Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Architect in the Community: Luis Bernardo: "Encourage preservation and adaptive re-use"

Luis Bernardo, Principal at Design Collective, is one of three new Baltimore Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. He was elevated to this status in 2016 for his services to the profession. In the application his accomplishment include:
Luis Bernardo, FAIA
As a proponent of contextual intervention and adaptive use, Bernardo’s work has transformed numerous abandoned industrial structures, warehouses, brown fields, historic and waterfront sites. In his 28 years working in the city, he has repurposed numerous important historic structures such as Camden Yards and the Power Plant which currently houses Design Collective’s offices. His work also includes the
renovation of The American Can Company as home for the Emerging Technology Center, an incubator company that encourages technology start-ups and promotes
economic development. On the inner harbor he turned the science center “inside out” with a renovation and addition that delights and inspires millions of visitors and has been placed on several Top 10 science centers in the country lists. Several
waterfront residential brown field projects have sparked Baltimore’s interest in embracing its industrial history while renewing its profound connection to the harbor. This work has been recognized by several institutions including in 2011
from the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore for contributions to the City and its Architecture.
After graduating with a Bachelor and Masters from the University of Maryland, Luis Bernardo worked only in one other firm than Design Collective: He was an intern for two years at Torti Gallas, the same firm where his father, also Luis Bernardo, was design principal until he retired some years ago. With 28 years of service at Design Collective Luis is Partner in Charge of Design, where he is responsible for the design and management of a variety of projects with a focus on student life and urban mixed use environments. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute and the US Green Building Council.
Design Collective has had a hand in projects and plans known to everybody in Baltimore from the Science Center, the Visitor Center, the Power Plant, the American Can Company, the Fitzgerald to the Westside Masterplan and projects that are currently in development such as Caves Valley's Towson Row in Towson and the Stadium Square project in Sharp Leadenhall. Design Collective was also the designer for the State Center masterplan.
Bernardo's connection to the community occurs via his engagement with his alma mater and as a mentor of students.
Design Collective started as a suburban office in Columbia, MD, oriented on suburban production architecture before it relocated to Baltimore in 1993 and developed an urban focus. 

Below the mini-interview:

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
-         I was twenty. After two years of studying engineering in college, I realized that I needed to make a change to a related but more visual field. I liked problem-solving but engineering proved to be too abstract for me.

What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
-          My father was an architect and tried to talk me out of it. It was not until many years later that he told me that “he didn’t want me to be hurt if I did not have the talent.” I went ahead anyway and it actually gave us a special bond as we now have so much in common.
 What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why? 
Rutgers Living Learning Community
-         Rutgers Living Learning Community holds a special place for me. We were able to take everything we had learned over a decade of designing for students and completely transform an outdated suburban campus into a thriving mixed-use urban environment. In student polls it went from the least desirable of the five Rutgers campuses to the most! It’s nice affecting lives in a positive way.
 What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide?Give one reason why. 
-          I would say every building I have ever visited by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. After graduating from college I went on a solo back packing pilgrimage to Europe and saw many of his masterpieces. Rarely have I seen such humanistic, beautifully realized spaces. The use of light, contrast of materials and relaxed asymmetry of his compositions were inspirational. (see Aalto’s Library at Mount Angel Abbey)
Alvar Alto: Libary at Mount Angel Abbey
 How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years. 
-          Well the buildings by Design Collective are excellent. Not sure I can sum up everything else in one sentence.
 Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
-          I have lived in Catonsville for 20 years and have worked in the Inner Harbor for 25 and I love them both.  I will say that my son recently moved into a townhouse in Federal Hill and every time we visit we love the scale, historic architecture and endless variety of pubs and restaurants to visit.
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
-          Do anything you can to encourage the preservation and adaptive re-use of the many treasured buildings that make Baltimore such a unique place to live, work and visit. It is smart policy and the most sustainable way to build.
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
-          As an example, I drive every day from Catonsville to Baltimore on Frederick Road which becomes Pratt Street. Needless to say, the quality of the built environment changes drastically along the way. Hopefully public and private forces can work together to form new strategies for encouraging reinvestment and revitalization in our City. We are working with a lot of public-private partnerships through our developer, college and university clients across the country and have seen firsthand how these partnerships can be applied to promote new development and infrastructure.
Towson Row: Design Collective
What would you like to be remembered for?
-          “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Woody Allen

One final comment of your own choice.
-          I was fortunate to recently be elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows and have my family, friends and peers to thank for their support in achieving this recognition.
 The series of mini interviews with Baltimore's architects and their role in the community will continue.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

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