BAMPFA's new home is a visual gem
2155 Center St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
BART Station:Downtown Berkeley
Walk Time:1 minute
Bay Area art and film lovers have one more reason to celebrate life in the Bay — the long awaited opening of the new University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). Located a block from BART’s Downtown Berkeley Station, this architecturally rich building is convenient for anyone looking for a place to retreat and relish the museum’s collection of art and film.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, known for designing New York’s High Line, Los Angeles’ The Broad Museum and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, repurposed and expanded on the university’s former printing plant at the corner of Center and Oxford streets and transformed it in to a visually stunning stucco and steel clad multipurpose space. The building’s proximity to academia and urban life speaks to its continued goal of serving both students and visitors by providing a venue that can educate and enrich the entire community.
The only entrance is on Center Street, and once inside, visitors can purchase a ticket to either view a film or visit the galleries. There’s a lot to take in once inside, from the various angles to the interior custom-built amphitheater-type seating and large-scale mural by Chinese artist Qiu Zhejie.
(Insider tip: Plan enough time to view a movie and take in the gallery’s main exhibition since a screening admission gives you access to the galleries, not the other way around.)
With equal attention paid to film and art, the space’s larger of two galleries on the main level has the capacity to exhibit hundreds of pieces of art in a beautifully bright and airy space. The inaugural exhibition, Architecture of Life, explores the ways that architecture illuminates various aspects of life. It’s a fitting first exhibit considering how the building’s design allows for snapshots of life in motion from the various strategic windows placed throughout the 82,760 square-foot, three-level space.
The Barbro Osher Theater, the largest of the museum’s three screening areas, seats 232 and shows not only films from the museum’s vast collection, but also serves as a venue for local film festivals and music events. A smaller screening room is downstairs where the BAMPFA’s film library and study center is located, and an outdoor screen serves viewers during the warmer months.
Upstairs is Babette, the beloved cafe that served visitors at the previous museum location. Serving lunch and dinner during open gallery hours, diners can expect fresh, local, California-inspired lunch and dinner options like sweet potato soup with olive puree, roasted beet salad with apples and chicories, marinated leg of lamb sandwich with chickpea spread, and braised pork siders.
From 3 to 9 p.m., the cafe serves small bites, such as smoke trout crostini, spiced nuts and cheese plates. Coffee and house-baked pastries are also available starting at 9 a.m.
This isn’t institutional food. All dishes are prepared from scratch and the cafe is a great option before or after a visit. The venue and vibe might have changed, but the food is still as delicious and the modern space affords places to dine and study.
Programming is in place throughout the next year and highlights include Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery (July 27 through Oct. 23, 2016) and Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (February 8 through May 21, 2017).
Upcoming film series include Movie Matinees for All Ages (Feb. 13 through April 2) and Love Exists: The Films of Maurice Pialat (Feb. 5 through March 25, 2016).
Visit bampfa.org for a full schedule of exhibitions and films.
$12; 65 and older, disabled persons, and non-UC Berkeley students is $10; free to current UC Berkeley students, BAMPFA members, UC Berkeley staff, faculty, retirees and those under 18.
Gallery admission is free on the first Thursday of each month.
Theater Admission: $12; UC Berkeley faculty, staff, retirees, non-UC Berkeley students, 65 and older and those under 18 is $8; BAMPFA members and current UC Berkeley students is $7. Additional same-day features are $5 unless otherwise noted.