The Nineteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2017
Berkeley Prize 2017

Bella Biwer Proposal

The Architecture of Place: Amaranth Bakery and Cafe

Communities tend to maximize architecture’s reflection of their culture. Some building types are consistent across communities: gas stations, post offices, etc. However, communities contain at least one building specific to their microculture. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, several microcultures coexist generating a diverse interweaving of ideas. These microcultures are exemplified through Washington Park’s Amaranth Bakery and Cafe on West Lisbon Avenue, Thurston Woods’ Agape Community Center on North 42nd Street and Historic Water Tower’s Landmark Downer Theatre.

Amaranth Bakery and Cafe of Washington Park was built in 1912 by George Zagel and served as an office building in the early twentieth century. The lower-level bakery has been owned by Dave Boucher and Stephanie Shipley since 2005. The upper-level was originally a residential space, but is now occupied by Tabal Chocolates and Kofi Dance Company. This building is intriguing because of the nature of its location. Washington Park has faced significant turmoil in the past, but is improving through the work of dedicated businesses and programs like Amaranth. Aside from providing a safe meeting place, this quaint cafe promotes community involvement through constructive activities such as a pop-up art gallery. The Agape Community Center in Thurston Woods was built in 2000 to provide a space for the city’s Agape program. The Community Center can serve as a health center, food pantry, and a venue for endless other neighborhood events, the majority of which are free. The gymnasium serves as a transformative area for community events such as summer school classes, meals, elections and fairs. In this way, the purpose is very similar to that of Amaranth Bakery, as Thurston Woods is also a struggling neighborhood. However, Agape is more direct in its intentions than Amaranth in the manner in which it provides shelter for its residents.

Built in 1915, the Landmark Downer Theatre of Historic Water Tower is the oldest commercial building in its area. The building, which originally had a symmetrical facade and art deco marquee, was designed by Martin Tullgren and built by Marc Brachman. Since then, the theatre experienced a renovation on the facade in the 1930s and another in the 1990s to maximize interior space. Originally, the theatre featured silent films. Today, residents can still experience its charm while viewing quality independent and foreign language cinema. Being in a wealthier part of Milwaukee, it provides a more lighthearted entertainment than the semi-life-saving services of the Agape Center.

Of the above described buildings, I find the Amaranth Bakery and Cafe the most intriguing. The building, being the oldest of the three, has a very established place in the community that is humble in character. Amaranth is the only business of its type in Washington Park and is in stark contrast to the surrounding environment. The majority of the buildings in Washington Park are rental homes and a few commercial buildings. While such a cafe is common in areas like eastern Milwaukee, Amaranth is a sanctuary for the Washington Park community. Such places are what form the core of a community.

Bibliography Aviles, Jeff, Benjamin Chung, and Claire Olson. "Today's Businesses: Amaranth Cafe & Bakery." Washington Park Stories. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. http://arch302.weebly.com/todays-businesses.html.

"Bingo Night at the Agape Community Center." Picturing Milwaukee: The 2012 BLC Field School. N.p.,n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016..

"Downer Theatre." Picturing Milwaukee: The 2013 BLC Field School. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. .

Sommer, Cynthia. "History of Downer Theatre." Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. N.p., n.d. Web.27 Oct. 2016. .

"Wisconsin Historical Society." 3327-29 W LISBON AVE. Wisconsin Historical Society, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. .


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Amaranth Bakery and Cafe
Amaranth Bakery and Cafe
Agape Community Center
Agape Community Center
Landmark Downer Theater
Landmark Downer Theater
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