Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, ‘Center Street Parking Garage’, Berkeley, California, US

Thanks to the collaboration between 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. In addition to using public transport, many visitors also drive to shop, conduct  business, attend performances and movies, and patronise local restaurants.

This eight-level, 720-space garage (300 more parking spaces than the previous garage) with retail, art, a sidewalk cafe and offices is convenient to downtown businesses, theatres and civic buildings. Two street facades of perforated-steel panels in concert with outrigger stairs create sculptural elevations: red on Addison/ green on Center Street. Colourful, cantilevered, open-air staircases are the antithesis of archetypal garage stairs – unattractive, foetid and uncomfortably isolating. These projecting stairs in view of the public feel thoroughly safe, and are architecturally striking, with expansive views to the east and west. Vehicle circulation has been designed as a double-helix ramp structure with three-lane vehicle access on both Center and Addison; lanes are flexibly adjusted allowing multiple entry and exit lanes as needed.

The exterior of the building has a unique skin: a perforated stainless-steel mesh security screen forming a waving facade. Staircases jag outward from dynamic pleated metal walls; the scrims that face Addison and Center 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 contract and then flare – two massive waves, each surging in a different direction, every panel adding its own small syncopation.

When daylight slices through, small dots dance against thick concrete; at night, choreographed LED lighting washes across the wall’s internal structure. As elaborate as it may seem, the facades consumed just 10% of the overall construction budget, a ratio in keeping with garage cost formulas.

The project’s environmentally sustainable features include rooftop solar panels, rainwater-runoff bioswales, high-efficiency colour changing LED lighting in the public-art facade, valet parking for 350 bikes, electric vehicle charging stations and car share parking.