Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive opens spiffy new building

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is opening its extraordinary new downtown building on Sunday.

Importantly reflecting the organization’s dual focus on fine art and film, the structure fulfills a mission to meet many needs, said director Lawrence Rinder at a preview event on Thursday.

“It had to be accessible, welcoming, transparent and engaging,” said Rinder, noting that it opens to the street on every side, at Center, Oxford and Addison streets (near the west side of the UC campus).

Designed by the high-profile New York-based firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the $112 million project, which broke ground in 2012, is a 82,760-square-foot building with 25,000 square feet of flexible exhibition space and two film theaters, with seating for 232 and 33.

Its design, which incorporated the reuse of an Art Deco-era university printing press building, is distinctive: Stainless steel panels hug and curve from white exterior walls at dramatic angles, creating what architect Charles Renfro calls a “cipher.”

The building “has to do everything for everyone,” but also needs to “inspire and be bold,” said Renfro, who echoed Rinder’s comments about other goals of the structure: to be a community space, to equally accommodate art and cinema, and to encourage visitors to wander and feel a sense of surprise.

A large display space visible from the Center Street front is the site of “The World Garden,” an evocative 60- by 25-foot ink drawing by Qiu Zhijie.

The mural, a map (with thought-provoking labels) depicting imaginary and whimsical gardens inspired by Chinese literature, is the first of a series of commissioned pieces from international artists that will fill the lobby’s Art Wall.

The entry area also boasts a forum space, with artful, almost sculptural, wood seating created by Paul Discoe.

The opening exhibition “Architecture of Life,” a show of drawings, models, illustrations and sculptures continuing through May 29, fills the fluid gallery space.

Extensive, expanded film programs begin on Feb. 3, starting with a 7:30 p.m. screening of Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 classic “The Seventh Seal.” Part of the “Cinema Mon Amour” world film series, the event includes an appearance by Barbro Osher, for whom the new, large theater is named, and introduction by UC scholar Linda Haverty Rugg.

The new building replaces the iconic concrete 1970 Mario Ciampi building near the UC campus, which was deemed seismically unsafe. That building’s popular eatery Babette Cafe, run by Joan Ellis and Patrick Hooker, has moved to the new location.


IF YOU GO

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Community Day
Where: 2155 Center St., Berkeley
When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Jan. 31
Admission: Free
Contact: (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu
Note: Regular museum hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays–Sundays and admission is $12, as are film tickets (which include same-day gallery admission).

Leslie Katz

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