Berkeley, California, USA
“A parking-garage even car haters can love,” states John King, Urban Design Critic, The San Francisco Chronicle.
The City of Berkeley’s Downtown Arts District has blossomed into a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects and International Parking Design, Inc. have renovated and recreated a new ground-breaking garage for the City of Berkeley where people arrive by public transportation, bike, or car to frequent bars, shops, and restaurants, or attend events at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Freight & Salvage, and The Jazz School.
Their new Center Street Garage was recently awarded with a 2020 International Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The original 1950s garage was not only insufficient in parking-capacity but was woefully below current seismic safety standards.
This architectural sleight-of-hand is a visual feat in response to a challenging brief: create a behemoth 8-story, 720-car parking garage on a tight mid-block site, all while providing a creative facade design fitting of its artistic context.
While the original design of the structure was a single helix with two levels of below-grade and six levels of above-grade parking, the project budget required all eight levels to be above ground.
A solution was needed that could address minimizing the number of turns – ground to roof – as well as help efficiently load and unload the building for special-event parking.
The vehicle circulation was designed as a double helix ramp structure with 3-lane vehicle access on both Center and Addison Streets; lanes are flexibly adjusted, allowing multiple entry and exit lanes as needed.
Basically, dividing the garage into two, 360-space, four-story garages intertwined, this solution results in a high volume of egress capacity.
The garage’s mid-block site results in the opportunity of two street frontages, the facades of which are designed as public art – facades of perforated metal panels in concert with outrigger stairs create sculptural elevations: red on Addison, lime-green on Center Street.
The colorful, cantilevered, open-air staircases are the antithesis of archetypal grim, isolating garage circulation. These projecting stairs in full view of the public feel thoroughly safe, and are architecturally striking, with expansive views to the east and west.
The exterior has a unique skin, a perforated stainless-steel mesh security screen, which forms a waving facade—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, choreographed LED lighting washes the pleated metal scrim in an ever-changing array of colors, turning the facades into public art.
The strategy of white front-light projected against soft colored backlight is a classic theatrical riff and a nod to the neighboring performing arts spaces.
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 gar-age cost formulas.
In addition to more efficient and safe parking, the building also includes public restrooms, a cafe, retail space, bicycle parking, staff offices, and a new gallery-space featuring rotating art displays selected and approved by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission.
From the very start of the project, the designers worked closely with the city, community members, BART, regional bicycle coalition.
While building a sustainable parking garage may seem impossible, it was the City of Berkeley’s goal to achieve just that.
Demanding mandates included aggressively reduced energy use (beat Title 24 by 15%), easy maintenance, dark-sky compliance, low-glare, and straightforward controls, all while providing a creative facade-illumination fitting of its location in Berkeley’s Arts District.
Its sustainable features include a large array of solar panels (500 on-site photovoltaics) reducing energy consumption; roof-level rainwater catchment tank; a bioswale system that collects rainwater and irrigates planters and landscaping at street level; high-efficiency color changing LED lighting in the facade; parking for 350 bikes; electric-vehicle charging-stations; car share parking; micro-grid hub provides emergency power; and the biophilic nature of its facade, acting as a deterrent for bird collision occurrences. Because of its extensive sustainable features, the garage has been able to pursue its Parksmart Gold Certification (a rating system that combines LEED for New Construction, LEED for Existing Buildings, and applies to parking structure-specific strategies).
Berkeley’s Mayor, Jesse Arreguín, declared this “building to be probably the greenest parking garage in California.”
Project: Center Street Garage
Architects: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects
Associate Architects: International Parking Design, Inc.
Client: City of Berkeley
General Contractor: C. Overaa & Co.
Photographers: Billy Hustace Photography; Rob Calderwood