Celebrating the contemporary face of Berkeley

Six contemporary Berkeley buildings have been highlighted as demonstrating superior architectural style — “gems that have enriched Berkeley and its residents” — and several Berkeley architects can take a bow for having designed them.

Berkeley Bowl West by Kava Massih Architects

The Berkeley Design Advocates held their ninth biennial architecture awards yesterday at the Ed Roberts Campus — itself a new addition to Berkeley’s architectural landscape. Designed by San Francisco-based Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects and due to open soon, it was one of the night’s designated winners.

Also accepting an award was Berkeley architect Kava Massih for West Berkeley Bowl, one of the city’s most popular destinations since its opening last year.

The Read Building by Trachenberg Architects

The other winners were The Read Building on Fourth Street by Berkeley’s Trachtenberg Architects; Robinson Real Estate, which was described as “a nifty rehab of a retail box” on Shattuck Avenue by Hyer Architecture; Oxford Plaza by Daniel Solomon Design Partners; and Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Restaurant, an interior created by Valerio Architects.

John King, urban design writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and a Berkeley resident, said he was heartened by the awards. “Living in Berkeley it’s easy just to see the chunky, uninspiring stuff. All these projects are distinctive in different ways. They are thoughtful responses to the urban context — which is as important as all the pizzazz about style and architecture.”

Robinson Real Estate office by Hyer Architecture

Berkeley Design Advocates is a group of architects, engineers and planners which aims to honor outstanding additions to the built environment in Berkeley.

“We believe in building things – and these awards represent those icons that demonstrate change can be good. Good design and outstanding craftsmanship serve not only the owners, but also the community and society at large,” said Anthony Bruzzone, BDA’s President.

This year’s awards were made to honor the memory and life work of local architect Barry Elbasani who, with Donn Logan and Michael Severin, founded ELS Design Group in Berkeley in 1967. Elbasani died earlier this year.

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  • Chris

    A breath of fresh air!

  • tizzielish

    I note that your story states that Oxford Plaza won some kind of architectural award but the photo linked to that line in your story shows a photo of David Brower Center.

    So, did OP win an award? Or did DBC?

    The two buildings are very differently and owned, of course, by completely separate nonprofits. The folks running both nonprofits are pals, because both nonprofits are run by politically-well-connected Berkeleyites. . . .but DBC is an office building and party venue and OP is a residential apartment building.

    DBC is a nightmare neighbor for residents in OP. DBC got started using public funds for its initial studies, funds originally designated for affordable housing, and DBC is NOT housing, of course. . . . but DBC got their permits and got their building approved because they promised to have a conference center. But in practice, DBC runs a party venue, renting out their space to loud parties to whoever is willing to pay the rent. . .and the residential neighbors of OP are regularly subjected to violation of the Berkeley noise ordnances and the cops tend to refuse to enforce the noise laws because the DBC folks are well connected.

    If the architects for DBC have won an award, they don’t deserve it. What kind of lame-brained architect would put a party venue in the backyard of fifty apartments? The DBC party patio is in my backyard. The DBC party patio is adjacent to at least 100 bedrooms, many of them childens’ bedrooms. How would you like to put your kids to bed a few yards away from a live band party, all year round? What kind of dumb ass architect designed that?

    The building is very cool. And it uses the unique space on the corner of Oxford and Allston in a wonderful design. I love the building, inside and out. But they could have angled it differently, put the outdoor party patio overlooking Allston, instead of overlooking the private homes of fifty apartments next door (and I have not yet mentioned the residents of the Gaia building, 8 stories of apartments also subjected to the DBC party noise. . . it just galls me that DBC got ‘sold’ to this city as a staid conference center but in practice they rent it out for loud drunken parties.

    Even when the live bands are inside, the patio doors are open and it’s just like having that party in my backyard. And even when the music is kept low — which is rarely is — try to imagine listening to a hundred folks drinking booze outside your home, in the next yard, shouting louder and louder to be heard over one another . . . the hum of drinking humans having gun is deeply draining . . and we have the dumb ass architects who are now winning awards to thank . . the party patio could have been placed overlooking Alston, the cool rounded corner of DBC could look the same, just angled differently so the residents at OP were respected . . . and it would have been kinda cool to have the party venue on the retail/street side, knitting the activities of the ‘conference’ center with the pubic space of the street. . . I understand why the architects chose the more private, quiet design of putting the patio off the street . . . but the architects clearly didn’t give much thought to the hundreds of humans who would have to listen to the noise . . . to tell you the truth, I think when the DBC folks designed their building, they never imagined renting the space for loud parties but they put their money needs ahead of the needs of the residential neighbors. I know it is very common in today’s culture for money to matter more than humans. And I know the residents of OP only earn up to 60% of the area’s median income so we don’t have the kind of clout the connected folks running DBC have . . but geez, it is just so wrong to put a loud noisy party venue next to private apartments. If OP were private condos for the rich, you can be sure the party noise would not be allowed.

    And the party noise problem could have been avoided with a different building design. Clearly the award winnind architects did not think about the residents of OP, the architects only thoughts about their cool design.

    If I were looking for party space in Berkeley, I would be attracted to use the DBC space. It is very cool. But it happens to violate the city noise ordnances to have loud parties next to residential space. Yes, our city has laws to allow for special permits to make exceptions to the rules . . . to anyone reading this, try to imagine that you have a next door neighbor who gets special noise permits a few dozen times a year because they are well connected to city staff who makes exceptions for them? Living next door to DBC is a nightmare. Ask the managers of OP how many tenants have already moved away to avoid the party space? This building was designed for families — two and three bedroom homes for affordable housing for working FAMILIES? what dumb ass architect designed a party patio next door?

  • Tizzielish: As the story states, the Berkeley Design Advocates award went to Oxford Plaza which was designed by Daniel Solomon Design Partners, who also happen to have designed the David Brower Center — which is featured on the landing page of their website. Hence your confusion.

  • tim

    All right! Let’s get the landmark status process rolling!

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  • gtp

    @tizzielish: it’s one thing to voice criticism of architectural design and how it may or may not serve the inhabitants of buildings. However, you lose all your credibility by calling the architects “lame-brained” or “dumbass” because, in fact, you don’t have first-hand knowledge of those particular architects. If you did, you would NOT call them lame-brained nor dumbass. Moreover, you seem to have reduced the practically, logistically, economically, and politically complicated task of urban planning, building design, and project delivery to “…Clearly the award winnind [sic] architects did not think about the residents of OP, the architects only thoughts [sic] about their cool design….” thereby proving that you have no clue what you’re talking about….

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