Nan Ellin introduces Deborah Berke. Berke spent five months at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti and six years at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York. While in New York she collaborated with Kenneth Frampton on a monograph about neo-rationalist Rob Krier. She has practiced architecture in Florida, Washington, D.C., and now heads her own firm in New York. Having taught at the University of Miami and the University of Maryland, she is currently an associate professor of architecture at Yale.
Berke begins by acknowledging that architecture is a collaborative process which includes her partner, their clients, and contractors, and is not the result of the stereotypical autonomous male architect’s vision. Only showing and discussing completed built projects, she believes that it is the building that conveys meaning. Her earliest freestanding projects houses built in Seaside, Florida in 1983. The Modica Market building in Seaside was built with a modest budget on an awkward site and was published widely, perhaps due to its proximity to one of Steven Holl’s projects.
Berke presents a renovation of a warehouse to house a showroom and offices for an Italian designer’s clothing line. The goal of the project was to heighten the anonymity of the building which was partly achieved through re-stuccoing and applying bland paint color to the exterior. Another project she did for a different designer was a renovation of an unwanted space at the top of a Manhattan office building. This project focuses more on an economy of means, in an effort to strip the space down to the fewest number of components possible.
Berke discusses a house addition she designed for artist Peter Halley in Columbia County, New York on a mostly wooded 100 acre site. Determining that the existing house had integrity that did not allow for a simple add-on, she decided to build the addition on another part of the site and connect it to the house with a row of trees. The three primary components of the house are a studio space, guest quarters, and a screened porch. The screened porch is not normal in that area but was insisted upon by the client’s wife. Each of the three programmatic components is its own building but are combined as a unit.