Category Archives: Architecture

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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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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John King: Keeping downtown Berkeley’s design distinctive is a tall order

BAM:PFA. Photo- Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
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By John King / San Francisco Chronicle

A walk through downtown Berkeley reveals a treasure of pre-World War II architecture, different styles and materials blending together in comfortable structures that were built for their time but seem to grow in stature with each passing decade.

The newer buildings? Not so much. And the ones on deck — one as tall as anything now there — could be even less satisfying.

The problem isn’t the scale of what’s proposed, or the architectural mishmash in the mix. It’s the way that a confusing process encourages checklists over creativity, while opponents would rather fight to stop nearly all change, rather than find ways to make that change enrich downtown’s sense of place.

Nearly 20 projects are now in the works in the area roughly bounded by Berkeley Way on the north, Dwight Way on the south, UC Berkeley on the east and the Civic Center on the west. … Continue reading »

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Two historic Berkeley homes get a makeover

The John Woolley house is the blue-gray one and the Ellen Blood House is the yellow one. The owners, architect, and builder worked hard to restore the turreted window on the Woolley House. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two historic Berkeley homes with a combined age of 263 years have been given a complete makeover, and their doors were opened Tuesday to show off their shiny new parts.

The John Woolley House, first built on Telegraph Avenue in 1876, and the Ellen Blood House, constructed on Durant Avenue in 1891, were moved in 2014 to a new location on Regent Street and Dwight Way. John Gordon of Gordon Commercial Realty and his wife, Janis Mitchell, who bought the homes for $1 each, restored, renovated, and expanded the two houses using as much original material as possible. They also added a floor to the Woolley house. Gone are two decaying, although historic homes. In their place are five gleaming apartments with all the trappings of 21st century living: sleek appliances, gas fireplaces with marble mantles, and high-tech flooring. … Continue reading »

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Cityscape: A Berkeley theater that’s a show unto itself

BHS Community Theater. Photo John King
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By John King

Strict planning dogma says this pair of theaters serving Berkeley High School should be deadly, since they turn their back to downtown Berkeley’s only park and the only doors along the sidewalk are fire exits and a loading dock. Instead, the complex radiates an assurance that blends clean architectural lines with a mass of almost geological force. Most arresting of all, the windowless walls hold enormous bas-relief sculptures that depict the spirit of performing arts as an almost orgiastic cacophony. It’s a high-drama welding of public architecture and art, one worth the trade-off at the street. … Continue reading »

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Cityscape: Indigenous architecture of the Berkeley kind

20 or so buildings in West Berkeley share an unusual trait: they were build with Crete-Glass, diamond-like patterns of block glass devised by the long-gone Berkeley Concrete Form Company. Photo: John King
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By John King

Like many older cities, Berkeley has architectural facets that set it apart — not only the shingled landmarks of Julia Morgan but the diamond patterns of block glass in 20 or so workaday West Berkeley structures. They were formed using Crete-Glass, a system sold by long-gone Berkeley Concrete Form Co. with the promise that it would both “save time and labor” and provide “a most cheerful atmosphere for workers.” Many of these buildings now hold uses far different than when they began. But together, they remain an element of the local scenery as distinct as the commuter trains that rumble past Fourth Street.

Continue reading…Continue reading »

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Three Berkeley homes on AIA East Bay architecture tour

Canyon repose. Photo: Matthew Millman Photography
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Three Berkeley homes are featured on the American Institute of Architects’ fifth East Bay home tour on Saturday Aug. 8, along with two in Oakland and one in Piedmont.

The title for the tour — a chance to peek inside some of the area’s most beautiful, architect-designed homes — is “Thread of History in Bay Area Modernism,” so it’s no surprise that four of the six homes on the tour are not new. In fact, one was originally built in 1937, and three of the others in, respectively, 1948, 1957 and 1962.

One of the three Berkeley homes, designed by Kuth Ranieri Architects, showcases the 2014 renovation of a home, owned by a pair of scientists, tucked into a hill at the base of Claremont Canyon (pictured top). The home had been remodeled at least one too many times, according to AIA East Bay. Working with Berkeley-based Jetton Construction, each space was carefully considered to maximize its connection to the landscape outside, while maintaining privacy from the street. The result is a comfortable family home at one with its surroundings. … Continue reading »

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ZAB approves 2539 Telegraph EIR, postpones use permit

The latest proposal, submitted to the city in April, of Patrick Kennedy's Telegraph Avenue project. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board earlier this month approved the Environmental Impact Report for a controversial 6-story apartment building proposed on Telegraph Avenue, but postponed a decision on the project’s use permit to ask for a revised design plan from the developers and allow time for other items on the agenda.

The board was set to vote at its June 11 meeting on the project’s use permit as well as the EIR, but voted to put off the permit discussion when the meeting began to run long, asking the developers instead to bring a new plan for the project that reflected the commissioners’ concerns. (The meeting ended at 12:15 a.m.)

The building, at 2539 Telegraph, which is being developed by Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, has been considered as a landmark on two separate occasions due to its connection to the Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group for the disabled which began there in 1972. The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected landmark status for both the building and a faded mural on one of its walls.

The project has been widely criticized by neighborhood residents as too large and, in the year since the zoning board first reviewed the project, the criticism has not died down. … Continue reading »

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Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley

Anti building protesters. Photo Tracey Taylor
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In the wake of a balcony collapse that killed six Irish students in Berkeley this week, a small group gathered on the steps of City Hall today to ask that the city put a moratorium on commercial construction in Berkeley until it is clear that buildings are being inspected correctly and that codes are being enforced.

Holding placards that read “Safety 1st! No new bldgs,” “Inspections now” and “Berkeley is in mourning,” the seven protesters say that all new construction should be halted until the city can “review its procedures,” according to spokeswoman Margot Smith.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Given the level of this tragedy, we have to go forward beyond a perfunctory investigation,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to see that buildings are safe and that they remain safe. We need to see if codes are being enforced.”Continue reading »

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