American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Professional Awards
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Night View with Bicycle Shelter & Stage as Lantern. The landscape, partially on structure is lush and varied; and contrasts with galvanized steel light poles/bike shelters/mechanical equipment, with concrete walls and pedestal pavers, that are unified by silver grey tones. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast)
Aerial Locator Map Showing Proximity to Campus. College Avenue is to the east, People's Park to the west, and the University Art Museum is to the north (north is up).
Aerial Photo. The site consists of two city blocks of new and existing dormitory housing adjacent to the University of California Berkeley. The view is looking north to the campanile and College of Environmental Design at the heart of the campus, and to San Francisco Bay. (Image courtesy of Steve Proehl.)
Unit 2 Aerial with Sunbathers. Two new 5-7 story dormitories have been added on each block, which previously consisted of a postwar pinwheel plan housing block of 10 story dormitory towers, originally designed by John Carl Warnecke and Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, in 1959. The central dining hall has been demolished to make way for the new public open space. The design responds to the patterns of sunlight, and corresponding use of the space by students. (Image courtesy of Steve Proehl.)
Watercolor Design Development Plan. The plan was blessed by historic preservationists as compatible with 1950's buildings, approved by the University, and informally dubbed "the bowtie" by University officials. The seating platforms inspired by the Aalto vase, and the eastern bicycle structure were subsequently removed due to structural loading constraints. There are four new entry courts per site with trees, grates, and pavers. Large trees are on grade or on top of basement columns, while lawns, shrubs, and large pavers are on structure.
Unit 1 Bowtie from Existing Dormitory with Ring of Redwoods. The redwoods complete the bowtie at each end, and mediate between the existing 10 story dormitories. Lawn and clump grasses are on the northern sunny side of plaza, while bamboo, maples, azaleas, and palmgrass are on the shady side. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast.)
Keyed Site Plan. Landscape over structure is shown within the dashed red box. New dormitories are in black, existing buildings are lighter. The gently skewed lines in plan are repeated in the sloping planes of the landscape and structures.

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University of California, Berkeley: Units 1&2 Dormitories Urban Landscape (The Bowtie), Berkeley, California
GLS (Gary L. Strang) Landscape/Architecture,San Francisco, California

"Durable design in many ways. Strongly detailed and affecting. A big win for both the landscape architect and the students."

— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Narrative Summary:

SHORT DESCRIPTION: This project consists of two city blocks of plazas, courtyards, gardens, and site structures associated with new and existing dormitories, located 1 block from campus on College Avenue. It is the largest publicly accessible open space built by UC Berkeley in many decades, and renovates the original design completed by Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, with John Carl Warnecke Architects in 1959.

OVERVIEW: Completed in April of 2005, this $130,000,000 (hard and soft cost) two block student housing project for U.C. Berkeley consists of the demolition of two 1959 dining halls to make way for the addition of four new dormitory buildings housing 900 students. Located 1 block from the south edge of campus and across the street from the University Art Museum, each city block site has 4 existing 10-story dormitories, originally designed by Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, with John Carl Warnecke Architects in 1959. This Landscape Architect worked with the University to preserve a number of original stone walls, terraces, and concrete canopies from the original work, lacing together old and new to resolve grade changes at the perimeter of the new plaza and surrounding streets, when wiping the site clean would have been expedient. College Avenue, previously closed to pedestrians for the entire block, has become the new major entrance to the site.

DESIGN PARAMETERS: Approximately 1/2 of the site work is on top of structure remaining from the demolished dining halls, and some plaza areas could not support loading. There is approximately 23 feet of grade change on each site, so that circulation had to be re-conceptualized for accessibility. Formal constraints were imposed by site utilities, which had been renovated twice before as part of accessibility and seismic improvements. The project proceeded on a fast track schedule with early and late working drawing packages proceeding simultaneously. The site component took 2-½ years from design start to completion of construction, and was implemented while students continued to live in the existing 8 dormitory buildings.

DESIGN CONCEPTS: Nicknamed "The Bowtie" by the University, the parti both integrates and expresses the imperatives of University program, sun angles, accessibility, and site circulation. Central to this geometry was the underlying "logic" of complex infrastructure, both from surrounding streets and the basements beneath. Conceptually and pragmatically, the design efficiently integrates infrastructure, architecture, and landscape in plan and section. The bowtie concept is expressed in section with 2 galvanized steel bike shelters with integral stage and wood benches that face each other across the plan intersection of the bowtie. Metal roofs, whose slopes match the angles on the ground plane, sectionally reinforce the bowtie form, particularly as seen from the rooms above, providing volumetric variation to a potentially flat plaza. Gently sloping planes, or tilted terraces, eliminate the need for dedicated accessibility ramps at all 10 sidewalk entries. Dedicated ramps at existing buildings were simplified and 8 of the 16 were removed altogether by design.

