Arts & culture, Film, Visual arts

New BAM/PFA to open in downtown Berkeley in January

By Peter Cavagnaro


The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) will open its new building to the public on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016.

Located at the intersection of Oxford and Center streets, directly across from the UC Berkeley campus, the structure designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro provides improved spaces for exhibitions, film screening, and public access to BAM/PFA collections.

Rendering of new BAM/PFA.

Rendering of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. (University of California photo)

The new BAM/PFA integrates a 48,000-square-foot Art Decostyle building, formerly the UC Berkeley printing plant, with a new 35,000- square-foot structure. The new building will total 83,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of gallery space. Visitors also will enjoy two film theaters, a performance forum, cafe, four study centers for art and film, a reading room, an art-making lab and various gathering areas.

Founded in 1963, BAM/PFA is UC Berkeleys primary visual arts venue with its screenings of some 400 films and up to 20 exhibitions annually. BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder says the new building will further accentuate the institutions role as the visual arts center of the campusas well as a destination for all art and film lovers students, local residents and visitors from around the globe.

The $112 million project was funded through a philanthropic capital campaign and private sources after a 1997 seismic survey determined that Woo Hon Fai Hall, BAM/PFAs current building, does not comply with todays earthquake safety standards.

Blending the old with the new

Charles Renfro, a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, says the new museums design merges the old and new to create a permeable interface between the institution and the public.

The supple body of the new structure, draped between the original 1930s orthogonal buildings and snagged on their sharp corners, he says, creates a dramatic public spine that begins as a cantilevered cafe marking the buildings entrance, and culminates in an indoor theater on the other end of the site.

Follow the progress

Click here for a variety of details and images of the new BAM/PFA structure in the final days before it opens its doors to the public.

Renfro notes that the sculptural form of the theater volume reinterprets the 1930s Streamline Moderne style of the press building that previously occupied the site in a contemporary language of ruled surfaces and precision-formed stainless steel.

At the Addison Street end, the new structure is integrated with a large outdoor LED screen and lawn for public film screenings. The theater hovers above an open excavation, exposing the library and study centers located underneath the theater to the public. The printing plants original and distinctive north-facing sawtooth roof is strategically used to provide indirect natural light into many of BAM/PFAs new ground-floor galleries.

Architecture of Life

The new BAM/PFAs inaugural exhibition, Architecture of Life, will explore the ways that architecture as concept, metaphor and practice will illuminate 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 more than 200 works of art, architectural drawings and models, and scientific illustrations made over the past 2,000 years.

Architecture of Life will occupy all of the gallery spaces in the new BAM/PFA through May 29, 2016. The exhibition is organized by Rinder, who describes it as boundary-breaking, innovative and radically interdisciplinary.

It 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 Lger, 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 Wood, Iannis Xenakis andmany others.

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 as BAM/PFA expands its film offerings for K12 students and lifelong-learning audiences, and introduces limited runs.