Well over 100 people came out Wednesday night to see for the first time what Berkeley’s new art museum will look like — once it sees the light of day, which will probably be in 2015 when the $90 million required to build it has been raised.
Designs for the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive were presented by Charles Renfro, principal at New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who were appointed to the project in June last year, as well as by BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder, who described the plans as “innovative, forward-looking, sustainable and useful”.
The new cultural hub will emerge downtown, on the site of the old UC Berkeley printing plant at 2120 Oxford Street. With some excavation and new construction, new spaces will be created around the 1939 concrete Art Deco style building, which has been unoccupied since 2004. The most dramatic element of the design calls for a sculptural zinc-clad armature that will stretch across the museum, from Center Street to Addison.
BAM/PFA began planning for a new facility in 1997, when an engineering survey determined that its current building, on Bancroft Way, did not meet present-day seismic standards and could not be upgraded to meet those standards without eliminating the open space required for the museum’s exhibition program.
In 2006, the museum engaged the Tokyo-based firm of Toyo Ito & Associates to design a new building on the University’s downtown site. An economic reality check led the museum to explore design alternatives.
Rob Gayle, head of Capital Projects at UC Berkeley, said the university intends to retain the Bancroft Way building — which Renfro described as one of his favorite modernist buildings — and find a new use for it once the museum has moved out. This will be dependent on identifying a user and sourcing funds for the extensive structural work that is required.
Reactions to the new designs from members of the community at Wednesday’s open house varied: one woman described the renderings as Star Trek-influenced, another, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he approved of the plans. “It’s about time Berkeley had some exciting modern architecture,” he said.
The proposed design emphasizes transparency — with multiple ways for the public to see in and out of the museum. The hope also is that its location in Berkeley’s arts district will encourage a diverse community of visitors and better integrate UC Berkeley’s arts center in the city it calls home.
Read the extended captions on the photos published here for details of the new design.
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What might have been [11.24.09]