The Architect’s Newspaper’s Best of Design Awards are a unique, project-based awards program that showcases great buildings, building elements, interiors, and installations. This year, they recognized a number of firms and projects led by alumni, faculty and students from the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, detailed below.
Building of the Year and Cultural Space Awards: Transart Foundation by SCHAUM/SHIEH, led by co-founding principal is CED alumna Rosalyne Shieh (B.A. Arch. ‘99).
The Transart Foundation by SCHAUM/SHIEH was developed for a Houston-based artist/curator working at the intersection of art and anthropology. The project consists of two buildings: a repurposed 1,200-square-foot private art studio and a new, 3,000-square-foot primary building for visitors that holds exhibitions, performances, and salon-style dinners. The second and third floors of the new construction include an office, a conference room, a cavelike nook, and a roof terrace. The facade is clad in smooth white stucco panels, creating a tectonic language that allows gaps and seams to manifest as swooping window frames. The structure incorporates thick timber beams in a manner akin to a Dutch barn, carved so that the front corners join precisely in front.
Commercial — Retail Award: Flex by LEVER Architecture, led by founding principal and CED alumnus Thomas F. Robinson (B.A. Arch ‘91)
FLEX is a 19,000-square-foot building that can be adapted for various commercial uses. LEVER Architecture developed the design based on an industrial typology that incorporates mass timber structural elements, a distinctive angular frame, and interior mezzanines. The large, 200-by-95-foot open floor plate is divisible into eight 24-foot structural bays, allowing the building to be partitioned for diverse tenants—from a restaurant to small maker spaces. An 80-foot-long triangular clerestory, skylights, and glass garage-style doors bring in daylight. Within a tight budget, the building is constructed in an affordable material palette of plywood, sheet metal, glulam columns and beams, glass, and concrete, with many components available off the shelf or prefabricated off-site.
Interior — Institutional Category Award: the Brooklyn Aozora Gakuen by Inaba Williams, led by principal and alumnus Jeffrey Inaba (B.A. Arch. ‘84)
Inaba Williams worked with many constraints to design this light-filled preschool. As a cost-saving measure, the Brooklyn Aozora Gakuen leased a property with undesirable conditions. The space is located on a structural transfer floor, wedged between a residential tower above it and a parking podium below, and is filled with many irregularly placed columns that support both. Inaba Williams worked through these conditions by arranging classrooms around a central drop-off and pick-up area and highlighting rather than hiding the columns and other features. Tall glass panels installed along the interior walls draw natural light into this communal space, while large load-bearing columns are left exposed to frame the wooden floor thresholds of two classrooms.
Representation — Digital Award: Fake Earths: A Planetary Theater Play by NEMESTUDIO an architectural practice led by Assistant Professor of Architecture Neyran Turan
Fake Earths: A Planetary Theater Play by NEMESTUDIO speculates on how climate change could be the cultural and political catalyst for a renewed architectural environment during the post-Anthropocene era. In this projected future, the concept of “nature” is obsolete. Modeled like a theater play in multiple acts, the project considers five specific sites on Earth, whose perceived image and actual function are different. For instance, Potemkin Village—an infamous e-waste dump site in Africa—reads as a city from above but mischievously hides the reality of its architectural content within. Other imagined scenes include Asteroid Mining Clearing sites, Pacific Ocean Trash Mountains, the Spoil Tips Grand Tour, and the Wonder Zoo.
Student Work Award: mise-en-sand by architecture student Jonah Merris (M.Arch. ‘18)
Nature is artificial, and occasionally, it is artifice. So how can architecture act as a register of constructed ground in the era of the human geomorphic agent? Jonah Merris designed mise-en-sand, a proposal for a 21st-century exposition that addresses the extraction and exploitation of sand, as a series of six composed set designs that would allow visitors to consider the high volume–low value-paradox of sand as a global commodity. The sites and processes depicted in these vignettes showcase the breadth of scales and geographies across which the construction and deconstruction of ground occurs. Within mise-en-sand, architecture becomes a performance wherein objects are staged and meaning implied—a sandbox where observers can reconsider naturalism as it applies to something as ubiquitous as sand.
Student Work, Honorable Mention: “Real Fake” by architecture student James Skarzenski (M.Arch. ‘18)
Welcome to James Skarzenski's re-reality, an alternate place that you may check-in and check-out of at your leisure. This interior place is the result of agglomerating sets, becoming something reminiscent of generic hospitality settings. However, typical adjacencies are eradicated and we are left with unexpected juxtapositions, with poché space in between rooms accounting for additional programming, circulation, and necessary equipment. The staged rooms seem mundane, yet they are highly specific and become occupied with real human activity that may or may not follow the prescribed norms associated with quotidian spaces. This begins to pose the question of ontology. What happens when our escape-from-reality becomes a re-representation of reality? A constructed reality. A fake reality. A real fake. Are we given a license to misbehave and pursue our fantasies within familiar settings? Or do we simply act out our usual behaviors?