Barry Elbasani
Photo courtesy ELS
Barry Elbasani

Barry Elbasani, FAIA, an architect whose master plans and buildings were frameworks for revitalizing downtowns throughout the country, died on June 29, 2010, at his home in Berkeley, California. He was 69.The cause of death was brain cancer.

Elbasani, one of the founding principals of ELS Architecture and Urban Design in Berkeley, was responsible for major buildings and plans in Milwaukee, Portland, Oregon, Phoenix, Summerlin, Nevada, Los Angeles, Austin, and Coral Gables. Grounded in a belief that architecture and urban design were interdependent, his designs drew on the principles of thriving urban streets.

Elbasani and his firm came to national prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s with a series of collaborations with the Rouse Company. The first was the Grand Avenue in Milwaukee, which linked two existing department stores two blocks apart by connecting them with a historic arcade and a new arcade.

The next project with Rouse was the mixed-use center Pioneer Place in downtown Portland, Oregon that preserved the human scale of the city. By creating a sense of place, the project served as a catalyst for other development downtown. The Shops at Arizona Center, in Phoenix, Arizona, also for Rouse, took a similar approach by creating a retail center that formed an edge to an oasis landscape designed by the SWA Group. One of Elbasani’s last projects with the Rouse Company before General Growth Properties purchased it in 2004 was the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, a mixed-use retail/office/residential development oriented around a public garden.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Elbasani graduated from Stuyvesant High School and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Cooper Union in 1964. He then obtained a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 1965.  Subsequently Elbasani took a position as a senior designer at Victor Gruen’s office in Los Angeles, then worked for the Oakland Redevelopment Agency and taught at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1967, he, Donn Logan, FAIA, and Michael Severin won a national competition to design the Broome County Arena in Binghamton, New York. The trio formed ELS (then known as ELS Design Group) that same year.

In addition to working with Rouse, Elbasani also collaborated extensively with General Growth Properties on projects such as Summerlin Centre in Summerlin, Nevada. In contrast to the Las Vegas strip, ELS’s master plan for the future downtown core creates a traditional mixed-use setting, integrating a network of streets, landscaped boulevards, and public open spaces to provide gathering places.

Among Elbasani’s most recent projects is the 39-acre master plan for Mueller Town Center in Austin, Texas. Located within the 711-acre redevelopment of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, the sustainably designed district includes retail, entertainment, residential, office, hotel, and cultural components and will serve as a town center for the surrounding residential neighborhoods and medical campuses.

Mr. Elbasani’s work also included historic renovations, such as the restoration in the early 1990s of the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, and entertainment centers, such as the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE for AEG, which opened in 2007.

Elbasani is survived by his wife, Kathleen; son, Colin; brother, Jerry; nephews, Barry Elbasani II and Zachery Conger; niece, Dr. Kim Conger; sisters-in-law, Marsha and Sharon Tinkler; and a brother-in-law, Bill Tinkler. He was preceded in death by his son, Marc Daja Elbasani.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Elbasani Memorial Scholarship Fund in the Department of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley. Donations can be mailed to Department of External Relations, c/o Adrienne Livoni, College of Environmental Design, 235 Wurster Hall, Mail Code 1820, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1820.