Deborah Berke Partners is a New York-based architecture practice that has been doing projects all over the country and around the world, with an expertise of over thirty-five years into the field run by Deborah Berke, an American architect and academic born in the year 1954. Deborah Berke received her education at the Rhode Island School of Design and earned her bachelor’s degree in both fine art and architecture. She received an honorary doctorate from the school in 2005. In 2012, Deborah Berke Partners received the first Berkeley-Rupp award, given to an architect who has advanced the position of women in the profession, and whose work emphasizes a commitment to sustainability and community. Berke has served as a professor of Architectural Design at Yale University since 1987 and she became Yale’s architecture dean in July 2016. Berke was the first woman to assume the role of dean at Yale – one of American’s prestigious Ivy League Universities. On being offered the position she quoted, “I look forward to continuing the legacy while bringing new energy and new perspectives to the school based on my experience as a practitioner, as well as an educator.” The design team at DBP leads the principle of expressing architectural form and creating projects with unprecedented programs.
The firm is deeply driven by diversity and culture and recruits actively from ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. Over the past years, the firm has been able to extensively expand its architectural knowledge and design methodologies over a wide range of typologies, including institutes, residences, hotels and buildings for mission-driven clients. DBP has bagged many awards under its banner including a National Award for Design from Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Some of its institutional designs incorporate play of materials sourced from locals and correspond to the site context, thus, making it stand out.
Below are 15 projects by Deborah Berke Partners, designed under three main categories being institutional, commercial and residential.
1. Dickinson College Residential Hall
Located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This residential space designed by Deborah Berke spreads over an area of 40,500 square feet and is a LEED (Leadership in energy and environment design) Platinum Certified Building. The design for the Dickinson College Residence Hall takes material inspiration from the surrounding historic campus. The High Street facade is made of limestone, while the back facade of zinc and glass responds to a more casual lawn (and future quadrangle) to the south, anticipating the institution’s future growth. Both materials respond to the existing campus while maintaining a new, distinctive exterior. This LEED Platinum Building’s E-shaped plan creates a pair of small courtyards to break up the building’s mass. All circulation spaces have windows inviting natural light and open views, providing double the social spaces with seating and study nooks. This design, after rigorous interactions with students and university members, is able to provide them with their needs and the gender-neutral bathrooms and social spaces make it an inclusive and comfortable place. Carefully calibrated to student life, the new residence hall helps re-center the collegiate experience and create a cohesive, inclusive, and flexible community within.
2. Bard College Conservatory of Music
Bard College Conservatory of Music, is set amidst an area of 16,000 square feet in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The design for the building is crafted to suit the Conservatory’s mission of providing top-level musical training in the context of a liberal arts education. The layout reflects the alternate uses of instruction and performance by ensuring all its spaces – teaching studios, classrooms, rehearsal spaces, and a state-of-the-art performance hall- being exceptionally versatile in terms of space usage. The performance hall can accommodate as much as 150 guests in a comfortably suited space, whilst giving an idea of a small, intimate audience. Acoustically isolated rehearsal studios can accommodate individual musicians and small ensembles. The building’s bold yet balanced massing with crisp white stucco and rich mahogany is its highlighting feature. As a result, despite its modest size, the Bard Conservatory of Music holds a strong presence on the Bard Campus for being able to stand out among the context.
3. Marianne Boesky Gallery
The gallery was designed for a client, Marianne Boesky in New York back in 2007 by Deborah Berke Partners and was envisioned to be architecturally distinct, invitingly private, suiting to its West Chelsea site. The firm designed a glazed white brick volume on a corrugated metal base, with a sidepiece of custom concrete block. The building is set asymmetrically next to the High Line and was the first building built in accordance with that area’s new zoning, put in place as the park was being conceived. The gallery has offices, storage, and several distinct exhibition spaces, including project rooms and an expansive room to the north, lit by skylights. The gallery’s interior spaces are arranged in a sequence to create a rich experience of discovery as one moves through space. From the entrance, a generous entry hall leads past the reception area and private viewing room into the first gallery. Beyond that, the building opens up to the main gallery, measuring 28 feet by 57 feet, with its 18-foot ceiling punctuated by three large north-facing skylights. These light monitors are carefully designed to mix small amounts of indirect, south light with north light for improved depth of color in the main gallery, enhancing the space lighting for exhibits. Museum-quality electric light supplements this natural light on cloudy days.
4. Industria Superstudio
This project is a good example of the adaptive reuse of an existing space, wherein the team of Deborah Berke Partners designed a garage into a collection of photography studios back in 1991 in the city of Manhattan. It used the existing automobile ramp for circulation and embraced the wooden-truss-arched construction of the building for shaping the large studios. Working with the spirit of the existing built, it used industrial materials and products throughout the design. Curved cycloramas were built for panoramic images and existing concrete floors were polished and retained for their durability.
