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Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive prepares for opening of new building
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2015. View from the mezzanine into the cafe, which cantilevers over the Center Street entrance.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will open its new building to the public on Sunday, January 31, 2016, with an all-day open house; the first day of regular programming will be Wednesday, February 3. The building was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, known for such projects as the High Line elevated park in New York; The Broad museum in Los Angeles; and the Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston. Located at the intersection of Oxford and Center Streets, directly across from the UC Berkeley campus, the new BAMPFA will provide exemplary spaces for exhibitions and film screenings, and access to BAMPFA’s historic and contemporary collections of art and film. The new building will serve as the visual arts center of the University and a destination for art and film lovers—students, local residents, and visitors from around the globe.

BAMPFA Director Lawrence Rinder comments, “The new BAMPFA will be the architectural and cultural centerpiece of downtown Berkeley. Combining serene spaces for viewing film and art with dynamic public areas, the building will inspire audiences for generations with its fresh, imaginative design and versatility.”

The new BAMPFA integrates the 48,000-square-foot Art Deco–style former UC Berkeley printing plant with a 35,000-square-foot new structure. The building will total 83,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of gallery space. Visitors will enjoy two film theaters (with 232 seats and 33 seats, respectively), a performance forum, four study centers for art and film, a reading room, an art-making lab, a cafe, and an outdoor LED screen and viewing plaza.

With its presentation of over four hundred film screenings and up to twenty art exhibitions annually, as well as an extensive schedule of public programs and performances, BAMPFA will anchor Berkeley’s downtown arts district.

The versatile exhibition galleries will accommodate an encyclopedic range of artwork. The primary film theater is equipped with state-of-the-art projection for all popular formats—including DCP, 35mm, and 16mm—highly sophisticated acoustics, and a world-class sound system from Meyer Sound.

BAMPFA selected world-renowned interdisciplinary design firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro for the project because of its unique ability to connect institutions to wider urban and public contexts and its proven success in merging adaptive reuse of historic structures with dramatic new design in major urban cultural initiatives. DS+R’s design supports BAMPFA’s mission and enhances its ability to provide the community with exceptional art and film experiences. “The new home for BAMPFA 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,” states Charles Renfro, partner at DS+R. “BAMPFA will become a new social and cultural hub for the entire region.”

“The design merges the old and new to create a permeable interface between the institution and the public,” Renfro continues. “The supple body of the new structure, draped between the original 1930s orthogonal buildings and snagged on their sharp corners, creates a dramatic public spine that begins as a cantilevered cafe marking the building’s entrance, and culminates in an indoor theater on the other end of the site. The sculptural form of the theater volume reinterprets the 1930s Art Deco–style of the press building in a contemporary language of ruled surfaces and precision-formed stainless steel.” Meanwhile the original north-facing sawtooth roof of the printing plant is retained, providing indirect natural light to the art galleries within. At the Addison Street end, the new structure is integrated with a large outdoor LED screen and plaza for public screenings.

Master woodworker Paul Discoe has fabricated joinery elements that add natural warmth to the building. The craftsman has built the stepped seating of the performance space, the admissions desk, and the counter and shelving units in the BAMPFA store using wood that was salvaged from the Canary Island pine trees that were removed from the building site prior to construction.

Windows along the Center Street facade of the former printing press building have been enlarged, allowing passersby to look into the building and see the Art Wall, a 60 x 25-foot interior surface that overlooks the multilevel performance space. BAMPFA will commission artists from around the world to create temporary murals on this monumental wall twice a year. For the opening, Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie will produce a site-specific work on the Art Wall inspired by the Chinese literati garden.

Babette, BAMPFA’s popular cafe, cantilevers over Center Street, offering sweeping views toward the Golden Gate and the Berkeley hills; it also provides glimpses into the galleries and performance space. A new feature of the cafe will be an evening lounge, Swig’s, which will complement Babette’s offerings with a special food and drink menu. The cafe can be accessed without paying admission.

BAMPFA’s inaugural exhibition in the new building, 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 250 works of art, architectural drawings and models, and scientific illustrations made over the past two thousand years. Architecture of Life will occupy all of the gallery spaces in the new BAMPFA from January 31 to May 29, 2016.

The exhibition is organized by 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.”

Architecture of Life will include works by Noriko Ambe, Ruth Asawa, George Ault, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Gustave Caillebotte, 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, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Fred Sandback, Viktor Schauberger, Hedda Sterne, Al Taylor, Rosie Lee Tompkins, James and John Whitney, Lebbeus Woods, and Iannis Xenakis, among many others.

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