Berkeley Art Museum Drops Design for New Location

Photo: <b>An artist's rendering of Toyo Ito's design for the new location of the Berkeley Art Museum</b> gives a hint of the complexity of the plan, which was dropped by the museum due to its projected cost.
Toyo Ito & Associates/Courtesy
An artist's rendering of Toyo Ito's design for the new location of the Berkeley Art Museum gives a hint of the complexity of the plan, which was dropped by the museum due to its projected cost.

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Correction Appended

Leaders of the Berkeley Art Museum have announced that they will revoke their planned design for the new location of the museum and Pacific Film Archive due to lack of funding.

The design by innovative Japanese architect Toyo Ito, which last year was estimated to cost $145 million, has been deemed too expensive in the current economic climate, according to Lawrence Rinder, director of BAM/PFA.

"Last year ... there was a lot of hope and optimism that the project could be funded," he said. "But the lingering downturn has negatively affected foundation giving and individual giving, and we have some compelling needs to look towards a plan for a new building and a new home for this institution in the near future."

Rinder said the decision to abandon Ito's design for the museum's new location at Center and Oxford streets was made in the last several weeks when members of the board realized they were not meeting interim funding goals. The expected timeline for the construction of the new building, which was set to open by 2013, is not expected to change.

"I'm very optimistic that we're going to achieve our original goal," he said. "I do not believe that we necessarily need to lose time in this process."

According to Rinder, the estimated cost of the Ito design, which had not yet obtained final approval by the UC Board of Regents, had been in flux for more than a year. As builders learned more about the design, which involved "innovative structural methodologies," a more accurate cost projection had emerged.

The museum has been set to move to a location in Downtown Berkeley after the current Bancroft Way and College Avenue location was deemed seismically unsafe in 1999.

"(The move) continues to be a crucial step in UC Berkeley's longstanding commitment to the visual arts and to engagement with our broader community," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in a statement. "While architectural plans are changing, the goal of building a dynamic, welcoming and seismically safe new museum Downtown is not."

While the museum is currently focused on the new design for the Downtown Berkeley location, Rinder said they also need to continue to raise funds for the museum endowment to ensure that exhibits and programs can continue in the future.

"We need to look at the sustainability of this institution in the long-term. Of course we need to have a wonderful new home, but we need to look beyond that into how we are going to pay for operations for years to come," he said.

The board is currently looking at a "wide range of options" for the new design, and although there is a possibility of keeping Ito on for the project, nothing has yet been determined.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who oversees the district that currently houses the museum, said he was excited for the move of the museum and the Pacific Film Archive and confident that their presence would invigorate the Downtown area.

"I think the arts district is growing by leaps and bounds, and this will be one more big draw for the district," he said.


Correction: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The original version of this article stated that proposed new location of the Berkeley Art Museum was in Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington's district. In fact, Worthington oversees the current location of the museum and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin oversees the proposed new location of the museum.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Rachel Gross at [email protected]

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