Home Calendar - AIA – East Bay Chapter Event 2024 Lecture Series: Communities

2024 Lecture Series: Communities

Designing for a community takes a village! Through two key projects – First Congregational Church of Berkeley and Pleasant Hill Library – two architects and their clients will discuss the thought process necessary when creating community-centric spaces. 

Project 1: First Congregational Church of Berkeley

The First Congregational Church of Berkeley has been a force for good in their neighborhood on the southside of UC Berkeley Campus since the Church’s founding in 1874. As a whole and through the work of small groups and ministries, the Church actively advocates for equity, justice, inclusion and environmental stewardship. In 2016, during a solar panel installation, the roof of their existing 95-year-old Pilgrim Hall caught fire, destroying the building, its social hall, offices and classrooms. Not easily discouraged and in close collaboration with Siegel & Strain Architects, the Church leadership and congregation flipped the loss to opportunity to create a new Community Hall designed to better serve their mission, ministries and neighborhood in an architectural character complementary to the remaining historic church structures but with a greater sense of lightness, welcome and integration than the original Pilgrim Hall.

Susi Marzuola | Architect

Susi’s passion for the particular and the greater good is the driving force behind her leadership at the firm. Her commitment to community collaboration is evidenced in the practice and all its work. Susi Marzuola focuses her considerable energy on the design of projects that are rooted in place and community, marry vision to design solutions, capture imagination, and achieve the highest levels of performance. Her collaborative leadership is central to the firm’s profile on advocacy issues; she speaks regularly in the community, within industry groups, and beyond. Susi is active with the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition’s Electrification Working Group and has taught at the University of California, Berkeley.

Leonard Ash | Client

Leonard Ash is a member of First Congregational Church of Berkeley, United Church of Christ.  He was elected as Moderator, or chair of the governing council, from 2019 to 2020, and currently serves on the “Blue Fire Committee,” charged with envisioning and overseeing the rebuilding of the church campus after a fire destroyed the community hall.  He is a registered civil engineer and supervises water supply and fish passage operations for a local public water agency.  

Project 2: Pleasant Hill Library

The new Pleasant Hill Library is sited carefully in relation to Grayson Creek and the adjacent roads and parcels including proposed sports fields, future housing, and Pleasant Hill Middle School. In addition to the ecological sensitivities of the Grayson Creek floodplain, a robust public engagement process informed site programming and landscape design. The library landscape provides a welcoming arrival for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and public transit riders, with an arrival plaza and outdoor rooms for gathering even if the library is closed. A promenade running east-west links the arrival landscape to the parking lot, street, and new creek trail running from Oak Park Blvd north to the new sports fields. Along the creek trail, the topography has been shaped to create bioretention basins that treat stormwater and accept creek flooding during heavy rain events. A fenced Activity Yard west of the building offers a flexible-use area with space for makers, classes, and children needing to blow off steam in a protected garden environment. Salvaged wood sculptures on the site create meeting points and a playful connection to the natural environment. Large native shade trees and a native, drought-tolerant plant palette celebrate the creekside landscape of this important civic project.

Sarah Kuehl | Landscape Architect

Co-founder of Einwiller Kuehl Landscape Architecture, Sarah wrote her college thesis on graffiti writers. She remains passionate about cities, teenagers, and art. She is very interested in the overlap of conceptual ideas with both social and physical realities.

Patrick Remer | Client

Patrick Remer is a Bay Area librarian with a passion for storytelling and selfdirected learning. He currently runs the Pleasant Hill Community Library in Contra Costa County, where his team sparks curiosity and lifelong exploration through activities ranging from musical storytimes to Lego robotics. Remer has worked in educational settings from preschool to high school, and has served families for nearly a decade in public libraries. He is currently active in the California State Library’s Early Learning with Families Initiative.


May 16 2024


6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: May 16 2024
  • Time: 9:00 pm - 10:30 pm


AIA East Bay
AIA East Bay

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