5. 77 Greenwich
Deborah Berke Partners designed the interiors for 77 Greenwich, with FXCollaborative as the architect for the project. The 42-story tower features a stepped glass curtain wall that gives it a distinctive profile on the Lower Manhattan skyline while providing expansive views of the New York harbor for all residential units. The project is expected to be completed by 2020. Upon entering the lobby, visitors find warm natural materials such as dark granite floors, pleated bleached mahogany walls, and a ceiling of bleached mahogany baffles. Inside the apartments, entry galleries lined with ash veneer panels, guide residents to open kitchens and living rooms featuring floor to ceiling windows and panoramic views. At the penthouse level, shared amenity space for entertainment, exercise, and play radiates from a curved central volume made of bleached mahogany. The double-height fitness center allows residents to train or meditate over the skyline, while a children’s playroom and a dog park, support well-rounded family life. Double height spaces are a visual treat and can be greatly used for gathering spaces and interactions.
6. 432 Park Avenue
DBP served as a design architect of the residential units at 432 Park Avenue in 2015, the noted and exceptionally tall tower in New York. It also served as interior designers for the building’s model unit, in addition to designing the layouts, finishes, millwork and interior details of every residence. The classically modern apartments are shaped by their orientation for views through exceptional 10-ft by 10-ft windows. The building offers distant and remarkable vistas in all directions. The apartments designed, range in sizes from 1,450 square feet, up to full-floor units of 8,100 square feet. Floors are pale maple, bathrooms are slabbed marble, and all hardware is custom-designed for the building. The details are precise, minimalistic, and elegant. Every detail has been considered and provided to suffice the client’s satisfaction. Sculptural furnishings such as a Yves Klein coffee table and a custom dining table reflect the pure geometry of 432 Park Avenue. 432 Park Avenue has been extensively covered in the international press, including articles in Abitare, Wallpaper, Casa Vogue, Country Life, and d’Arc.
7. 40 East End Avenue
In a city that is increasingly defined by anonymous glass towers, Deborah Berke Partners has designed 29 residences in a distinctive, carefully crafted building that is grounded in the East End Avenue area of the Upper East Side. Textured charcoal, gray brick facades, and an elegant stepped profile give the building a timeless, rooted quality that contributes to this family-oriented neighborhood. Renowned for both its architecture and interiors, DBP designed 40 East End Avenue emphasizing the relationship between indoors and outdoors. Located on a quiet corner with East River views, the building’s articulated base relates to the scale of the street wall. Decorative metal and glass canopy welcomes pedestrians from East End Avenue and inside, one witness rich, high-contrast materials, giving the lobby and lounge a refined, but contemporary feel. Designed for everyday use as well as a place for residents to entertain, a curving sculptural staircase provides a dramatic focal point to this space. Other amenities include a gym, a library, and a game room, which are imagined as extensions of the residences. Large French windows flood the residences with natural light. Details like white oak herringbone-patterned hardwood floors and carved stone fireplace mantels provide the units, their character. Open and enclosed kitchens, with stone and wood finishes, and custom metal mesh-paneled upper cabinets, combine tradition with modern details. Large operable windows allow river breezes into the apartments. Juliette balconies, a private maisonette garden, setbacks, and large terraces on the upper floors, reinforce the indoor-outdoor connection throughout the building.
8. Irwin Union Bank
Irwin Union Bank is situated in Columbus spreading across an area of 4000 square feet and was built in 2006. Deborah Berke and her team designed this small drive-through branch for a regional bank, with a long history of supporting innovative architectural ideas. Sited on a commercial strip surrounded by big-boxed stores, the idea was to set a glass volume on top and perpendicular to a brick volume, that housed the banking hall below. The lighting of the channel glass allowed the building iconic visibility beyond the limits of its physical size. This same glass volume creates a generously daylit hall for customers inside and a dramatic canopy for drive-through customers outside.
9. Box Studio
Hired by a prominent photographic post-production studio, the design was to develop a center for a growing business. It started with a derelict and unoccupied three-story warehouse located in the Meatpacking District. In an extensive renovation of the building, they organized each floor around a central hall, defined by a vertical hole cutting through the building. This “cut” visually connects the building’s many components, including labs, studios, darkrooms, production and printing facilities, viewing spaces and offices. It also provides natural light to the center of the building. Most significant was the transformation of the façade into an arrangement of a simple grid of boldly-large windows in a striking black-brick wall. It sits, both mysterious and arresting, on busy West 14th street.
