Berkeley Arts District & Poetry Walk

The catalyst for the cultural and economic renaissance of downtown Berkeley is the Addison Street Arts District.  The Arts District began as an act of community activism to retain Berkeley Repertory Theater as a downtown anchor coupled with support from the City, commitments of Addison Street property owners, and collaborative design by JNRA and ELS Architects.  An overlay arts zone was created for Addison Street properties that has resulted in the concentration of music and theater venues.  Its success has spun off other arts-related developments and urban design improvements throughout downtown including theaters, music venues, restaurants, bookstores, and the UC Berkeley Art Museum, followed by hotels and new housing.

The physical transformation of the once derelict side street helped make Addison Street into a lively, dynamic pedestrian-friendly experience with wider sidewalks, a narrowed vehicular “slow street,” new street trees and lighting to support the new building uses.  JNRA worked with artists to integrate visual art and poetry into walkways, walls, and furnishings along the street, while reconceiving the entire block as a plaza that could accommodate outdoor performances. And, in collaboration with former US Poet Laureate Robert Haas, JNRA created the famed Berkeley Poetry Walk in which works from 127 poets with direct connections to Berkeley were printed on cast-iron panels and set into the sidewalk.  The collection of poems, reflecting a cultural history of Berkeley, was subsequently published by Heyday Press as the Addison Street Anthology, and declared a National Landmark by the American Poetry Association.

Location

Berkeley, CA

Size

0.86 acres

Completed

2001

Client

City of Berkeley

Team

Robert Haas + Jessica Fisher (Poetry Curators)
ELS, Donn Logan, Principal (Architects)

Awards

National Poetry Landmark, The Academy of American Poets, 2004
President’s Award, Downtown Berkeley Association, 2003

Excellence in Partnership Award, Downtown Berkeley Association, 1995

Related Projects

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Cupertino City Hall Gardens

4th Street Maker’s Row

Yountville Town Center