Best Rock House: Rockiest hard place

1055 Sierra St., Berkeley

Before civilization reared its rock-grinding head, the stony crags and outcroppings of North Berkeley could be seen from all the way across the bay. We’ve shorn most of those giants, but as local geographer and climber Jonathan Chester reveals in his coffee-table book Berkeley Rocks, architects and landscapers have incorporated the glaucophane schist and other hard stuff into one-of-a-kind homes that perch and crouch between outcroppings and sky — landmarks that are also testaments to what happens when human minds and hands work with nature instead of against it. At 1055 Sierra Street, a creamy stucco home sits atop a virtual fortress of heavily striated chert. Part of the ocean floor more than a hundred million years ago, it now rears up from the sidewalk, footed with dainty local flowers. Illustrating the ferocity of tectonic shifts, its varicolored striations, once layers of sedimentary sea life, now stand nearly vertical.

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