Campus Alters Plans for Art Museum Redesign

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Despite the campus's recent decision to scrap plans for the design of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive's new location, officials remain confident Berkeley's arts district will continue to grow.

The design by innovative Japanese architect Toyo Ito, which last year was estimated to cost $145 million, was deemed too expensive in the current economic climate.

The museum will still move from its current location on Bancroft Way to Center Street and Oxford Street, but new design plans will not be approved until 2010, according to campus officials.

Several city officials said they felt the new museum, which would have been Ito's first in the U.S., would have drawn considerable tourist dollars that a museum designed by another architect may not.

"We had great dreams for that block," said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. "I think the building in and of itself would have been a work of art, and people would have come to just see the building."

Campus and city officials worked together throughout the project, and city residents also gave their input.

But Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the site of the new museum, said the campus should have informed the city of the changes to the plan.

"I don't think it was the best way for the university to announce the decision," he said. "It certainly would have been better if they had consulted with members of the city council and city staff, but it's their decision."

The museum designed by Ito was seen as a natural fit for the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, which recently became the new home of folk music venue Freight & Salvage Coffee House and a new music club slated to be built on the former site of Berkeley's UC Theater.

While the tourist potential may be reduced without Ito's design, city officials said the museum will still enhance the city's arts district.

"We're not getting a high-profile, look-at-me design on the exterior of the building," Wengraf said. "I'm glad they're still going on with the project even though it's scaled down because it will be a great asset to Downtown."

The expected timeline for the construction of the new building, which is set to open by 2013, is not expected to change.

Councilmember Linda Maio said the city is committed to working with the campus to find a new plan acceptable to both groups, saying the two need to work to increase state funding for such projects.

"It's unfortunate that this is probably going to be postponed, but we'll keep working on enhancing the Downtown," she said. "We need to work at the state level to ensure that we have enough funding statewide to actually support funding for the arts and education. It's a causality of the failure of the state budget."

Caleb Dardick, UC Berkeley director for local government and community relations, said the new museum will be a tourist attraction regardless of its designer.

He added that the museum's new location is a key step towards strengthening the relationship between the city and the campus.

"This is the main entryway connecting the campus to the heart of the city and key to our partnership with the city to help revitalize our downtown," Dardick said in an e-mail.

Chris Carrassi and Sarah Springfield of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Amy Brooks is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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