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Walnut Creek Magazine

Architectural Icon - Stunning art and film museum reopens in Berkeley

Mar 24, 2016 07:36PM ● By Lou Fancher

If you like architecture, put a visit to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) on your to-do list. Designed by the renowned New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the $112 million art and film museum opened at its new Center Street location in February joining the ranks of local architectural icons such as the De Young Museum and soon-to-reopen SFMoMa. 

Founded in 1963, BAMPFA is an exhibition space and resource center for both film and the arts. Its collection encompasses over 19,000 works of art and 17,500 films and videos in 25,000-square-feet of versatile gallery space, along with a huge library of cinematic archives.

 Yet the new building’s biggest draw may be its exterior where a “cloak” of stainless steel drapes like silver lava over one-third of the transformed printing plant, and a massive LED screen and plaza area sets the stage for summer outdoor screenings. 

Perched on the second floor over Berkeley’s Center Street is the museum’s chic café, Babette, where diners can peek at the exhibition spaces below. 

Inside, cavernous museum galleries boast 28-foot-high ceilings and skylights flood spaces with natural light. There are numerous places to get lost including study centers that house BAMPFA’s massive collection of film related books, posters and documents. Film buffs will marvel at the 232-seat Barbro Osher Theater, a state-of-the-art venue providing a top-level viewing experience for the roughly 450 film events planned in 2016.

Another highlight is the Crane Forum, an airy amphitheater lined by master woodworker Paul Disco with stepped, wooden seating fashioned from pine trees removed during construction. Defining the forum space is Qiu Zhijie’s magnificent 60 x 25 foot mural of a world map imagined as a Chinese garden. The mural is part of BAMPFA’s opening show Architecture of Life, a multimedia exhibit that examines architecture as both metaphor and practice.

DETAILS: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-9pm, 2155 Center Street, just steps from Berkeley's Downtown BART station,
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