Big Orange Blob

West
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
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The "foothills" of the site-specific installation created by architect Thom Faulders.

Why don’t more contemporary art museums commission works from architects? Those big open galleries could be so much more fun to explore.  The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives‘ executive director, Larry Rinder (someone who is fast becoming adept at making the most of a space) had the brilliant idea of asking Thom Faulders to come up with an “internal landscape” for the museum’s 7,000-square-foot atrium.

The great thing about the big swoopy orange hill is that it is designed to be walked and lounged on. There are outlets for the undergrads to plug their laptops in and tap into the free Wi-Fi.  You can drink coffee on it. On Friday, amazingly enough, there will be a concert on it after the official unveiling.

“This big bright blobby orange thing was created to logically address a bunch of  requests, instead of being a sculptural form that we just brought in here,” says Faulders. The San Francisco architect had previously worked with Rinder to put together an installation called “Rooms for Listening” at CCA, with immense lounges made out of memory foam. The same impulse, to create a space for interaction instead of a “static object,” motivated the two here.

Designed to function as group seating, the terraces of recliners are made out of curving modules, created on the computer and efficiently fabricated out of flexible plywood over a foam base. The curves are striped with friction tape so that you can make your way through the hills without slipping.

As a purely visual statement, the orange swirls throw into high relief the concrete angles of the 1971 Mario Ciampi building, the galleries rising above in a mysterious composition of ramps and sharp corners.  “BAMscape” is a wonderful place to sit and contemplate another great work of art.

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