The expansion and adaptive re-use of the University of California at Berkeley Press Building (1939), creates a hybrid home for two merged institutions – the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archives. The design capitalizes on the innate characteristics of the existing historic building -- its crossroads site at the intersection of the City and the University, streamlined Art Moderne design, saw tooth roof monitors, and voluminous interior spaces. Overlaying the 4,800 square meter historic building - which was repurposed to house galleries, a small theater, art-making lab, and other amenities - is a new 3,500 square meter addition which houses a film theater, library, study center, and café. Dubbed the “cipher”, the addition is both structural and sculptural, creating a new public spine that organizes the entire building. Functioning as lateral structure, its stainless steel form unfolds across a long diagonal, rising up to provide a glimpse inside the building on its long facade, and then draping across to shelter the entrance with a café, dramatically cantilevered over BAMPFA’s entrance, which doubles as the building’s marquee. At the other end, the telescoped volume terminates in an outdoor viewing screen for the public. The renovation also included enlarging and retrofitting existing fenestration of the original Press building at the ground level, which put the galleries on full public display, encouraging the lively sidewalk and street activity to permeate the interior.
“The design merges the old and new to create a permeable interface between the institution and the public,” Renfro continues. “The supple body of the new structure, draped between the original 1930s orthogonal buildings and snagged on their sharp corners, creates a dramatic public spine that begins as a cantilevered cafe marking the building’s entrance, and culminates in an indoor theater on the other end of the site. The sculptural form of the theater volume reinterprets the 1930s Art Deco–style of the press building in a contemporary language of ruled surfaces and precision-formed stainless steel.”
Renowned wood joinery craftsman Paul Discoe designed and fabricated several of the key interior elements, including the admissions desk, store shelving, and Carla and David Crane Forum, using wood from seven Canary Island Pines that were removed from the site prior to construction. Windows along the Center Street facade of the former printing press building have been enlarged, allowing passersby to look into the building and see the Art Wall, a 60 x 25-foot interior surface that overlooks the multilevel performance space. BAMPFA will commission artists from around the world to create temporary muals on this monumental wall twice a year.