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Oral Hist. Archive Margaret Ikeda

Fundamentals of Architectural Design II Fall 2004 Critic: Margaret Ikeda Archived Project

Project 3: Archive of California Oral History, Oakland, CA The longest, most involved studio project I encountered at UC Berkeley asked us to insert an archive of California oral history into a historic, abandoned train station in West Oakland, about ten miles south of Berkeley. The train station was built at the turn of the century, serving as the terminus of the transcontinental railroad until structural damage and cuts in rail service closed its doors in the 1950s. It is presently in a state of disrepair, in a run down neighborhood, but as I walked its marble floors, I was amazed at the way it still holds a sense of elegance and even pride of its glory days. Our challenge was to insert into this shell a high-density archive of oral history. Approximately three-quarters of the space, by volume, is devoted to archival storage. The archive would have a small staff to maintain the materials, collect new transcriptions, and curate a small exhibition. Visiting research fellows have accommodations within the facility for stays up to two weeks.

The archive needed to visibly represent itself as a large collection of personal stories and objects, rather than anonymous data. I proposed that each archive box be labeled with a large barcode graphic which would identify both the person associated with the material and the item itself. In the Engineering library at UC Berkeley, I poured over books describing barcode systems’ industrial applications. They are a flexible system of encoding any alphanumeric information, easy to generate and print at nearly any scale, and can be adapted to proprietary information systems easily. While appearing generic, these symbols are actually unique, and can encode complex information. When viewed in elevation, the archive became a field of barcodes, creating a graphic texture of minute variations representing individuals. The barcode is a microcosm of the archive itself. However it would not be appropriate for this view to be always displayed. Inspired by the work of Christo and Jean-

Claude, I proposed a system of curtains to visually obscure all areas of the archive not in use. This simple, ephemeral covering softens the hard edges of the modular archive lattice. The curtains would be mechanically opened when a researcher selects material for retrieval, making the archive an interactive research tool connected integrally to the computerized search database that catalogs its contents. The structure I proposed within the existing building lightly touches it at its edges without piercing it, giving opportunities to access the building at many levels with a steel-grate catwalk system to keep view of the whole unobstructed. The archive revives the public-service use of the train station and adds to the grandness of its interior by the scale of the structure within it.

Above: Research into bar coding technology and standards for encoding information such as UPC and ISBN. Top: In the archive, bar codes graphically encode contributors’ names, representing both the individual and collective contribution.

Above: Photographs of the abandoned train station. Once the bustling terminus of the transcontinental railroad, it now sits empty. Top: Sketch of steel gratings for walkways which allow unobstructed views of the building within the archive.

Tectonic detail models in bass wood, plaster, acrylic, and pour stone. Left and below-left: partial model of the inserted structure. The archive is modeled in clear acrylic, and the ‘soft room’ sleeping area for visiting researchers is at the ground level. Below-right: pillow panels, modeled in plaster. Below: Massing models of the interior in resin. Research and exhibition space (clear) is inserted into the mass of the archive (amber) which takes up most of the volume.

Above: Ground floor plan. Support spaces for researchers, interviews, and an exhibition are located here. The archive is shrouded in curtains, and revealed in sections as needed.


Project 3: Archive of California Oral History, Oakland, CA Critic: Margaret Ikeda Archived Project Oral Hist. Archive Margaret Ikeda f.04


Project 3: Archive of California Oral History, Oakland, CA Critic: Margaret Ikeda Archived Project Oral Hist. Archive Margaret Ikeda f.04