Housing belongs atop shopping, says architect Barry Berkus.

By Alison Rice

Filled with people, their purchases, and the never-ending buzz of activity, shopping centers hustle and bustle at all times of day.

That's exactly why Barry Berkus of B3 Architects in Santa Barbara, Calif., says shopping centers--or rather their rooftops--are perfect spots for housing. "I think there's a very strong desire to live in the 'fun zone,'" says Berkus, whose firm is designing mixed-use projects that allow people to do just that.

"It all started when Borders and Starbucks came back to town," Berkus says. "Were people going there to read books and drink coffee? No. They were going there to see people. I think the same formula applies to housing."

At The Tides in Santa Monica, Calif., for example, beach cottages sit on the roof of an office and retail building. When people question him about the decision to distinguish the cottages so dramatically from the offices below, Berkus responds, "People want to live in houses." And, despite the elevated location, houses they are, with terraces and courtyards for outdoor living.

"You can do anything you want, depending on the fabric of the place around it," Berkus adds.