Sloping, south facing lawns encourage passive use, and concrete planter walls slope to allow greater soil depth for trees over basement columns. To reinforce the sectional idea of ramping forms, the plan has gently skewed lines that avoid obstructions, enlarge lawn areas, and capture structural columns below and remnants of an elevator shaft that allow for large trees on the structure. This serves to unify the site with a formal language that focuses on spatial and sectional volumes, defined through the use of a sculpted ground plane, with diaphanous plantings and structures.

Durability in materials and finishes was addressed by further unifying the complicated site with a monochromatic palette of warm grey and tan tones. Galvanized steel and galvalume roofs for bike shelters, lights, furnishings and rails, sandblasted concrete paving and walls, unit pavers on sand, silver weathered Alaskan yellow cedar, and a checkerboard of pedestal pavers sets off the brightly colored and highly textured buildings and plant materials, while tying in with the corrugated metal and concrete structure. The bike shelters, too big to "mitigate" have become the central feature of the plaza, and with the bamboo filled, sunken lightcourts, are glowing lanterns at night.

PLANTING DESIGN: The planting design gives priority to volumetric definition and permanence through the use of natives firstly, to vernacular plantings secondly (meaning plants naturalized to the area through 100 years or more of use) and finally to a pan-asian palette of plantings for tight urban spaces. Because half the landscape is on structure, and because of the shadows cast by the tall buildings combined with the need for sunny outdoor space for an extraordinarily dense student population, the planting design needed to be responsive and detailed. Lawns that do not require soil depth (and are the landscape type most used by students on campus) are located in the sunny areas over structure on the north side of the courtyards. Wherever there are planting areas on grade, the unlimited soil depth is used for tall trees to enclose the plaza and mediate the building height. Therefore either end of the bowtie plaza is bracketed by our native redwoods, framed with the native bigleaf maple, honeylocust and sycamore, under-planted with clump grasses, western sword ferns, redwood sorrel, rushes and Japanese anemones. In shade areas over structure, Unit 1 has a geometric Asian palette of bamboo, Japanese maples, dogwood, palmgrass and iris while Unit 2 has the more classic flowering cherries, maples, azaleas, and hellebores.

At each tilted terrace/entry court (4 per site) there is a different type of non-aggressive vertical eucalyptus that can tolerate the urban conditions and partial shade cast by the tall buildings. East/West street frontages have been replanted with street trees, grates and guards according to the City of Berkeley program.

The goal has been to create a place of simplicity and serenity that is available for students as a refuge from academic pressures and the urban setting.

Project Resources


Campus Landscape Architect:
Dave Johnson and Jim Horner, Capital Projects

Campus Architect:
Capital Projects

Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis

Structural Engineer:
Rutherford and Chekene

Lighting Design:
Auerbach & Glasow

General Contractor:
Rudolph and Sletten

Landscape Contractor:
Valley Crest


Unit 1 Plaza with Preserved Stone Walls from 1959 Lawrence Halprin Design. View across plaza showing mechanical infrastructure composed and incorporated into landscape as an integral component, with materials matching other site furnishings. Clump grasses, less susceptible to damage from trampling, and sloping lawns that encourage passive use, are used in sun areas. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast.)
Galvanized Steel Site Furnishings with Textures of Plant Materials. Light poles, bike shelters, mechanical equipment, pedestal pavers, and concrete walls are monochromatic, against which are close cropped and textured grasses, honey locust, and three magnolias in background on top of basement columns. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast.)
Sloping Lawn, Bicycle Shed with Seating and Chiller Intake. Gently sloping lawns facing south are used in the afternoons by students as "beaches" following classes. Lawns consist of appx. 12" soil over styrofoam fill. Guardrail protects people from bamboo filled lightwell 15 feet below. (Image courtesy of Dixie Carillo.)
Unit 2 with Bicycle Shed, Cherry Trees, and Chiller Equipment. The planting accommodates three distinctive zones: the sunniest area is lawn, the intermediate half-sun areas are flowering cherry trees, and the shadiest areas are maples, azaleas, and ferns.
Bicycle Shelter and Wood Stage, Sloping Lawn, and Guardrail. A wooden stage and benches with prominent night lighting are incorporated into the bicycle shelters (designed by Landscape Architect) so that they are usable and perform multiple functions. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast.)
Sloping Guardrail. The sculptural guardrail protects people from a 15 foot drop to basement lightwell, and extends along ramps to form a boundary on each side of the plaza. It is a variation on a standard picket fence in that there are two picket types attached to horizontal steel rails and posts attached to a sloping battered wall. (Image courtesy of Dixie Carillo.)
Detail of Native Grasses with Site Metal Work & Mechanical Equipment. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast.)
Night View in Black and White. Skewed lines in plan are repeated in section with sloping planes of lawn matching the slope of the roofs of the bicycle structures. (Image courtesy of Patrick Argast .)
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