How Elizabeth Premazzi’s International Culture Shaped a California Tower’s Design

The creative mind behind Oakland's 39-story luxury tower reveals details about her sources of inspiration.

Bringing a wealth of experience from Brazil, Asia, Africa and the U.S. to her designs, Elizabeth Premazzi’s rich cultural insights are seamlessly woven into her work, but particularly into the fabric of 1900 Broadway. With its curtain-wall design, Behring Co.’s 452-unit luxury tower in Oakland, Calif., aspires to provide a hospitality-inspired experience.

Elizabeth Premazzi Architecture & Design’s Elizabeth Premazzi
At 1900 Broadway, Feng Shui was a guiding principle and was top-of-mind throughout the design process for the tower, said Premazzi. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Premazzi Architecture & Design

The 39-story high-rise integrates luxury living, coworking and retail spaces, transportation and a myriad of amenities into a tech-enhanced ecosystem. This live-work-play-go lifestyle aims to reduce residents’ costs by as much as 30 percent, according to a recent prepared statement from CEO Colin Behring.

To turn this vision into reality, the developer worked closely with Elizabeth Premazzi Architecture & Design’s founder, and her diverse international background had a huge impact on creating the living experience at 1900 Broadway. In the interview below, Premazzi talks about her sources of inspiration and how they impacted her work at this 421-foot-tall mixed-use tower located directly above the 19th Street BART Station in Uptown Oakland.

You’ve lived in multiple countries and seen diverse cultures. To what extent has your international perspective and expat experience influenced the design of 1900 Broadway?

Premazzi: Growing up in Brazil and starting my career in Asia significantly shaped my design philosophy. I’ve had the opportunity to work on real estate projects around the world, including in China, Africa and the U.S. Living and working in various countries exposed me to diverse cultures, design practices and philosophies around what a home should be. These experiences have enriched my perspective and thought process and this influence is evident in the design and architecture of 1900 Broadway. International elements are woven throughout the building, from the overall environment of the amenity spaces to the subtle Feng Shui details that only a trained eye would notice.

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I also know that your childhood memories had a huge impact on the design of the residences and the amenities at 1900 Broadway. Tell us more about that.

Premazzi: My father was a politician who frequently hosted gatherings with my mother in our home growing up. I’ve noticed that the seamless transition between spaces in a single-family home makes the entertaining experience all the more special. This is often lacking in rental properties, so I made it my mission to incorporate similar transitions into 1900 Broadway’s residences and amenity spaces.

Reminiscent of minimalist open concepts I fell in love with while studying in Denmark on a scholarship from the Aarhus School of Architecture, I opted for open kitchens in the residences, allowing for an uninterrupted flow of conversation and interaction between residents and their guests. The amenity spaces are also open, and certain spaces are purposefully placed next to or near each other to enhance the entertaining experience. The fourth floor is my favorite example of this—between the digital tap room, indoor seating areas and outdoor deck, residents and their guests can easily transition between the different spaces as they eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company.

People seem to be at the forefront of your designs. What does this approach mean exactly and how is it reflected in 1900 Broadway?

Premazzi: A people-first approach prioritizes the desires and well-being of those using the space. At 1900 Broadway, I considered human-centric factors like comfort, rejuvenation, productivity, privacy and social interaction. As a result, each space throughout the building’s 39 stories has a specific use and evokes certain feelings.

I do like to entertain myself and enjoy having everyone gather in the same space, often hosting guests from different backgrounds. It is fascinating to see how humans interact. By observing the dynamics within the events I host and participate in, I often leave with ideas on how to best modify or enhance a space to facilitate human connection. If the intention has the right ‘vibration,’ human connection will be enhanced. The ultimate reward is to see the faces of those who enter the space, seemingly mesmerized by the good energy projected toward them. It warms my heart and elevates my soul to see and hear that those who enter the building and experience the space feel a sense of comfort and belonging.

