Berkeley Art Museum to Relocate to Downtown

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Photo: The Berkeley Art Museum will move from its Bancroft Way location (above), to a former printing plant building located near Center and Oxford streets in Downtown (below).   

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Leaders from the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive have decided to relocate the museum to the former UC Printing Plant after a plan to build a completely new museum was deemed too expensive.

The museum has been set to move to a new Downtown location since 1999, when the current building located on Bancroft Way and College Avenue was determined to be seismically unsafe.

Museum officials opted to scrap a plan to build a new museum designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito after the plan's estimated $145 million cost was deemed too expensive.

The former printing plant, located at the intersection of Oxford and Center streets, was designated as a city landmark in June 2004. According to a 2002 historic resource study, the plant was built in 1939 and printed monographs, research and articles written by faculty and other university scholars before being vacated in 2005.

Lawrence Rinder, director of the museum, said Ito's plan would have required brand new construction of a nearly 140,000-square-foot building using "unconventional technology."

"What we're looking at now is achieving our programmatic objectives at a Downtown site with a project that should cost ultimately about half as much," he said.

Although reusing an older building could save the campus money, the plan could prove expensive due to the cost of remodeling the interior to make the plant a functional museum, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf.

However, Rinder said that the plant is an "exceptional place" for the museum and would not require a great amount of work.

"I think that our institution at a site in Downtown Berkeley, about half a block from BART on a street that sees foot traffic at about 10,000 (people) a day, will be a profoundly exciting and dynamic part of the city and the UC system," he said.

He added that he is hopeful the project will be completed in approximately the same time frame as the Ito project, which was scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that while he was sad to see the museum leave his district, he understands that moving the site closer to public transportation is logical.

"It would be controversial to tear down a landmark, but if you're adapting it, that's far more popular," he said. "I think it's expected that there would be modifications, and people simply have to compare tearing something down to making some changes."

Wengraf said moving the museum to the proposed location would be more economically practical than demolishing the current building and constructing a new one.

"The adaptive reuse of an older building is the greenest thing you can do," she said. "It's very exciting that the new director is interested in pursuing that idea."


Contact Allie Bidwell at [email protected]

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