03-15-23 | Department

UC Berkley's New BioEnginuity Hub

Great Care Was Taken to Celebrate The Existing Architecture
by JETT Landscape Architecture + Design

At the new Bakar BioEnginuity Hub at the University of California, Berkely, JETT Landscape Architecture + Design designed new public plazas echoing the angled walls and shifting cantilevered planes in the original buildings and worked with Bay Area Concretes to turn them into reality. To tie the angled wall forms with the refreshed building use, a symbolic digital Human Genome was embodied in custom stainless-steel skate stops.
Ecosand flatwork finishes provide visual interest and cost efficiency while colorful seating and planting create contrast in the collaborative spaces.
The building was built in 1970 by a brutalist architect. Brutalist designs are known for having concrete blocks that establish unique angles and shapes, so the Landscape Architect designed the exterior to play off those angles and connect with the building without competing with it.
The terrace features CalArc Large Scale pavers from Stepstone that are 18" x 48" x 2.5" thick.

The original Berkeley Art Museum on the University of California, Berkeley campus is an iconic masterpiece of mid-Twentieth Century Brutalist Architecture. Recognizing the need for costly seismic upgrades in the 1990's, the museum was forced out and the building sat vacant for the next 20 years. In 2018, alumni, donors, and the University engaged MBH Architecture and their team of talented designers and engineers to seismically upgrade and refurbish the building and add 10,000 square feet of new space for multiple tenants to further develop their research of emerging life-science technologies
for the marketplace.

The transformation of the building into the new Bakar BioEnginuity Hub presented a rare challenge for JETT Landscape Architecture + Design to both honor the original architecture while updating its two streetscapes, three upper terraces, and interior courtyard for public and private use. JETT redesigned the main courtyard and upper terraces to incorporate exterior social and workspaces, and in a nod to its former use as a sculpture garden, accented them with existing relocated sculptures. Similarly, to further mesh the building within the public campus, JETT designed new plazas on both Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, echoing the angled walls and shifting cantilevered planes in the original design. While modernizing the spaces to meet current code, great care was taken to celebrate and integrate with the existing architecture, highlighting the unique form of the historic building. Echoing and restoring the original tilted concrete walls in the entry plaza, JETT created new spaces along both streets and added a new mid-block passageway to facilitate pedestrian movement. The original stepped grassy ground planes, once used for outdoor art display, were integrated into a generous private courtyard, while the three terraces were reimagined as outdoor collaboration spaces.
Designed by Mario Ciampi, the renowned architect in the early 1960's, the angled entry walls were the only remaining significant landscape feature and were taken by JETT as cues to unify the spaces and create animated streetscapes with opportunities for pedestrians to sit, circulate, and connect the building's past to its present-day use. Refined concrete finishes were selected to contrast and highlight the bold form and weathered finish of the building and introduce new concrete technologies such as a proprietary metal that allowed the team to create accurate angles for the concrete forms.
Throughout the design phase, JETT worked closely with Livermore, California-based Bay Area Concretes for their technical expertise, creativity, and ability to seamlessly translate unique designs into built form. "This project was one of our most difficult undertakings to date," said Mike Price, CEO of Bay Area Concretes. "Not only did it require expert EcoSand architectural concrete finishes, but it required an innovative, entirely new 'exo-skeleton' metal forming system, custom created in order to place the monolithic concrete walls, given their boomerang shapes and extreme angles of 45 to 60 degrees."
Two EcoSand surfacing textures provided subtle, alternating colors at both the flatwork and angular walls creating visual interest and cost efficiency. The finishes were achieved with Bay Area Concretes' proprietary mechanical process and involved TopCast surface retarders as well. "There was no sandblasting used in this green building process and thus zero airborne silica in the environment," said Mike Price.
At the upper terraces, large format pavers by Stepstone were installed using a stacked
bond pattern of variable slag and non-slag finishes for slight, but noticeable textural variation and were subdivided by cast-in-place colored concrete bands radiating from the angled
building forms.


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