UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive announces date of opening, inaugural exhibition

Jessica Gleason/File
Jessica Gleason/fILE

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The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive announced it will open its new building Jan. 31, accompanied by an exhibition that highlights how architecture interacts with life.

Seismic safety concerns at the old building prompted the museum’s move, and its galleries have been closed since late 2014. Located in Downtown Berkeley at the corner of Center and Oxford streets, the new building transforms and builds on the structure of a former UC Berkeley printing plant.

The building’s 83,000 square feet will be divided into galleries, indoor theaters, four study centers, and a reading room, art lab, performance forum and cafe. The cafe is part of a newer “supple” structure draped over the old printing-plant building, according to Charles Renfro — a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a New York City architectural firm that designed the new facility — in a press release.

“Our collections go back to 2000 B.C. in Asia all the way to the Renaissance in the West — everything from works on paper and painting to video and films,” said BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder. “It’s important that we have galleries that accommodate these diverse works.”

In 1999, the museum’s film program was moved to a small annex and away from the museum’s old site, Woo Hon Fai Hall, because of the same seismic concerns.

Featuring a combination of film and art is what makes the museum unique, according to Rinder. The new building will not only ameliorate safety concerns but will also physically reunite the film and art aspects of the museum.

The old site, designed by Mario Ciampi, will be braced against earthquakes — a process that is expected to eliminate the open gallery spaces necessary for a museum, according to the museum’s website. The campus will likely use it for academic purposes.

At the new site, BAM/PFA aims to encourage student accessibility, particularly through the museum’s study centers.

The museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Architecture of Life,” will feature more than 200 works of art, architecture and scientific illustration from all around the world and spanning 2,000 years.

“I’m very excited about it,” Rinder said. “It’s not just about architecture but an occasion to explore architecture as a metaphor — a framework — for various things, from the structure of the psyche to the organization of society to the form of matter and reality.”

An artist's rendering of the finished site as seen from Oxford Street

An artist’s rendering of the finished site as seen from Oxford Street

Contact Rachel Lew at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Rlew12C.