BAMPFA AR uses Augmented Reality to tell the story behind the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) building, from its inauguration in 1940 as the UC Berkeley printing press, to an abandoned structure covered with graffiti by local artists, to a contemporary museum and urban cultural hub designed by renowned New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The project was created by Luisa Caldas, professor of architecture at UC Berkeley and director of the XR Lab, a laboratory for virtual, augmented and mixed reality, working with a multidisciplinary team of computer science and architecture students. BAMPFA AR was under development for two years and made waves in the AR world by introducing unique ways of creating an AR public experience. The team took continuous advantage of technological innovations by exploring new hardware and software features released during project development, seamlessly mixing research and creative development. Extensive design iterations on user interface and user experience (UI/UX), combined with visitor feedback from multiple preview events led to a final product praised by visitors of all ages at the Berkeley Art Museum.
BAMPRA AR – Augmented Time is composed of three different experiences that explore new modes of storytelling by overlaying multimodal digital media over physical artifacts. Timeline is based on a large physical model of the building, a 200lbs solid metal replica built by the same company responsible for constructing the iconic metal addition to the museum. An augmented timeline allows the user to navigate through time, rendering visible hidden narratives. It encompasses three chapters, the first covering the past history of the building, the second its construction process, and the final presenting the museum in its current configuration.
The original UN charter document was printed here at the UC Berkeley printing plant in 1945, to be signed by delegates from 50 nations meeting in San Francisco in the midst of WWII, charged with creating the foundations of future world peace. The plaque outside Oxford Street commemorates this event, and its AR counterpart allows visitors to further explore those momentous times. In 2005 the printing plant was closed, and the building was abandoned. Interior walls become covered with graffiti by local artists. The photos of the abandoned building now included in the BAMPFA AR app where taken by Coleman Fung, the founder of the Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership at UC Berkeley, who later donated then to the museum.
In the next chapter, a team of virtual architects emerges around the model with the blueprints for the new building. Visitors can enjoy DS+R partner Charles Renfro’s talk at UC Berkeley during the museum inauguration in 2016, presenting the architecture concepts guiding the project. Sustainable construction strategies embedded in the building are highlighted in the AR experience, including the reuse of large metal beams stored during demolition, the use of salvaged wood from trees removed from the construction site, and the optimal daylighting design of the old industrial building that perfectly matched the needs of the new art galleries. The repurposing of the existing Art Deco building, made to hang in the air while its foundations were cut to dig new gallery space under it, allows for the sustainable adaptation of the building to new uses, while conceptually working as a ‘found object’ wrapped by the new sculptural metal volume of the theater.
State-of-the-art digital fabrication was used to build the new metal skin as a gigantic jigsaw puzzle made out of thousands of uniquely shaped pieces, individually designed and cut by computer-controlled machinery. The challenges of putting this complex structure together are presented by its construction workers, giving a face and a voice to the hidden hands that built the building. At the end of the AR experience, the user can roam the virtual gallery space and see past exhibitions already closed to the public. Short films produced by UC Berkeley students, or those part of the Pacific Film Archive, can be enjoyed in the miniature AR outdoors screen.
Invisible Walls, another of the three AR experiences, allows visitors to use X-Ray vision through the wall that separates the atrium from the movie theatre. After peeling away the wall layers and metal structure, digging through the concrete slab and removing the theatre seats, users can finally gain a full view the theatre screen, where they can watch a movie by X-Raying through the wall while standing on the atrium. Invisible Walls also allows visitors to view the interior of the supple, freeform metal skin, an experience not available in reality.
The Craftsman, which takes place in the Crane Forum amphitheater, tells the story of Paul Discoe, a Japanese woodmaster and Buddhist priest who used the salvaged wood from the site to build this unique structure. While sitting on the amphitheater, visitors can take a glimpse at his workshop, examine traditional Japanese tools, and listen to Paul’s voice explaining his approach to Zen architecture, woodwork and joinery.
Luisa Caldas is Professor in the Department of Architecture and founder of the XR Lab – Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Laboratory. The XR Lab focuses on the use of immersive environments for building design and simulation, healthcare applications, generative design, UI/UX, narrative and storytelling. Luisa Caldas has been active for more than twenty years in the field of sustainable design and green building, both in academia and as an energy consultant for large commercial buildings. Her work focuses on the use of advanced computational tools to support sustainability input in early design decision making. One of her main areas of research in this field is the integration of complex geometry architectural solutions with sustainability, by developing the conceptual processes, workflows, and computational tools that allow multiple scale integration, from master planning to building design to facade components.