Three finalists named for new Berkeley Art Museum

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Two high-profile architectural offices and a lesser-known candidate are in the running to design a new home for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, BAM officials announced Tuesday. Joining high-wattage New York firms Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects is Boston-based architect Ann Beha.

BAM is planning to move from its existing home on campus, a seismically challenged but architecturally powerful 1971 building by Mario Ciampi, to a location in the heart of downtown Berkeley. (As I suggested here, there are some valid reasons for wondering why the museum doesn’t simply pay to retrofit the Ciampi building.) Originally the museum hired Japan’s Toyo Ito to design a building at the downtown site. When that plan proved too costly, it decided instead to renovate an existing printing plant on the property, which covers about 48,000 square feet, and add 50,000 square feet of new space.


Diller Scofidio + Renfro is known to architecture fans for its Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston as well as its work on Lincoln Center and the High Line in New York. Williams and Tsien designed the acclaimed American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan as well as the 2-year-old C.V. Starr East Asian Library on the UC Berkeley campus. The firm is also at work on a controversial new home in Philadelphia for the Barnes Foundation.

Beha, meanwhile, was likely attractive to BAM because she has experience both in preservation and restoration -- which is largely how she made her reputation -- and as the designer of new gallery space, including a recent addition to the Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire.

The museum solicited preliminary design ideas earlier this month from 10 firms, including the Los Angeles architect Frederick Fisher. Others reportedly in the running included Bernard Tschumi and Will Bruder. A winner is expected to be named in June.

Meanwhile, across the Bay the San Franicsco Museum of Modern Art is getting ready to name its own architectural finalists as it plans an expansion to its 1995 building by Swiss architect Mario Botta.

--Christopher Hawthorne