Barry Alan Berkus

Obituary
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Nov. 25, 1935 - Nov. 30, 2012

Internationally renowned architect, Barry A. Berkus, who has been at the forefront of residential design in this country and abroad, designing over 600,000 residences, died at Serenity House, surrounded by family, on November 30, 2012. Based in Santa Barbara for over thirty years, his architectural firms has had offices in New York, Los Angeles, Irvine, Sun Valley, Idaho, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Miami, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo.

Berkus came to Santa Barbara, California initially as a student in 1958. He attended UCSB and later entered USC's architecture program before pursuing his passion for housing design. He was instrumental in promoting and advancing the role of architect as planner and designer of neighborhoods and communities and redefined living patterns in housing. His resort and master planned communities, urban infill, commercial and institutional projects and custom homes have earned his design team more than 300 design and planning awards from regional, national and international competitions over the past 40 years. Architectural Digest named him one of the world's "top 100 architects" in 1991. Professional Builder honored him as the most innovative architect in the area of housing in the United States. The readers of Residential Architect selected Berkus as one of the ten most significant figures of 20th century residential architecture. In 1999, Builder magazine counted Berkus as one of the 100 most influential individuals in the past century of American housing.

He authored several books including Architecture, Art, Parallels, Connections, a book which examines basic design principles as they are revealed in works of art and relates these principles to both the built and un-built environment. House Design, Barry A. Berkus, Sculpting Space, released in 2002, offers a diverse sampling of the many Berkus designed custom homes.

His influence was not limited to domestic architecture in the United States. His interest in building systems spearheaded extensive research and development of modular housing and the study of building methods abroad. In Japan, his work extended from planning and design of new towns to developing the current building codes for framed construction. Other international projects included the planning of communities in Malaysia, master planning of residential villages for EuroDisney in France, and the redevelopment of the waterfront Expo site in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lecturing frequently in Asia, Europe and throughout the United States, he was the keynote speaker for the 25th anniversary of Weyerhaeuser in Japan and a featured speaker at the 50th anniversary of the Urban Land Institute. He served on a subcommittee of the National Academy of Science, reviewing the certification of building technology, and a sub-panel of the National Institute of Building Sciences. He also served on the Policy Advisory Board for Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, and was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Urban Land Institute. In 2005, he was inducted into the Builder's Choice Hall of Fame.

In 1984, his teams designed, supervised construction and built a temporary village for Olympic athlete housing for the 1984 Summer Olympics at Lake Casitas, California, and served as the Commissioner of Rowing for the 1984 games.

A life-long participant in adventure sports, he set world records in hydroplaning, was rated third nationally in 500-mile open water racing, skied the Rockies (via helicopter drops), and skippered six transpacific yacht races, captaining a boat representing the United States in a Quarter Ton Class race in San Remo Italy in 1979. He also summited Mt.Vaughn in Antarctica, summited for the very first time. He subsequently became a member of the exclusive New York Explorer's Club.

An avid art collector, his extensive art collection included paintings by some of the leading contemporary artists in the world such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Robert Raushenberg, David Hockney, Robert Therrien and Frank Stella. Locally, he supported local artists and donated a large body of work to the County of Santa Barbara, exhibits which continue to travel throughout the County. He has Co-Chaired the Contemporary Collection Committee of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. since 2009.

A man of immense generosity, he was the longest living member of the UCSB Foundation Board, and has served on many other boards, including the Granada Theater, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, and the Wilding Museum. He designed the UCSB Mosher Alumni House and helped to guide the reconstruction of the Granada Theater. His designs for the Children's Museum, to be built on lower State Street, have been approved by the City of Santa Barbara.

He hosted a Sunday morning basketball game for many years at his home in Hope Ranch, where he once hosted the L.A. Lakers. The "Berkus Boys" still play every Sunday morning in Santa Barbara. He also bicycled every Saturday morning, rain or shine, with the West Las Palmas Association, a group of his close friends, for well over thirty years.

One of the greatest pleasures of his life was the fact that throughout his architectural practice, he mentored many young architects, just beginning their careers, many of whom have gone on to open their own offices throughout the country.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on November 25, 1935, he grew up in Pasadena, meeting and marrying his high school girl friend, Gail Hanks in 1957. Gail died in 2000. He married Jo Cahow in 2005, who has been a loving and caring wife, and is survived, as well, by his two sons and their wives, Jeffrey and Rebecca Berkus of Aspen, Colorado, Steven and Dana Berkus, and his daughter, Carey Berkus, currently a resident of San Miguel de Allende. Also surviving are his four grandchildren: Sarah, Kelson, Renee and Stuart Berkus, and his brother, David Berkus and his wife, Cathy, of Pasadena.

Sincere gratitude from the Berkus family goes to Dr. Tom Woliver, Dr. Jeffrey Kupperman, Dr. Gary Van deVenter, Carmen Flores, Barbara Pell, RN, OCN, Hospice Case Manager, many friends and others too numerous to mention, for their compassionate care during his illness.

A memorial service will be held at the Granada Theatre, 1214 State Street, Santa Barbara, at 2:00 p.m., January 26, 2013. Guests are invited to wear red accessories. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care, Hospice of Santa Barbara, The Granada Theatre, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.


Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13, 2012
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