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Gaia Building is a pleasant surprise of good architecture

Hank Resnik
Saturday August 11, 2001


I’m in favor of higher densities in Downtown Berkeley, more housing and density on transit corridors, and greater height limits than have generally been the case in high-density areas. But even I was a bit taken aback by the enormous bulk of the Gaia Building on Allston Way as it took shape behind a concealing screen for many months throughout the spring and early summer. It seemed completely out of scale and wrong for the setting. 

Now that the wraps are off and the Gaia Building is nearly finished, I understand what its designers and builders had in mind. In my view, it has immediately become one of the best buildings anywhere in Berkeley. It has a combination of gracefulness, color, and decorative novelty that no other downtown building can match. The tiles add interesting hues and patterns to what would otherwise be a bland exterior. The roof gardens are a delightful and visually surprising touch. The windows are elegant. The entire structure has a classical aura that blends well with some of the better buildings nearby such as the Shattuck Hotel. Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in this beautiful structure. 

The real problem now is some of the other buildings downtown. Let’s face it. The Gaia Building is a true asset for Berkeley. It helps to define downtown; it provides a distinctive sense of place. In contrast, some of the character-deficient low-rise structures nearby should be bulldozed – or shipped out to Walnut Creek where they belong. 


Hank Resnik