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'Architecture of Life' will be inaugural exhibition at new BAM/PFA building, opening in 2016
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Hand holding the film theater model for BAM/PFA, 2012; digital photograph; courtesy and © Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive announces the inaugural exhibition in its new building located at the intersection of Oxford and Center Streets, directly across from the UC Berkeley campus. Scheduled to open in early 2016, the new building will provide improved spaces for exhibitions, film screenings, and public access to BAM/PFA collections.

The new BAM/PFA’s inaugural exhibition, Architecture of Life, will explore the ways that architecture—as concept, metaphor, and practice—illuminates aspects of life experience: the nature of the self and psyche, the fundamental structures of reality, and the power of the imagination to reshape our world. The exhibition will present an international selection of over 150 works of art, architectural drawings and models, and scientific illustrations made over the past one thousand years. Architecture of Life will occupy all of the gallery spaces in the new BAM/PFA.

The exhibition is organized by BAM/PFA’s Director Lawrence Rinder, who comments: “Visitors to Architecture of Life will be able to engage with the breadth and depth of cultural experience at UC Berkeley. Boundary-breaking, innovative, and radically interdisciplinary, the exhibition will present visually exquisite, rarely seen works in ways that suggest new connections and meanings.”

Charles Renfro, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, states “DS+R is thrilled that the first show in the new building will form a synthesis with it, foregrounding the power of architecture to go beyond function to inspire and surprise within a building that we designed to inspire and surprise.“

Architecture of Life will include works by Noriko Ambe, Ruth Asawa, George Ault, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, James Castle, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Marcel Duchamp, Suzan Frecon, Ernst Haeckel, Ganesh Haloi, Toyo Ito, Stephen Kaltenbach, Frederick Kiesler, Kimsooja, Paul and Marlene Kos, Fernand Léger, Otto Lehmann, Ad Reinhardt, A.G. Rizzoli, Till Roeskens, Fred Sandback, Tomás Saraceno, Viktor Schauberger, Hedda Sterne, Al Taylor, Rosie Lee Tompkins, James and John Whitney, Lebbeus Woods, and Iannis Xenakis, among many others. The exhibition will be accompanied by a film series in BAM/PFA’s new state-of-the-art theater.

BAM/PFA is renowned as a haven for film lovers. During the inaugural year in the new building, international and local filmmakers, critics, special guests, and experts on film will share their love of cinema in the series Cinema Mon Amour. In the new downtown location, BAM/PFA will expand its film offerings for K–12 students and lifelong-learning audiences, as well as introduce limited runs. The richness and depth of BAM/PFA’s film programs will continue to honor the art of cinema in the widest possible sense of its expression from early cinema to contemporary films.

Designed by the world-renowned firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (known for such projects as New York City’s elevated High Line park, The Broad Museum in Los Angeles, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston), the new BAM/PFA integrates a 48,000-square-foot Art Deco–style building, formerly the UC Berkeley printing plant, with a 35,000-square-foot new structure. The new building will total 83,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of gallery space. The $112 million project has been funded through a philanthropic capital campaign and private sources.

The new building will merge old and new into a dynamic and versatile home for BAM/PFA’s offices, collections, programs, and other amenities. In keeping with the institution’s sustainable practices, the adaptive reuse of an existing University building will provide a modernized home for BAM/PFA. The new design incorporates and echoes many elements of the original building. The printing plant’s distinctive north-facing sawtooth roof has been preserved, which will allow filtered natural light into many of the ground-floor galleries.

The new structure, a stainless steel–clad curvilinear volume, carries into the twenty-first century the streamlined Deco style of the 1939 printing plant. This distinctive form extends from the theater volume at the northeast corner to the cafe, which dramatically cantilevers above the main entrance on Center Street. BAM/PFA visitors will enjoy two film theaters (with 232 seats and 33 seats, respectively), a performance forum, cafe, four study centers for art and film, a reading room, an art-making lab, and various creatively designed gathering areas. Rinder notes: “The new BAM/PFA combines serene spaces for viewing art and film with public areas that will inspire audiences with their fresh, imaginative design and versatility.”

Diller Scofidio + Renfro was selected for the project because of the firm’s previous experience with adaptive reuse of historical structures and new museum design, as well as its ability to adhere to strict cost guidelines. Their design supports BAM/PFA’s mission and enhances the institution’s ability to provide the community with exceptional art and film experiences. “The new home for BAM/PFA,” states Renfro, “will leverage its location between downtown Berkeley and the UC campus by providing unprecedented visual and physical access to its programs for both visitors and casual passersby. BAM/PFA will become a new social and cultural hub for the entire region.”

BAM/PFA will be a new anchor for Berkeley’s downtown arts district with screenings of some four hundred films and presentations of up to twenty art exhibitions annually, as well as an extensive schedule of public programs and performances. The versatile galleries will accommodate a range of artwork and the theaters will be equipped with state-of-the-art projection, sound, and acoustics. The new building will further accentuate the institution’s role as both the visual arts center of the University as well as a destination for all art and film lovers—students, local residents, and visitors from around the globe.

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