Salvaged trees to be used in Berkeley’s new art museum

The new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive is currently under construction in downtown Berkeley. Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Seven Canary Island pine trees that were cut down in order to allow construction of the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive in downtown Berkeley were salvaged and will be used for several interior elements of the new museum, its director, Lawrence Rinder, revealed last week.

At a May 12 presentation made at Berkeley’s Skydeck, which afforded birds’-eye views of the site of the emerging museum on Center Street and Oxford, Rinder said Paul Discoe, a highly regarded wood craftsman known for designing Larry Ellison’s Japanese-style Woodside home, as well as Berkeley’s Ippuku restaurant, will use the pines, along with other reclaimed wood, to design elements such as the museum store, the admissions desk and seating. The trees used to be on Oxford Street, clustered near the corner of Addison.

“The wood is curing in a mill in Oakland right now,” Rinder said, adding that he was thrilled Discoe would be contributing the warm quality of his work to the museum.

Rinder brought the new museum into focus in other ways, with more details of its build-out and events leading up to its scheduled opening in January 2016.

The site for the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, with crane, as seen from the Skydeck at the top of the Chase building in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The site for the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, with crane, as seen from the Skydeck at the top of the Chase building in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

He said his aspiration for the building, which is being designed by architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, was that it become “the cultural town square of Berkeley,” and “part of the fabric of the city.”

“We want it to be filled with people of all kinds; to provide a place both for quiet contemplation and somewhere to make noise,” he said.

Berkeley’s Meyer Sound has donated a state-of-the-art system for the Pacific Film Archives’ theater. It’s the first time PFA will have had a theater designed specifically for film, Rinder said, and an opportunity to showcase the museum’s 16,000 films, including the largest collection of Japanese films held outside Japan.

“Berkeley will be a city like no other in terms of access to films,” Rinder said.


The new museum is being designed by New York architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro. Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Asked how the museum’s new location might affect its attendance and programming, Rinder cited a study which showed that in its new downtown spot BAM/PFA could expect three to four times the number of visitors it gets now. And they would likely be more diverse.

He singled out the expectation that it would attract a younger crowd.

“We will be closer to Berkeley High and we plan to increase our capacity and programming for K-12 school students,” he said

The new UC Berkeley-owned museum is designed in a way that it consciously embraces the city that houses it. There are plans to screen films on the exterior Addison-facing wall. The museum store will be a single, long space with windows onto Center Street, and nobody will be able to miss the café, even if it is on the second story, given that it will jut out above the museum’s main entrance, also on Center Street.

“With apologies to Comal,” Rinder said, “this will be the coolest place in Berkeley to get a drink.”

[Read more about the design of the new museum here and here.]

The museum’s café will cantilever out over the building’s entrance on Center Street. Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The museum still has $2.5m to raise for its capital campaign, having already secured $102.5m. As part of a brand awareness campaign for the new location, the fence surrounding the block-wide construction site will soon be wrapped in banners asking passers-by to answer the question, “What is a museum?”

And for those wondering about the disappearance of the elegant support trusses from the 1939 UC printing plant that is being transformed into the new museum, Rinder had reassuring news.

“The art deco trusses are being cleaned and restored,” he said. “They will be put back and contribute to the sense of grandeur of the new museum.”

The Center Street façade of the new museum. Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The next public event in the countdown to opening is a large community “Topping Out” block party and ceremony at the building site on Thursday July 17, the construction midpoint. The event (for which Berkeleyside is the media sponsor) will include live music, food, and comments, most likely by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, and Rinder. Attendees will have the opportunity to become part of the building’s history by signing the final beam before it is put in place.

As for the fate of the existing museum on Bancroft Way, designed by Mario Ciampi and built in 1970, which does not meet suitable seismic standards, Rinder said its fate is unknown.

