Category Archives: Architecture

New BAMPFA ready to open Sunday in downtown Berkeley

City view of BAMPFA Photo Iwan Baan
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The countdown is nearly over. The new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, plum in the heart of downtown Berkeley, will throw open its doors to the public with a big open house on Sunday, Jan. 31, starting at 11 a.m.

Before that, there’s a gala party, which is being held Thursday night at a temporary tent set up on UC Berkeley lawn abutting Oxford Street. The gala has raised around $1 million for education programs at the new museum, its director, Lawrence Rinder, said at a press preview event held Thursday morning.

Read more about the new Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive.

Rinder also spoke of the challenge of designing a museum that has a dual identity and responsibility towards both art and film, and the commitment to creating a space that is both accessible and welcoming.

“This is not just a place to come look and see,” he said. “There are many areas for community engagement.” Rinder cited as examples the museum’s reading room, art lab and its stepped salvaged-wood seating, created by master woodworker Paul Discoe, where visitors can relax and chat, as well as watch performances. He added that a goal of the museum’s design was to have a flow that was conducive to “wandering and to being surprised.” … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21 .

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley now has its first and only columbarium

Gate looking into the garden – John Penberthy
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By Karen Queen

Berkeley now has its first and only columbarium. It is located at the far end of a walled meditation garden in back of Northbrae Community Church. Both are open to the public.

Why a columbarium? In 2004, Reverend Ron Sebring proposed an idea to honor Native American spirituality to the Northbrae congregation. The chapel’s stained-glass windows honor major religions of the world but not the spirituality and culture of indigenous people. Reverend Sebring had a deep, personal interest in Native American spirituality. He proposed a medicine wheel, also known as a sacred hoop, as an appropriate symbol and sketched a drawing of how one would look when placed on the ground behind the chapel. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: An open letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission about Telegraph Village

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To the Landmark Preservation Commissioners:

At your Jan. 7 meeting, you acted to dismiss landmark (or related) status for a quaint, “uncategorizable”, unsafe, barely patronized — and utterly unique and irreplaceable — relic of ‘the Ingrate Generation’. In so doing, you really have felt the pulse of our times.

In denying the application of ‘The Village’ (2556 Telegraph) for landmark (or related) status, of all Berkeley’s national and city landmarks, only three 60s/70s-era sites remain so honored. One is the … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Rep to unveil Peet’s Theatre to public Saturday

Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
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Thirty-six years after Berkeley Rep opened its first permanent home on Addison Street in downtown, the theater company will, on Saturday, unveil a comprehensive overhaul of its original stage. (See below for details of the Grand Opening event for the public.)

Those who show up to see the renamed Peet’s Theatre will not necessarily notice any major differences to what used to be known as the Thrust Stage, however. As Artistic Director Tony Taccone put it at a media and donors’ launch event Thursday: “It’s a bit like inviting people over to your home when you’ve put in a new foundation.” Much of the $7.5 million renovation work is invisible.

Arguably the most impressive new feature at the theatre will be heard rather than seen. A state-of-the-art “constellation acoustic system,” installed by Berkeley’s Meyer Sound, provides a much improved sonic environment for the audience, as well as better clarity for actors and more tools for sound designers to play with, according to the Rep’s Managing Director, Susie Medak. … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Zoning board approves new units on Telegraph, Shattuck

The Nexus at 2539 Telegraph Ave. has been approved. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s zoning board approved two largely car-free buildings Thursday set to add 92 new residential units to the city’s housing stock.

Both of the projects — 70 units on Telegraph Avenue and 22 units on Shattuck Avenue — were proposed by Patrick Kennedy’s Berkeley-based Panoramic Interests.

The Telegraph project, dubbed The Nexus, is set to take the place of a 1-story office building where the nationally recognized Center for Independent Living got its start. The center has since moved to a new home at the Ed Roberts Campus and representatives from the organization told the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday that a decision on the Telegraph property would help them move ahead with their own plans for the organization’s future.

The Nexus, which also has an entrance on Regent Street, is set to reach 6 stories on the Telegraph side, and include about 5,200 square feet of commercial space, some of which could one day be a café. Nine vehicle parking spots are planned for the retail area, and 144 bike parking spots are included. Building residents will not be allowed to seek residential parking permits under existing city rules. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Eugene Tssui’s Fish House, Part 1

The "Fish House" at 2747 Mathews St. in Berkeley,  June 20, 2013. Photo: John Storey
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The “Fish House” at 2747 Mathews St. in Berkeley, designed by Emeryville’s Eugene Tssui, is the least-expected and probably the most-photographed architectural design in Berkeley.

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New museum gets ready to open in the heart of Berkeley

BAMPFA DSR 15-09 5655
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The staff moved in to their offices in September, planning for its inaugural exhibition is well underway, and construction is almost complete on the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), which is set to open in January 2016.

