Central California Museum of History, Fresno, CA, 2002–present

Predock Frane Architects

Location: Santa Monica, California
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Predock Frane is an emerging architecture firm featuring a collaborative research and development studio, in which it explores “analogues, environmental intelligence, oppositions, and the erosion of traditional boundaries.” Conceptually complex yet time-sensitive, these pursuits, translated into building form, are extraordinarily elegant, thought-provoking, and functional.

In its design for the Central California History Museum, to be located in downtown Fresno’s new cultural district, Predock Frane addresses the crucial agrarian landscape and water systems that have been part of the 15,000-year story of human presence in this region. The building is layered like a landscape: the lower level is the most earthbound, and uses thickened earth and heavy materials; the upper levels seem to float, with a perforated copper skin which changes appearance under different lighting conditions. Archival materials embedded in wall elements stitch the floors together.

For the Center of Gravity Foundation Hall, a teaching and meditation hall for the Bodhi Mandala Zen Center in New Mexico, light itself structures the space. Predock Frane’s design traces the course of the sun during the day, integrating this information within its scheme. Embracing oppositions, the architects juxtapose heavy rammed earth with light polycarbonate, creating an ideal environment for the various rituals that take place inside and out.

Predock Frane studies the confrontation of human and natural forces with “Acqua Alta, or Just Add Water,” using the city of Venice as its context. Chosen to be one of six architects to represent the United States in the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale, it evoked water and marsh patterns and the complex geometries of piers that underpin this environmentally vulnerable city. In its mesmerizing installation of nearly 6,000 strands of monofilaments, each monofilament was hung from the ceiling and held in position by lead weights, creating a transparent linear forest. To grasp a bunch of strands would have been tempting, but this urge underscored the fragility of the environment that we have created, and how easily it can be destroyed.