Block party celebrates second stage of new BAM/PFA construction

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The University of California entered the second half of construction last Thursday for the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) on Oxford and Center St. A midpoint “topping off” celebration at the new site presented the last steel beam to the public, decorated with a Cal flag on one end and a Plant Construction Company flag on the other, on which attendees signed their names permanently into a piece of the building’s infrastructure.

At the block party, which closed the Addison St. block between Oxford and Shattuck, BAM/PFA gallery attendants displayed a first-look television slideshow of concept photographs for the new museum’s interior, including a simulated image of the monochromatic, sleek, high-ceiling lobby. Renown architects from New York-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) are heading the project. In his opening address, BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder reported that the new museum and film archive will boast “100% more space for education and collection access, so the great material richness of our collection at the University of California Berkeley will be accessible to a broader public.”

According to BAM/PFA’s website, a $105 million capital campaign from private sources funds the project, which the UC Regents approved in January 2012. Approximately 82,000 square feet upon completion, the new building will include the first ever purpose-built film theatres for the archive, an art lab, a special-events space and three study centers: a film library, an Asian Art study center and a works-on-paper study center that will include prints, drawings, and photographs.

“Pictorial art, I’m not highly educated in,” said Eric Gaal, Berkeley resident, told the Daily Californian. “But I always appreciate advice and I think I can get that here.” BAM curates historical and contemporary international art exhibitions.

In his speech, Plant Construction Company President, John B. Wilson, confirmed their efforts are a week ahead of schedule. According to Rinder, Plant is “known for their willingness to take on unconventional construction projects.” Plant has successfully combined the art museum and film archive—which are  currently housed in two separate structures on Bancroft Way—with the old UC Berkeley Printing Plant that was abandoned in 2004. Plant and DS+R have also integrated the printing press’s art deco style with its signature sawtooth roof design.

“The old one was closed off and secluded by campus,” said alumna, Lorraine Gemino, who was in attendance at the block party. “The new location] will give a more community experience.” Within walking distance from the Downtown Bart and across the street from the University Hall West Lot, the new BAM/PFA will be more accessible for the city, and right at home in the Downtown Berkeley arts district.

The current Bancroft Way location—deemed seismically unsafe—will be closed at the end of December 2014, allowing time for workers to transfer all of the existing gallery pieces and archival work to the Downtown structure for its grand opening in January 2016.

Contact Jennifer Wong at [email protected].