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RATCLIFF: 100 Years of Distinguished Architecture. Award-Winning Emeryville Architectural Firm to Celebrate Its Centennial - January 2006


RATCLIFF, the architectural firm that designed Mills College, Oakland Airport Terminal II, and dozens of Bay Area landmarks, celebrates its Centennial in 2006 with a series of public activities devoted to chronicling the firm’s distinguished history.


A recipient of the 2005 American Institute of Architects-California Council Firm of the Year award, the East Bay firm was founded by Walter H. Ratcliff, who began his practice in 1906. It has grown to an organization of 75 design professionals with healthcare, academic and civic clients throughout the Western United States. As one of the nation’s longest continually-operating architectural firms, RATCLIFF has evolved with the industry, from the days when architects inked their life-size sketches on long linen sheets to today’s thriving computerized practice illustrated by 3-D virtual image building models.


“We view the lasting influence our buildings have on their occupants as the strongest testament to our 100 years of practice,” said Christopher P. Ratcliff, AIA, LEED®, NCARB, the third-generation president of the RATCLIFF firm. “Our primary focus is on the people who live, work, heal, and learn in our buildings. We take pride in the enduring value our buildings provide the communities they serve.”


RATCLIFF Centennial events and activities include:


  • Mills College Art Museum Exhibit: January 18-March 11, 2006 – Free to the public, this architectural photography exhibit will feature the works of Imogen Cunningham and the campus buildings designed by Walter Ratcliff when he was campus architect for Mills College from 1923-1947, including the Art Museum and the Music Building. On Sunday, March 5, there will be a reception at the Art Museum followed by a Music Department performance at the Concert Hall.
  • Mills College Architectural Tour: March 3, 2006. Offered by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, this intimate tour will feature buildings designed by Walter Ratcliff and his contemporary, Julia Morgan. 
  • Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association Spring House Tour: May 7, 2006. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ratcliff architectural firm, the tour will feature the work of Walter H. Ratcliff. The organization’s extensively researched house tour guidebooks provide a permanent record not only of the featured houses, but of architecture in their neighborhoods.
  • Oakland Museum of California Exhibit: October 1, 2006-December 31, 2006. Free to the public, a retrospective of the firm’s 100 years of work will be exhibited at the Oakland Museum Café.
  • RATCLIFF: October 2006. Written by local historian Woodruff Minor with photographs by Kiran Singh and scheduled for publication by Heyday Books in the fall, this extensively researched book is a saga of the Bay Area’s oldest architectural firm and the communities and University whose histories are intertwined.


RATCLIFF was recognized by the AIACC with the Firm of the Year Award for an organizational culture rooted in a core set of values that began with Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., AIA, and have been carried on by his son, Robert, his grandson, Christopher, and the firm’s designers today. What began as a family enterprise has evolved into a dynamic group of architects who are driven by a sincere interest in helping others and are dedicated to improving the built environment through design excellence. RATCLIFF offers a broad range of architecture, interior design and planning services to healthcare, academic and civic clients, choosing these practice areas for the opportunities they provide to interact with people at critical junctures in their lives.