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UC Berkeley new art museum design revealed

Published by Mercury News.


UC Berkeley has unveiled the design for a structure that will transform an abandoned printing plant into the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives.


The plan arrives nearly two years after a sinking economy forced the university to ditch its idea for a new multimillion-dollar art museum.


New York City-based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s schematic drawings and model embrace the university’s decision to recycle and repurpose the UC Printing Plant on Oxford and Center streets between the Berkeley campus and the city’s downtown arts district. The structure is scheduled to open in late 2015.


The exteriors of the three existing buildings comprising the new museum remain largely unchanged, but a bold zinc structure housing the Pacific Film Archives theater and a cafe add a dash of zest to the otherwise understated design. With ribs resembling muscle striations, the sculptural zinc structure will wrap around the printing plant, slice through the plant’s saw-toothed roof and jut out in a dramatic canopy over the Center Street entrance.


As practical as it is brash and zany, the new structure vaguely recalls the minimalism of an Airstream trailer.


“I think the design is at once innovative, forward-looking, sustainable, challenging and useful,” said Lawrence Rinder, director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives.


It’s also accessible.


Center Street pedestrians and motorists will have views through large windows into a few galleries and the museum store. The back of the new theater will double as a exterior projection surface. Access will be free to the cafe, a 120-foot long community gallery and the MATRIX exhibition space, which is dedicated to works by emerging artists.


“Every part of the facade has some special moment given over to the public,” architect Charles Renfro said.


At a community forum Wednesday night at the museum, Renfro guided a crowd through a slide show of renderings of the new interior, which will be crafted to accommodate the university’s 30,000-piece collection of art, video and film. The lower level will arise from an excavated basement and house two galleries, a small screening room and public study areas.


The ground floor will include two flexible “floating” galleries, the museum store and a grand lobby. The second floor will be formed from the new metal building, whose silvery exterior playfully reveals a bright red metal interior housing the 230-seat Pacific Film Archives theater and cantilevered cafe.


“The new element engages in very cheeky ways,” Renfro said.


The museum has been seeking a new home since 1997, when the current Mario Ciampi-designed building was found seismically unsafe.


Originally, the printing plant site was to have had a new building designed by Japanese architecture firm Toyo Ito & Associates, but UC abandoned that project in late 2009 when the museum failed to raise the $100 million to $120 million needed for construction. The museum has raised $65 million of the new facility’s estimated $100 million price tag.


Although university leaders have not decided what to do with the current museum building, they plan to repurpose it.

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