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Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive unveils plans for new facility designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
View from Corner of Center and Oxford Streets. Photo: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive held a community open house to present the schematic design for its new facility to the public. The project, designed by the renowned New York City-based firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), will unite a repurposed former UC Berkeley printing plant at 2120 Oxford Street with a new structure.

Located in Berkeley’s arts district, the new building will be bounded by Center, Oxford, and Addison Streets, and will count as its neighbors the Berkeley Repertory Theater; Aurora Theater; Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, devoted to traditional music; and the Bancroft Library’s Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. The new BAM/PFA is targeted for completion in late 2015.

The architect-of-record for the new BAM/PFA building is the nationally recognized, San Francisco-based EHDD. “UC Berkeley is pleased to share with the campus and wider community its plans for a new building for BAM/PFA,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design successfully integrates great architecture with Cal’s mission of public service and contemporary and civic life. The new museum will make BAM/PFA’s tremendous artistic and intellectual resources more publicly accessible to local, national, and international audiences. We congratulate BAM/PFA on the progress that it is making on this exciting project and look forward to opening the doors of this superb new facility to our students, faculty, staff, and the public.”

BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder added, “BAM/PFA’s dynamic exhibitions and programs will find an ideal home in the new facility designed by DS+R. The firm’s plan respects the grand interior of the existing printing plant, while adding to that building a bold new architectural form filled with sensuous colors, materials, and surfaces. DS+R’S commitment to the integration of cultural institutions into the life of cities is embodied in its embrace of transparency and openness as fundamental design principles. At once beautiful and accessible, the new BAM/PFA will be a destination for art and film lovers from throughout the Bay Area, the nation, and the world.” Project Background

BAM/PFA began planning for a new facility in 1997, when an engineering survey determined that its current building, on Bancroft Way, does not meet present-day seismic standards and cannot be upgraded to meet those standards without eliminating the open space required for the museum’s exhibition program. In 2006, the museum engaged the Tokyo-based firm of Toyo Ito & Associates to design a new building on the University’s downtown site. However, in 2009, economic uncertainty stemming from the international recession led the museum to explore design alternatives.

The museum subsequently convened an architect selection committee composed of campus faculty and administrators and representatives of the museum and community. The committee identified ten national firms and invited them to submit qualifications for the project. From this group, three were selected to make presentations and participate in interviews. The committee’s recommendation of Diller Scofidio + Renfro was endorsed by the BAM/PFA Board of Trustees.

Building Design
Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design for the new BAM/PFA combines the 1939 concrete Art Deco-style former printing plant, unoccupied since 2004, with a new metal-clad structure. The new design creates a cohesive and visually arresting space for art, film, education, civic interaction, and administration. Plans call for the industrial building—currently a single-story, skylighted structure with a three-story administrative wing at its east end—to house the museum’s collection and exhibition galleries, a thirty-two-seat screening room, museum store, learning center, K–12 education areas, community gallery, and offices. The new structure, extending between the corner of Oxford and Addison Streets and the museum’s Center Street facade, includes the 230-seat PFA Theater, Library and Film Study Center, special event space, collection study area, café, and nonpublic areas. The facility is thus defined by two primary and integrated components: the imaginatively repurposed older building and a complementary, forward-thinking multipurpose structure.

The entrance to the new BAM/PFA will be on Center Street, on the south side of the former printing building, one block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. On the north side of the building, an outdoor plaza will provide a welcoming public space. A large section of the new museum will be accessible to the public without an admission fee, including the lobby, multipurpose gallery, MATRIX gallery (devoted to exhibiting work by emerging artists), community gallery, special-event space, and café. The new BAM/PFA is anticipated to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, given by the U.S. Green Building Council) certification of silver or higher.

Former UC Printing Plant
Plans for repurposing the former printing plant include preserving many essential aspects of the building envelope, including the sawtooth roof and distinctive facade. Work on the interior has been designed with great sensitivity to the original structure, and will include extensive excavation to allow for additional gallery and education spaces, as well as elevators and other required service elements. The building will also be seismically upgraded.

Infused with natural light admitted by three large north-facing skylights, the ground-floor galleries provide 10,800 square feet of exhibition space ideally suited for viewing art. Other ground-floor amenities include the grand lobby; MATRIX Gallery, devoted to the work of emerging artists; and a distinctively designed museum store with large windows running along the Center Street frontage. DS+R’s plans call for the lower level to be excavated to obtain 12,500 square feet of additional gallery space, much of which is particularly suitable for light-sensitive work, as well as public study areas, a seminar room, a thirty-two-seat screening room, and spaces specially designed for K–12 visitors. The total number of linear feet of wall space for exhibitions will be approximately thirty percent greater than in the current building.

New Structure
The new structure will be most visible at the corner of Oxford and Addison Streets, across from the western entrance to the UC Berkeley campus, where it will appear to hover above the excavated lower level. Rinder says that “this minimally sculpted volume—a sensuous cipher—will instill a sense of curiosity about the PFA Theater within.” Below the PFA Theater, a lower level will contain the Film Library and Study Center, open collection storage and study areas, and other education-related spaces.

Created to accommodate a range of programming, the theater itself will include a screen as large as fifteen-by-thirty-six feet and will be suited to a variety of media formats, including 35mm, 16mm, and both regular- and super 8mm film, as well as HDTV and SDTV. It will also accommodate lectures and performances with a stage area suitable for a small band, orchestra, or other musical accompaniment to film. The compelling forms and materials of the theater structure will appear to drape over the roof of the printing plant’s administration building and cut through the eastern end of the sawtooth skylights to create a dramatic connection to Center Street, where they resolve into a double-height atrium and a café that cantilevers over the museum’s main entrance. This striking intervention will serve as an architectural spine that unites the two buildings into a single composition.

Berkeley | Pacific Film |  |

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