The residences exemplify this approach—our homes already double as living, working and entertaining spaces, so it’s important that we also make them places to recharge. In these highly personal spaces, I opted for floorplans, color palettes and materials that help foster a sense of calm and renewal.

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Speaking of calm and renewal, can you elaborate on the specific Feng Shui principles that you mentioned earlier? How are they incorporated into the design of the building?

Premazzi: Feng Shui is about balance between the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. At 1900 Broadway, Feng Shui was a guiding principle and was top-of-mind throughout my design process for the tower.

Feng Shui principles can be found throughout every inch of 1900 Broadway. A few of my favorite instances are the building’s south-facing entrance, which connects it to the powerful fire element that dictates everything in life, and the wood and metal finishes which strengthen and balance the energy of the fire element, respectively.

The color black, associated with the water element, is used throughout common spaces and residences to represent protection and energy flow, facilitating fluidity between spaces. The black arches seen as one transition from residential corridors to elevator lobbies encourage curiosity and exploration while providing refuge from negative energy. Plus, dark elements create contrast, enhancing the visual experience for residents and visitors.

What does the “full-stack lifestyle experience” at 1900 Broadway mean exactly? How will it improve residents’ lives and reduce their costs?

Premazzi: 1900 Broadway is Behring Co.’s flagship STAKsite and offers tech-enhanced luxury apartments, headquarters-quality flex office and coworking space, and more than 47,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities, including a fully automated valet parking garage, all of which is accessible via Behring Co.’s mobile app, STAK. By combining these offerings into a single campus-style tower, 1900 Broadway offers a full-stack lifestyle experience centered around four pillars: live, work, play and go.

STAKsites feature a unique ecosystem that offers residents both organic and engineered savings. Similar to airline miles, active engagement with 1900 Broadway’s services leads to increased cost savings and added value.

Organic savings arise from daily choices like forgoing car ownership or eliminating the need to commute to an office. Engineered savings result from leveraging the building’s full-stack lifestyle offerings such as employers investing in STAK memberships for talent. If employers also provide employees with apartment accommodations, their cost savings increase while maximizing employees’ take-home income. Similarly, residents receive concessions for opting into additional services such as $1,000 off monthly rent for joining the coworking program.

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Are there any particular amenities that you believe will stand out to residents? Which spaces do you expect to be the most sought-after?

Premazzi: Since leasing for 1900 Broadway launched, residents and prospects have been particularly drawn to the 12-tap digital taproom serving beer, wine, kombucha and more on-demand; the 6,650-square-foot, custom designed vault-style fitness center and the fleet of Tesla vehicles, scooters and micromobility options available through the carshare program.

My favorite space, which I expect to grow in popularity as we welcome new residents, is the penthouse lounge on the 39th floor. It offers uninterrupted panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay Area, a sophisticated gathering space complete with a cocktail bar, private 16-seat boardroom, warming kitchen, expansive media wall and plush seating, and access to an outdoor lanai with terrace seating. I truly enjoy spending time in this space when I’m on site.

Integrating multiple types of spaces such as residential, work and recreational under one roof is a growing trend. How do you expect it to evolve over the next decade?

Premazzi: The trend of integrating residential, work and recreational spaces will likely continue to grow over the next decade. Renters increasingly prefer apartment buildings with a la carte-style amenities and services over properties with seldom-used amenities they still have to pay for. 1900 Broadway has seen tremendous demand since we launched leasing, further underscoring the appeal of full-stack ecosystems. As demand continues to increase, these assets will become more prevalent in metropolitan areas across the country.

Is there a way you can ensure that the building’s design remains timeless and adaptable to future trends and needs?

Premazzi: Real estate is subject to the influence of highly localized dynamics, and the same can be said about architecture and design. These dynamics will change, new trends will come and go and external opinions on design will always be present. However, I focus on people in my practice because they inhabit and use the spaces we create. By taking a people-first approach to 1900 Broadway, we’ve created a timeless environment that reflects fundamental, unwavering aspects of human life and is well-suited to adapt to future changes.

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