Celebrating Concrete

With its future in jeopardy, Mario Ciampi's Berkeley Art Museum focus of Aug. 24 talk
Celebrating Concrete
(photo: Andrea Baldassarri)

When it opened in 1970, Berkeley's University Art Museum was lauded in the press and admired by visitors, who were stunned by its a multi-leveled interior with bravely cantilevered ramps leading from open gallery to open gallery.

Today architect Mario Ciampi's building faces an unknown fate, as concerns for its seismic stability have convinced the university to replace it with a new museum a few blocks away.

In an effort to draw attention to the building and its future, architect and author Pierluigi Serraino will discuss 'Mario Ciampi: A Concrete Architect' on Saturday, August 24, at 3 p.m. inside the museum. The talk is sponsored by the modernist preservation group Docomomo and tickets are $7 for non-members.

"The museum should be preserved. It's very much a part of the history of the Bay Area, " Serraino says.

Ciampi's building will remain open for several more years. The building may be repurposed and reused.

Ciampi (1907-2006), one of the few Bay Area architects who worked extensively in concrete, designed churches, schools, and the curving overpasses of Interstate 280 south of San Francisco. The Berkeley museum, Ciampi said in 2005, was his favorite among his buildings.

"The interior space is just extraordinary, and it does take advantage of the concrete, which is not embellished," Serraino says. "You could call Ciampi a Brutalist, but really, he's a romantic architect."

For more on 'Mario Ciampi: A Concrete Architect,' click here.