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’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.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...