Thom Faulders’ Seating Landscape at Berkeley Art Museum

Posted by Staff on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

BAMscape at BAM by Thom Faulders

One thing I noticed while an undergraduate at UC Berkeley was how creative my fellow students were when it came to finding a place to nap. Walking though the library or cafeteria, I would come across some very inventive sleeping arrangements: a stack of books or a backpack for a pillow, chairs pushed together as a bed, even sleeping bags under tables during finals week. All the best napping spots get swooped up pretty quick, but now students can add the UC Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) to their list of snooze-friendly corners of campus. In January 2010, BAM commissioned a piece titled BAMscape, a 1,500 square-foot bright orange undulating landscape of seating, that will reside in the central atrium until April 2012.

BAMscape was designed by the award-winning East Bay architect Thom Faulders. BAM selected Faulders to design and build this installation because of the experimental nature of his work, whether it be commercial, residential, or installation. In particular, Faulders sees his practice as an exploration of people’s relationship with the built environment and how design can lead to a creative engagement with that environment. He describes the architectural work of his studio “not as static form or pre-programmed space, but as an arena for adaptive opportunities and responsive possibilities.” His work on the BAMscape installation applies these principles of openness to a space at the intersection of art, architecture, and performance.

BAMscape at Bam by Thom Faulders

Nap time at BAMscape

Even though the installation covers a lot of square footage, it is relatively lightweight. In order to create a large-volume piece while adhering to a modest budget, the structural core of BAMscape is rigid foam. The foam core has been wrapped in thin plywood that was precisely cut using CNC laser cutting processes. The final product, which is 93% air, consists of 150 curved modules that form a sea of swelling seats. With electrical outlets integrated into the sculpture and free Wi-Fi available, students and the public are encouraged to use it as a place of study, work, and relaxation.

BAMscape is at the core of a transition BAM is currently undertaking in their curatorial approach. In their words, it is “part of a new vision of the gallery as a space for interaction, performance, and improvised experiences.” Many of the exhibition walls have been removed to further open the space around BAMscape and let light into the atrium. The variation in the sculpture encourages visitors to move around and seek out different perspectives from which to view the museum’s collection and architecture. Furthermore, it will be a unique setting for the full schedule of film screenings, talks, and musical performances that are part of the museum’s L@TE: Friday night @ BAM/PFA series.

Images: Marion Brenner

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