10. 21C Museum Hotel Brooklyn
The design aim of this 12-story hotel and the cultural building was to both “stand out” and blend in with the BAM cultural district, sitting on an area of 100,000 square feet in New York. On one hand, its program was unusual: a hotel in a predominantly cultural quarter dominated by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On the other hand, this hotel was also intended to provide a cultural experience: it includes a museum of contemporary art and provides needed rehearsal space to the Mark Morris Dance Group. Accordingly, the design emphasized on creating a building of evident presence that nonetheless looks “at home” in downtown Brooklyn.
11. North Penn House
This new 3,500 sq ft house is defined by the juxtaposition of its horizontal planes with the dramatic topography of the wooded site, including a sloping landscape. When designing North Penn House for a family, this New York-based firm drew on elements found in modernist dwellings, built in the surrounding area during the 1950s and 1960s. The design also responds to the property’s secluded wooded setting at the top of a hill, which leads down at the back to a meadow. A long roof with big overhangs, tall sliding glass doors, and Indiana limestone floors, which extend out to the terraces, connect the indoors to the outdoors, the changing seasons become a vibrant backdrop to everyday life. Zinc panels and mahogany doors and windows combine with the light gray pavers in a modern, yet warm palette of materials. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors are slotted into the central portion, opening up views from the main living area to the outside. Rectangular openings puncture the roof to allow natural light to access a bed of plants underneath. The design of the house balances literal transparency — where the public rooms of the house connect to the expansive landscape beyond — with privacy, so each of the bedrooms has a view to the outside that is quite focused.
12. Sackett Hill House
On a large property of 3100 sq ft in northwestern Connecticut, this modern house was designed by Deborah Berke Partners to frame a long view to the south. The property is accessed by a long curving driveway through the densely wooded site. Upon arrival at the pea gravel parking area, visitors walk on a stone path through an opening in a historic stone fence-a subtle threshold that heightens awareness of the landscape, to reach the house. Inside, the expansive view of the rolling grassy hills and the pool are revealed. The modern composition of glass and blackened wood contrasts with the rustic wooded hillside and old stone walls on the property. The house offers numerous physical and visual connections to the meadow outside and mountains beyond. All the livable spaces-four bedrooms, a library, home office, kitchen, screen porch and large open living area—are on one floor in two long volumes forming an “L”, one side of which contains the public areas, and the other side, the more private spaces. Polished concrete floors reflect the abundant natural night. Pale wood paneling lines the walls of many of the interior volumes, adding warmth and texture to the interiors.
13. Sospiro Canal House
This new house in a historic neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale was designed by Deborah Berke Partners in 2004, covering an area of 6300 square feet. The property fronts a canal, offering water views, but requiring physical privacy. An “H-shaped” plan creates courtyards that function as outdoor spaces sheltered from the street and the canal, allowing interior rooms to have multiple exposures. The building is composed of cubic volumes of coral rocks, connected by long stucco surfaces and dark wood windows. The owners’ significant art collection adds to the material and formal richness of the house. On the interior, the interplay of intimate and open spaces provides a background for varying scales of artwork. Lighting and wall surfaces have been carefully designed to allow for flexible and informal hanging of the clients’ collection.
14. Darby Lane House
This modern weekend house lies on a small, flat land in East Hampton, Long Island. Beautiful old trees punctuate the landscape, acting as a framework for and motivation behind the design. A square entry court intermediates the boundary between nature and home and shelters a striking crape myrtle (native trees and shrubs with pink flowers). The house’s exterior stucco, brick, and wood surfaces express intersecting one- and two-story volumes, outlining the courtyard, second-floor terrace and a mass of the fireplace. Glass expanses on the side and rear of the house open interior rooms to the landscape. Simple, durable materials such as flagstone floors, accommodate the house’s functional requirements as a beach house. A large pool is placed for seclusion at the rear corner of the property, surrounded by a hedge for maximum privacy.
15. Crestview Lane House No.1
This beach-front house in Sagaponack, New York was designed by Deborah Berke Partners around the diverse and active lives of a large family. Built conforming to strict coastal regulations, the three parallel-ridged volumes align with the shoreline below to maximize ocean views. The material and spatial conception is a play of stone, wood, extensive glazing, and outdoor spaces carved out from the main volumes of the house, to break down the scale and root it firmly in its locality. The gracious rooms take full advantage of the view and offer access to outdoor living spaces. This property includes a pool, pool house, and tennis court.
Jinal Shah is a student of Kamla Raheja Institute for Architecture and environmental studies, Mumbai and is currently in her fourth year. She has always been intrigued towards design and research and thus enhancing her architectural knowledge to more. She has always been curious about learning new concepts and in this journey of three years, she has gained a new perspective of thinking and addressing a subject concerned. She looks forward to expanding her thoughts and widen the scope of learning.