Commissioned to convert an abandoned printing plant into a university art museum, Diller Scofidio + Renfro took inspiration from fresh fruit. The architects left the original building intact, stretching a sleek skin around it, split open at the front. The new Berkeley Art Museum will open next week with an exhibition that historically contextualizes Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design process, and provides a formidable storehouse of ideas for future architecture.
Appropriation of natural forms for architectural purposes dates back to the prehistory of civilization, when early humans began emulating the natural shelter provided by caves. More recently (and self-consciously), architects have derived building systems by observing the formation of crystals, the seeding of plants, and the construction of nests. One especially creative adaptation, well represented in the exhibition, is to be found in Frederick Kiesler’s midcentury Endless House, a flexible dwelling that he described as “a living organism, not just an arrangement of dead material.” By rejecting the rigid modernist grid in favor of the body’s developmental and structural plasticity, Kiesler conceived a home compatible with the people living inside. […]