Penitentiary

Penitentiary

These days, I’ve been staying closer to home. With two months until commencement, I’ve renewed my interest in my Berkeley bucket list and some of the spots I never got around to shooting. It’s so much easier to shoot a couple blocks from home instead of taking public transportation for 3 hours at 6 in the morning to get somewhere moderately cool…making my newfound interest mostly a product of convenience and laziness.

I still pass by this massive block of brutalist architecture a minimum of 3 times every day as I walk to and from campus, vertical concrete slabs surrounded by two sets of fences and sitting across the street from all my classes like an abysmal black hole. Brutalism might not be for everyone, but the building is beautiful in its austerity, in its trapezoidal planes and severe geometries and momentary shafts of light. It’s the BAM, and because it wasn’t earthquake safe or something it was closed permanently, in lieu of a newer, glossier construction a couple blocks away. Ever since its closure there hasn’t been any talk of its restoration, leaving it to weave cobwebs while 30,000 people roam around just outside its two fences every day.

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We jumped over with some difficulty (and after Natalie accidentally flashed a couple students) and found ourselves in a concrete sanctuary, decorated with dandelions along its cracks. With a black dress and a couple yards of black wool, we investigated how the sunlight obstructed and flattened and abstracted the BAM’s topography and all the spaces within its shadows. We had a mere hour to shoot before our schedules pulled us apart, so Natalie left for an open house covered in a thick coating of baby oil while I headed back to my laptop, both of us wondering how long it would take for this place to be remembered again.

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