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Fate Unclear for Brutalist Building Vacated by Berkeley Art Museum

The Berkeley Art Museum permanently closed its iconic Brutalist building this past December, and is planning a move nearby in 2016, reports Docomomo’s Lacey Bubnash. Now, the fate of its former building remains unclear.

“Considered by many to be the Bay Area’s most remarkable example of Brutalism, the structure was known for its unfinished concrete forms and cantilevered interior galleries that radiate out around a large, skylit atrium,” writes Bubnash. And the local landmark is on the National Register—but its concrete forms leave it vulnerable to earthquakes, leaving a future for the building unclear.

The concrete building, designed by Mario Ciampi with associates Richard Jorasch and Ronald Wagner, opened to the public in 1970. It received a “twenty-five-year award” from the AIA California Council in 1996. The very next year, however, assessors determined that the museum didn’t meet seismic standards.

UC Berkeley has declared it will neither sell nor demolish the building, but has yet to identify any specific uses or occupants.

Writes Bubnash, “We are confident that the strong landmark protections provided by the City of Berkeley will help keep this remarkable structure largely intact, but without an occupant it remains at risk for neglect.”

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