award-winning homes, corporate campuses and sacred space.

Among his other local or regional projects were restoration of the historic Santa Clara County Courthouse in downtown San Jose, The Tech Museum of Innovation and the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey.

He was a native of Chicago and the son of an architect, but he fell in love with the Bay Area in 1944 when he passed through the Golden Gate in 1944 as a corporal in the United States Air Force.

He returned eight years later with his bride, Geraldine, and embarked on a career that included a wide range of friendships, from Stanford faculty members to rich and famous persons in retail, high-tech and the hotel industry.

His education included studying under the acclaimed Bauhaus architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His post-graduate studies at the Palace of Fontainebleau under Princeton University Professor Jean Labatut created an intense sensitivity to scale, spatial flow and harmonies created with light and landscape.

Steinberg also was known for his dedication to his family of three children and grandchildren, which spilled into the community. When his young daughter asked if she could attend religious school with a Methodist neighbor, Steinberg set to work with a small group of Jewish community leaders in the mid-1950s to create a local Jewish religious school so his daughter could learn her own family's tradition.

He located a 10-acre property in Los Altos Hills and designed the distinctive Congregation Beth Am synagogue, which now serves about 1,600 families.

His son Robert designed the Beth Am expansion building based on design principles established by his father.

Today, Steinberg Architects is an international architectural firm with offices in Shanghai, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, Rob Steinberg said.

Steinberg is survived by his wife of 66 years, Geraldine; his children Robert (and Alice Erber) of Palo Alto; Thomas (and Shaindel) Steinberg of New York and Jerusalem; and Joan Laurence, of Tsfat, Israel; 11 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and sisters Sylvia (and Paul) Schneider and Darlene (and Larry) Gilford of Chicago.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the charitable foundations Steinberg's children established: the Meor Foundation, 2 Glenbrook Avenue, Monsey, NY 11952, and The New Seed Foundation, P.O. Box 61186, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

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