On the cusp: Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive [05.01.13]
Before new Berkeley Art Museum can rise, a demolition [04.08.13]
Berkeley museum chief: “New space good for town and gown” [02.13.13]
Work begins on new Berkeley Art Museum, to open in 2016 [02.12.13]
Berkeley Art Museum’s new architect talks bubbles, chops [05.04.12]
Palpable possibilities: Berkeley Art Museum’s home awaits [01.25.12]
New Berkeley Art Museum mixes old with eye-catching new [09.16.11]
Berkeley Art Museum selects architects for new home [06.24.11]
UC Berkeley stands by pledge to fund new art museum [11.25.10]
Berkeley Art Museum plans to revamp printing plant [01.27.10]
What might have been [11.24.09]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out All the News.

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  • Doc

    This is the most exciting of the several projects planned for town. Condolences to those who wanted town as an extension of People’s Park values

  • Carter Tomassi

    Those reddish walls might work in a shoe store but definitely not in an art museum.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Ugly is the word. Another funny thing about it is that it looks like an old cathode-ray-tube television. It is trying to be futuristic, but it actually looks like an obsolete technology.

    The school of architecture was built during the 1960s. There was a time when it looked like architecture was getting better than that, but now the architectural establishment has regressed to mid-century modernism, as in this building.

  • elrod

    It was either the current design or Toyo Ito’s gigantic egg carton design. The university just doesn’t have enough funds to replicate the Louvre Museum.

  • elrod

    The red looks stunning from the outside which I’m sure was the main reason for the selection but once inside, you’re right, it could be unpleasant.

  • Woolsey

    If buildings could have tumors that is what they’d look like. Just what is that protuberance stretching down to the grass? The red-orange interior reminds me of those videos from the viewpoint of something passing through the digestive tract. The exterior reminds me of those old-time cartoon characters with their eyes popping out:

    Someone, anyone, please explain to me how this is a beautiful building. What am I clearly missing.

  • Berkeley Dude

    Considering the state provides less than 13% of Berkeley’s yearly funding, which isn’t anywhere close to enough to subsidize the # of CA students on campus, the regents and the state aren’t paying for this, or much of anything these days.

    The money for this was raised privately before construction began.

    A better question would be, what rich alumni will be paying for these Cal capital projects, and pretty much everything else built from here on out.

    Cal is public in name only now, and that’s thanks to the state. There is no one else to blame.

  • William M Popper

    go to museum….eat food.

  • Guest

    Are private loans are secured using a public trust as collateral?
    I wonder if there are any tax laws being broken or any illegal insider deals taking place to make the Cal / Berkeley long range developments for downtown Berkeley?

  • guest

    The interior looks like that of a 727 circa 1970. Tacky.

  • guest

    Hopefully someday we will see a return to nothing but 1920’s vernacular architecture. Tried and true. Why experiment when there is only one right way? Human imagination and artistic expression are overrated.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Somehow, I have gotten the idea that there was plenty of human imagination and artistic expression before the 20th century. But maybe you think that Michelangelo is overrated.

  • Doug F

    A bright red-orange wall & ceiling facing a wall of art will quite obviously throw a strong color cast onto all the art. Or “art”; with most modern art it won’t matter much. The architects are clearly from the “wet dream” & “m’as tu vu?” school of architecture, & care nothing about functionality.

    > “We will be closer to Berkeley High and we plan to increase our capacity and programming for K-12
    > school students,” he said.
    I hope they’re prepared to deal with the gangs & graffiti. Berkeley High has a full-time cop, several security officers, & really needs metal detectors.

  • schmarchitect

    There was no lack of creativity in the work of many pre-modern and early modern masters. However, unlike the mid-century (and later) architects to follow, the earlier designers incorporated and understood the importance of fine grained details, ornament, historical precedent, a common vocabulary and grammar, the classical orders and proportions, human scale, and symbolism to name a few.

    Examples of creative works to consider, mostly built between 1900 and 1920:
    Otto Wagner’s Austrian Postal Savings Bank
    Victor Horta’s Magasins Waucquez
    Glasgow School of Art by Mackintosh
    Sullivan’s Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building
    Polk’s Hallidie Building
    Howard’s Doe Memorial Library (This one requires a bit of knowledge abut Greek and Roman orders to fully appreciate his creativity)
    And of course, Maybeck’s First Church of Christ, Scientist.

