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First Look: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Anti-Starchitecture Museum In Berkeley

The latest from the New York architects who gave the world the High Line.

Big architecture news in the Bay Area: UC Berkeley unveiled a fresh design for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) yesterday, nearly two years after scrapping pricey plans by Japanese starchitect Toyo Ito.

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The new concept, by New York’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro, marries a disused New Deal-era printing plant with a large addition sheathed in what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “folds of shimmering zinc.” The buildings will endow Berkeley’s aesthetically challenged downtown with 82,000 square feet of space for an art museum, a film library, and a movie theater. They’ll replace an existing facility, deemed seismically unsound in the ’90s, for about $90 million–$50 million less than Ito’s earlier proposal, a glowy stack of boxes, which Cal had considered, then tossed, when the economy tanked.

The lower price tag shows. At first glance, the place doesn’t seem to have much of the très-cool sexiness of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s other work, like the High Line and the Lincoln Center, both in New York. The exterior of the simple old industrial building is left largely untouched and the new addition is a big silvery lump; from some angles it looks like a humpback whale (in the renderings anyway). Which is actually relatively appropriate for Berkeley, where painting your craftsman is what passes for radical architecture. But one hopes for a few more thrills out of DSR. (Did I mention they did the High Line?!) Especially since this is a rare opportunity to revive and perhaps even shape Berkeley’s shabby central business district.

Luckily, the architects deliver: On top of the old building, they’ve planted a cantilevered cafe, which juts out clear over the main entrance as if to suggest to visitors: This might be Berkeley–home of Telegraph Avenue, land of copious reiki crystals–and the economy might be in the pits, but we’re still going to give you some of our whizbang architecture, dammit.

Check out John King’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle for more details about the design.

[Images courtesy of Diller Scofido + Renfro]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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