Following his completion of a M. Arch. degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design, Efren Gutierrez interned for several years with Sasaki Associates in Cambridge and Bechtel in San Francisco, and then opened his own practice in Oakland.
His early design style is reminiscent of the work of Luis Barragan, Mexico’s great modernist architect, but it reflects a California vision which is part a perception of Mexican modernism and part California sensibility. The buildings are cubic forms with long planar surfaces, nestled into their surroundings, and with an almost rustic image, yet in contrast to Barragan, broken up by large rectangular columns and painted adobe white. Landscaping is modest but a key element of the spare design. Often he creates courtyards surrounding simple native greenery. Function is the determining factor for each floor plan, yet the design, massing and scale of each building carries a visual weight that defines it uniquely. Cost control is paramount, and is conveyed in the design by the use of simple, quality materials, fixtures and finishes. His designs from the 1970′s and 80′s utilize passive solar energy saving systems with shading elements which fit harmoniously into exterior elevations.