    Further back, consider the inspiration of the Downtown Berkeley Post Office— Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti. This was very radical architecture, a building that, as contemporary architects love to declare, was “of it’s time”. Yet this work is, as are buildings listed above, based in the timelessness of traditional architecture, ranging from the vernacular to the classical. Our cities are littered with buildings that were proclaimed free of historical burdens and said to be “of their time”. Yes, their time came, and subsequently it went, often leaving us with an impoverished cityscape.

    My feeling is the new museum’s design is a result of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s hubris and disdain for the past. We are being asked to admire and submit to their alleged wit, creativity, and daringness for a few years in exchange for a more subtle and enriching museum that our community will value for generations.

  • Nathanael Johnson

    Looks amazing!

  • Woolsey

    Well, if you like Wurster, maybe I can learn to like this place. But, it sure doesn’t seem to create any “visual joy” in a public space. I still bet it gets torn down in a decade or two for being an assault on our senses.

  • Woolsey

    Thanks for the wonderful examples! It was a pleasure looking them up on Google images.

  • guest

    Not at all. I just don’t think human imagination and artistic expression came to an abrupt halt in 1939. One needn’t have disdain for the past to seek something new and exciting in the future. Staid, workaday architecture has its place, as does experimental, monumental architecture. An art museum with an extraordinary modern collection and an eye toward the contemporary is an appropriate place to experiment. Truthfully, I am not a huge fan of the DS+R design, I reluctantly admit. The Toyo Ito design, on the other hand, was exhilarating. Either way, I wouldn’t want this museum to be a big ole’ brown shingle. Or a faux-Italianate villa. Experiments don’t always work, but I think Berkeley should be a laboratory for experimentation. Test and refine, test and refine.

  • Mbfarrel
  • Charles_Siegel

    You seem to have missed the point that I made and you responded to at the beginning of this thread, so I will repeat it:

    “The school of architecture was built during the 1960s. There was a time
    when it looked like architecture was getting better than that, but now
    the architectural establishment has regressed to mid-century modernism,
    as in this building.”

    In the 1970s and 1980s, architecture was moving beyond modernism and trying out new ideas. But now, we are in a reactionary period when architecture has gone back to the dogmas of mid-century modernism.

    The irony is that people consider this sort of intellectual stagnation to be bold and experimental.

  • schmarchitect

    I’m familiar with faux materials, but I’m not sure what a faux style is. By faux, do you mean a building that makes contrived historical references, is constructed with poor quality materials, botched details, and perhaps a grandiose affectation? Or do you mean a building that incorporates an idiom from an earlier time and from a different place? Are Jeffersonian Classical and Richardsonian Romanesque faux? What about the wide body of Julia Morgan’s and Richard Morris Hunt’s work?

    More pointedly, can there be faux Eichler, Nuetra, or Mies? Their styles are still lauded by contemporary architects and recycled to this day. What exactly is the expiration date on the zeitgeist?

    Most notable styles of architecture (was the international style actually drawn upon a tabula rasa?) sprang from well established precedent (also known as tradition) and often enjoy a revival at some point. Of course revival architecture can be executed poorly or done well. And as is evident with the new museum, modern architects are quite capable of grandiose affection. Questions of authenticity and originality are far less important to me than the mater of what styles might be worth reviving if done well. By now I’ve probably shown my bias– Mr. Seigel, take it away…

  • DisGuested

    Yeah, a masterpiece building destroyed by fire, which may end up being replaced with something as aggressively horrible as this monstrosity.

  • Charles_Siegel

    You have said it very well. I can only add that the most “faux” style is today’s faux modernism – imitating the style of the mid-twentieth century fifty years after its time.

  • Mbfarrel

    Apparently most of the building was saved, but the books in the library were a huge loss

  • Snead Hearn

    There’s a reason for the shape of the new structure. It’s the first step in alien takeover of earth.

  • Snead Hearn

    UC always has endless funding for new construction, yet never enough for maintenance, supplies, and staff salaries.