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BAMPFA and Architecture of Life

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The new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) building opened earlier this year, at Oxford and Center, across from the UC Berkeley campus. An existing Art Deco-style building (a former UC Berkeley printing plant designed in 1939 as part of the Works Progress Administration initiative) has been repurposed with a new interior design and dramatic stainless steel outer structure. This remarkable building is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a firm known for inventive projects like New York’s High Line and Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art.

The new BAMPFA has much more visibility, and with that, connection to the community. From the bold artistic statement on Oxford Street to the cantilevered cafe that suggests a movie marquee on Center, this is a building that revels in its new purpose, yet retains the charm of its historic past.

For an inaugural exhibition, BAMPFA presents Architecture of Life, a broad, eclectic exploration of architecture through concept, metaphor, structure and imagination. The exhibit begins with a photograph of a hand holding a wooden form—a parti for the building design—and continues with 250 works occupying all of the gallery spaces in the building. What a great way for one to tour the interior space.

The exhibition blurs the boundaries between art and science, and there is an incredible range of works on view. I enjoyed seeing Ruth Asawa’s hanging sculptures and Mies van der Rohe’s weathered graphite drawing of the Barcelona Pavilion. Stephen Kaltenbach’s “Portrait of my Father” is extraordinary, a must-see. There is a curious piece called “Wow!” Look for it.

Be sure to see this exciting new building and fascinating exhibit. BAMPFA is easy to get to: located right near the downtown Berkeley Bart station. It’s open late, it has a great cafe, and Pacific Film Archive is the best place around to see film. 

Architecture of Life runs through May 29. 



Diller Scofidio + Renfro, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2016. View of the Center Street façade, with main entrance and cantilevered café above. Photo by Iwan Baan. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro; EHDD; and UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2016. Visitors in the ground-floor gallery viewing Architecture of Life, BAMPFA’s inaugural exhibition. Photo: Elizabeth Daniels. Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2016. View from cafe into the ground-floor gallery below. Photo: Elizabeth Daniels. Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

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