Anyone who passes through downtown regularly will have, over the past months, had the chance to observe the gradual transformation of the Deco Moderne former UC Berkeley printing plant into a striking structure sporting a gleaming silver roof, a cantilevered section that juts out over what will be the museum’s entrance on Center Street, and a gaping rectangular space on the Addison Street side that will soon be a giant canvas for screening images and films.

Read more about the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

The inside of the new museum offers a mix of large white exhibition spaces, several enticing open-plan areas for public events or where visitors can simply hang out, and stairwells and a womb-like café painted a deep shade of chili red. The new building is 20% smaller than it predecessor, the Mario Ciampi-designed concrete structure on Bancroft Way, but it has more usable space. The new building totals 83,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of gallery space. The $112 million project was funded through a philanthropic capital campaign and private sources.

Aside from some difficulties with the installation of the distinctive stainless-steel roof (see below), there have been no significant delays on the museum’s timeline, according to the museum’s owners, UC Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s newest parklet opens outside Saul’s Deli

Photo: Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen
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Berkeley’s second parklet is now open for visitors. The outdoor seating area in front of Saul’s Delicatessen in the Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood was unveiled today. It comes on the heels of the recent move of the Thursday Farmers Market to its new location in the off-road strip in front of Saul’s and neighboring businesses.

The parklet was funded in part by a successful $15,000 Indiegogo campaign earlier this year. Saul’s owner, Peter Levitt, hopes the space will be a boon to farmers market shoppers, in addition to regular day-time foot traffic.

Saul’s parklet, at 1475 Shattuck Ave., was designed by Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg, who is also responsible for the building that houses Saul’s, as well as many other buildings in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Numerous appeals filed for Berkeley’s Harold Way project

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.” … Continue reading »

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Have your say on two downtown Berkeley projects

The intersection of Shattuck and University avenues is the second most dangerous intersection in Berkeley for pedestrian collisions and near-misses. The city hopes to change that with the Shattuck reconfiguration project. Image: Google Maps
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The city is seeking community input on two downtown Berkeley projects — the Shattuck Reconfiguration Project and the modernization of the Downtown Berkeley BART station. There are two separate online surveys to take and, in the case of the Shattuck project, there’s a Transportation Commission meeting Thursday to learn more and provide input. The meeting will be held on Oct. 15 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., at 7 p.m.

The city is altering the traffic flow and sidewalks on Shattuck Avenue, between University and Allston Way, to create safer and easier travel by foot, car, bike, and bus.

Take the survey, which is open until Oct, 30. (There’s a drawing to win a free iPad).

According to the city, the goal of the project is for pedestrians to be able to better enjoy downtown as a walkable space. Cars and buses should experience less congestion, and bicyclists should gain safety and ease, they say. … Continue reading »

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Aduro Biotech leases entire West Berkeley building

Wareham Development has rebuilt a historic building at 740 Heinz Avenue as part of its Aquatic Park Center, an 18-acre biotech campus in West Berkeley.
Photo: Wareham Development
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By Lisa Tsering

A biotech company that did the largest IPO in Berkeley history has leased an entire West Berkeley warehouse and will move its labs and offices there by 2016, helping to bolster the city’s reputation as a world-class life sciences hub.

Aduro Biotech Inc., led by UC Berkeley biochemist Stephen T. Isaacs, specializes in creating drugs designed to strengthen the immune system to fight off cancer. They work on some of the toughest-to-fight tumors, such as pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma.

The company went public in April, raising $119 million in Berkeley’s largest-ever initial public offering. It currently employs around 80 people in a smaller space on Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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Architecture

John King: Berkeley buildings that make me happy

Photo: John King
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John King, the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic, and a Berkeley dweller, writes a weekly column for the paper called Cityscapes in which, in words and photographs, he highlights an architectural slice of San Francisco life. The columns have been collected into a second book, “Cityscapes 2: Reading the Architecture of San Francisco,” published by Berkeley’s Heyday, and King will be talking about the book at Mrs Dalloway’s bookstore in Berkeley tonight, Friday, at 7:30 p.m.

In August, when writing the column, King turned his attention to his hometown. (Berkeleyside reprinted some of the pieces.) But he couldn’t include all his favorite spots. So here, without further ado, are his fascinating “outtakes.”

John King: Having lived in Berkeley for longer than I care to admit, it was a kick to finally do a month of Cityscape columns in the San Francisco Chronicle about my current home. They ran in August, a month chosen for having five Sundays; still the challenge was deciding which buildings to leave out. To give a sense of what a writer leaves on the newspaper equivalent of the cutting-room floor — and why — here are some of the buildings I considered but didn’t include. … Continue reading »

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