The Tenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2008
Berkeley Prize 2008

Laura Schlifer and Daniel Carlson Proposal

Baby Boomers: A New Take on the Old

Proposed Senior Center, Santa Rosa, CA

By the year 2030, the elderly population of the United States will nearly double (1). This demographic shift, largely due to aging Baby Boomers, provides an extraordinary opportunity for designers. The current system of senior centers and the social and physical environment associated with these institutions must be updated in order to successfully meet the needs of this large and influential age group (2). This competition challenges undergraduate students to reprogram the traditional senior center to better accommodate the shifting aspirations of this progressive generation. The innovative programs students will propose should explore the social possibilities that one could create amongst the seniors, volunteers and the community at large. The envisioned senior center should investigate the potential for the aging to maintain self-sufficiency and continue to be contributing members and volunteers in society. Specifically, the proposals should demonstrate an innovative effort to mend the separation between age groups and thus foster a healthier and livelier community. Could a senior center become a volunteer or outreach center? Could it be paired with a business such as a bakery, café or bookstore? Could it offer specialized services such as financial or psychological counseling? Could it be joined with institutions or organizations like libraries, museums or schools?

The site of the competition is in an area of Minneapolis known as Uptown. The main thoroughfare in Uptown defines a sharp border between neighborhoods of young and old. Bordering neighborhoods are on opposite extremes, with some of the highest and lowest proportions of young and old in the city of Minneapolis (4). While there is a large presence of elderly in the area, Uptown promotes an image of being a young, trendy neighborhood. Each proposal should present a convincing solution to curb current tendencies of isolation and separation while demonstrating the potential for a stronger and healthier community as a result of the re-integration of different age groups. The senior center should be a community solution to the unique needs of Uptown, acting to bridge this divide. As part of the design process, students are to choose one site on which they can successfully program a versatile senior center and create a new architectural typology that embodies its new purpose. The site should be no larger than a quarter of a city block and should be within three blocks of Hennepin Avenue. Students should demonstrate the importance of their site selection for the new typology. How does the building relate to residences, institutions, or businesses? How does the proposed senior center fit within the physical context of Uptown, its streets, parks and urban structure?

The competition will take the form of a semester-long studio course, offering the benefits of time and resources to further enhance the quality of the final product. The work conducted in the studio will directly correlate with the aims of the proposed competition and the required coursework for the BS in Architecture program. The compilation of the booklet will act as a means of synthesizing the students’ thoughts, work and research conducted throughout the semester. There are currently a variety of options on the table regarding the specifics of the studio. It may be slated for junior or senior year students and involve anywhere between 15 and 45 students. Any students enrolled in the course may choose to enter their work in the competition. Teams of up to three students are allowed to enter. The final submissions must be represented as a booklet intended for a larger audience. The booklet should be 20 to 30 pages from cover to cover. Two pages should cover an 8.5”x11” sheet in landscape orientation. Note: the booklet should not merely be addressed to the jurors, but the general public. It is intended as a tool to bring these issues to the public’s attention and to suggest an opportunity for positive change that would benefit the Uptown community and inspire others. The booklet must present a logical explanation of each proposal through text and images.

The entries should include a single hardcopy of the booklet and its digital counterpart. Each team should also submit a 1,000 word report discussing how the booklet and its graphic components should be distributed and publicized in order to best reach the general public. The manner in which this is achieved may range from an exhibition at the local mall or library to a website where people could order the booklet. The option is open to each team to decide how best their booklet will make a change.

The competition funds will be distributed as follows: $1,000 First Place $500 Second Place $250 Third Place $1,000 as an honorarium to bring local experts and speakers to visit the students enrolled in the course $750 for jury fees and needs

Jurors are selected based on their expertise in relation to the proposed project. The suggested jurors of the competition will include:

Professor Julia W. Robinson, School of Architecture, specializes in the sociocultural consequences of architecture and design and has worked extensively with housing issues through the Center for Sustainable Building Research and the Metropolitan Design Center.

Professor Lance Neckar, School of Landscape Architecture, serves as the Interim Director of the Metropolitan Design Center, and is devoted to planning and design of affordable housing in the Twin Cities metro.

Professor Becky Yust, Design, Housing and Apparel, is the Head of the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel. In addition to focusing on housing issues, she has also done work in with Gerontology in relation to design.

Maude Lovelle, Uptown Association Director, has extensive community organization experience and is heavily involved in the Uptown area, working with local businesses, organizations and with local government.

The submissions will be due two weeks prior to the end of the Fall 2008 semester. Entries will be judged based on the strength of the arguments and the clarity of presentation. The ingenuity and practicality of the proposed solutions and distribution methods will be weighed strongly. The dates are not final and may be changed according to the needs of the Berkeley Prize committee. Once the competition is complete, we will submit 10-15 slides of the competition entries and winners for the Berkeley Prize website. Upon announcing the winners, work will immediately begin to prepare for the printing and distribution of the booklet.


1. American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. “Aging Services, The Facts.” November 11, 2007. (accessed December 13, 2007).

2. Gross, Jane. “Its Appeal Slipping, the Senior Center Steps Livelier.” The New York Times, 2008. Link (accessed March 28, 2008).

3. U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 1, Matrices P1, and P30. Link (accessed February 20, 2008).

Faculty Contact: Professor Leslie Van Duzer

Daniel Carlson, University of Minnesota, Minnesota USA

As an architecture student at the University of Minnesota I have had many opportunities to explore a number of social topics relevant to the field of architecture. My upbringing in a close-knit family has deeply influenced these explorations. Growing up with strong ties to my grandparents in both rural North Dakota and Minnesota, I (like many others) have seen the effects of old age and can only imagine the approaching struggles for the aging Baby Boomers, the generation of my parents. The everyday difficulties that have affected communities, families and individuals inspired Laura and I to investigate the potential for architecture to address some of these problems.

Beyond this particular issue, other interests have led me to spend the next months traveling. My love for volunteer work (that began with my first trip to Honduras) has moved me to spend a month in Malawi, designing a campus plan for a fledgling university. I will also be researching recreational urban waterfronts in several European countries under a fellowship awarded by the Metropolitan Design Center. In the future, I am hoping to continue studying these and a host of other social issues. I am looking forward to learning from experiences both abroad and at home and hope this competition will bring to light an issue that deserves much needed attention.

Laura Schlifer, University of Minnesota, Minnesota USA

I grew up in a town in Wisconsin that has remained static in terms of physical size for the past 20 years, but has been able to diversify itself by making changes to the built environment. With no room to build (bluffs to the east, the Mississippi River to the west and towns both north and south), I’ve been able to witness how small changes within an existing infrastructure can strengthen a community. Growing up in this area helped shape my architecture-related interests; I have become increasingly fascinated with the relationship between community and change, how each reacts to the other both culturally and physically. In part, this interest led me to enter the Berkeley Prize Essay Competition and Design Competition along with my partner, Daniel.

This summer, I will be working under a research grant with a professor who is currently exploring this broad topic in the context of the greater Twin Cities. Our research will address urban design issues facing the Twin Cities by offering proposals and suggestions as agents for community-wide change. I look forward to the research as a learning opportunity and believe it will further the effect our competition will have on the community-at-large.

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Laura Schlifer and Daniel Carlson, University of Minnesota, United States; Baby Boomers: A New Take on the Old
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