Thanks to the collaboration among the City of Berkeley, private stakeholders, architects and planners, Berkeley’s Downtown is vibrant. The “Arts District” draws Berkeley’s denizens, University of California students, and regional visitors. Despite its walkable location from campus, BART and AC Transit, multitudes of visitors also drive to shop, conduct business, attend performances and movies, and patronize local restaurants.
To accommodate visitors’ cars, especially during traffic congestion from simultaneous major events.
This 8-level, 720-space garage (300 more parking spaces than the old garage) with retail, art, a sidewalk café and offices is convenient to Downtown businesses, theatres, and Civic Center. The facility’s innovative aspects are:
1. Two street facades of perforated-steel panels in concert with outrigger stairs create sculptural elevations—red on Addison / green on Center Street. Colorful, cantilevered, open-air staircases are the antithesis of archetypal garage stairs - typically unpleasant for sight and smell, and possibly sense of un-safety. The projecting stairs in view of the public feel safe, and are architecturally striking with panoramic views to the east and west.
2. Vehicle-circulation designed as a “double helix” ramp structure with 3-lane vehicle access on both Center and Addison; lanes are flexibly adjusted allowing multiple entry and exit lanes as-needed. The circulation efficiently moves cars via ramps for ascending and descending vehicles.
The exterior of the double-helix design of the building has a unique “skin”, a perforated stainless-steel mesh security screen which forms a waving façade. The staircases jag outward from pleated metal walls that fold in and out. The initial design was straightforward, with the structural bones cloaked by a fairly simple metal scrim. Many computer variations later, the result is dynamic. The scrims that face Addison and Central streets consist of sharply folded panels of perforated steel in more than 20 sizes. Each panel was numbered and then bolted into place to form horizontal bands that start tight and then flare out — two over-scale waves, each surging in a different direction, every panel adding its own small syncopation. The show is accentuated when sunlight slices through, small dots against thick concrete. At night, LED lighting attached to the wall’s frame provides shifting backdrops that wash across the internal structure. The surface flair hides from the city’s point of view: eight levels of parking that can be entered from either street. As elaborate as it might seem, the facades consumed just 10 percent of the overall construction budget, a ratio in keeping with garage cost formulas. The City’s transportation manager, Farid Javandel, told local news organization Berkeleyside: “From commuters, I’ve been hearing it is the best-looking new building in downtown Berkeley.”
In addition to more efficient and safe parking, the building includes other public service design elements. Pedestrian access in and around the garage was greatly improved, and the design creates more public space on adjacent sidewalks. Public restrooms, an important urban amenity, are provided near a staffed security guard station. The Center Street Garage is also home to a café, an art gallery, and retail space.
This building is famously hailed by the City’s Mayor as “probably the greenest parking garage in California” thanks to its environmentally sustainable features:
• rooftop solar panels
• rainwater-runoff bio-swales
• high-efficiency color changing LED lighting in public-art facade
• valet parking for 350 bikes
• electric vehicle charging stations
• car share parking
• micro-grid hub provides emergency power
Donn Logan and Marcy Wong formed the Berkeley, California firm in 1999. Over more than a decade, the partnership has developed a portfolio of work that expresses their goals of outstanding and environmentally sound design. The firm’s interests span issues of the built environment ranging from architectural expression to technological innovation, to cultural manifestation, adaptive reuse, urbanism and planning. Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects is devoted to producing architecture that is rooted in its time as well as its place, taking advantage of contemporary advances in materials and techniques to execute buildings that are forward‐thinking while remaining sensitive to their context. The principals of the firm, Marcy and Donn, have developed a design approach that treats each context – physical as well as cultural—as the seed for a unique solution in architecture.