Critique of the UC Santa Cruz Music Building
matt chisholm
May 1997

The dominant metaphor is Doom- not the sensation, but the video game. Perhaps it's because the building was designed using a computer- perhaps it is an artifact of the times. The long square corridors suddenly, blindly opening onto unexpected chambers and courtyards, balconies peering over, secretly observing open spaces, remind us of running through purely unreal halls, not knowing exactly where we are or where the enemy is. The walls are concrete and details nonexistent- no moulding, trim nor decoration- simple cast concrete walls abruptly meeting smooth floor recall the repeating, low quality digital images covering the geometrically perfect walls of the imaginary world. The building is young- just beyond the stage of construction and growth. This too is part of the effect- the details have not been taken care of yet. The carpets, signs, bulletin boards, and other standard issue academic building paraphernalia sit somewhere in a storeroom, rolled up, stacked, unwrapped, awaiting the monday morning when someone will unroll, unpackage, position and fix them to the hall and court cavity of the monolith. The diffuse light under the night sky contributes to the paradigm- bulbs are hidden behind panels on the ceiling or scoops on the walls, and all the light is reflected, spread, smoothed easily across the planes of the structure. The doors are unlocked but the evening finds the building vacant, the only sound emanating from a radio at a security guard's post, also vacant as we tread softly by. The exploration takes on an edge after that, while we climb stairs and slide down curving hallways, everything clean and expectant. The skills learned in front of a screen surface, some subconscious translator replacing footsteps for keystrokes, as we re-enact the exploration of new spaces. Not until the upper patio are we quite sure where we were- mental maps crystallizing after the path loops back on itself, and we look down upon chasms and corridors tread earlier. The building stares back at us, evoking memory of a frozen, immaterial world.