Construction begins on UC Berkeley Art Museum

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Construction is finally beginning on the new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, nearly 16 years since the project’s proposal.

BAM/PFA, which was founded in 1963, is currently located on Bancroft Way and will be moving to 2120 Oxford St. in Downtown Berkeley, a block away from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. The center will join a section of Berkeley that already has a reputation for the arts, with institutions including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.

“I believe we will add a tremendous amount not just to the arts community but to every resident and visitor to downtown,” said Lawrence Rinder, director of BAM/PFA, in an email. “The museum will be a cultural hub, presenting excellent art, film, and performance of just about every imaginable type.”

Some of the early construction now under way includes salvaging reusable material, disconnecting utilities and preparing for the demolition of the nearby parking structure to be closed in the beginning of March.

Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2015, with the center opening to the public by early 2016.

The decision to relocate was prompted by a 1997 engineering survey that found that the current building did not meet seismic standards. To this day, the building has a “poor” rating, according to the BAM/PFA website.

“We’re incredibly excited to get this project under way after such a long time,” said Aimee Chang, director of engagement at BAM/PFA. “It’s a very important kind of museum for the city of Berkeley. I think this museum will really put Berkeley on the map in terms of cutting-edge art.”

The new facility will contain exhibition galleries, a learning center, a participatory art-making studio, a 230-seat theater and a screening room, according to a BAM/PFA press release.

Currently, BAM/PFA annually screens 400 films, hosts 15 exhibitions and provides a venue for public speakers, performers and other programs. All of these activities will continue at the new Downtown facility.

Plans for the center were designed by New York City-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which previously blueprinted the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

Mayela Rodriguez, a co-chair of the BAM/PFA student committee, said moving the museum Downtown may make it more accessible to the Berkeley community as well as entice students who live on the north side of campus to attend more museum events.

The entire project costs $100 million and will be funded by private donations, $95 million of which is already accounted for.

Once the current BAM/PFA center is completely emptied, the old location will continue to be managed by the University of California, which must then decide what to do with it.

Gladys Rosario covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].