Newsletter | Nov/Dec 2014

Missing 32% Symposium, San Francisco Art Institute, October 2014. photo: Jen Tai

Remembering Teresa Sevilla

by Mui Ho

Teresa in Napa, 2012. photo: Mui Ho

Teresa Sevilla was born in Lima, Peru on February 7, 1939. The first daughter of an entrepreneurial woman, Irene vda. de Cruz, Teresa grew up with the tranquility of being raised in a small city where people have time to think, listen to music, feel nature and give love. All these factors influenced Teresa and are shown in her designs.

Her early education was at Our Lady of Lourdes, Piura, Peru, where she graduated in 1956. Upon her graduation she moved to Lima, the capital of Peru, to pursue her desire to become an architect and design livable houses. The prestigious University of Engineering in Lima is famous for its difficult entrance examination, and only a few are selected. Teresa passed all the exams for engineers as well as for architects. She entered the architectural program, and graduated in the 1960s.

Inspired by one of her professors, Architect Fernando Belaunde (twice president of Peru), she came to the United States to continue her studies. She met her idol Frank Lloyd Wright, who influenced her in the design of living space.

Teresa enrolled in the graduate program at Columbia. In New York as a young professional, she converted a plain apartment into a space where there were no angles and the surroundings round. In Soho, she transformed a factory floor into a living space with walls only for the bathroom, and a kitchen that was raised to mark the separation between the chef's area and the rest of the apartment. In order to provide an area for her to work, from which she could see her 1-year-old boy, she raised the level of her studio, but put no walls, only rails so Freddy would not fall. The size of the apartment felt impressive and looked beautiful with the hardwood floor she installed. Not only was she designing and supervising the transformation, she was also using a hammer and nails.

When she moved to the Bay Area, she began working for the City of Oakland in their Housing Rehabilitation Program. Through the years, Teresa has taken on small projects for friends. She retired from City of Oakland in 2005.

To really appreciate Teresa, you have to visit her house, the adobe building on Tunnel Street in Berkeley that has retained its charm and history, as well as the meaning behind them. The only modern aspect is the fence that is adorned by designs from hub cubs left by drivers as they speed on their way to the Berkeley campus. Here you could see her garden--organic vegetables all over--and come into a kitchen that does not have a microwave. You could look at walls that have art, not necessarily famous signature art, but art that tells about beauty, peace and work.

She passed away on October 26, 2014. Her mother, at 96, came from Peru to see Teresa and to stay with her daughter till the end. Teresa has designed a house for her mother and it is under construction.

We will all miss Teresa and her enthusiasm for good food and good design.

View this page in your browser