Ito Gets to Go to Berkeley

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Rendering of Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Toyo Ito, 2008 / Image: UC BERKELEY

I sat down last week with Julia White, senior curator for Asian art at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. We talked about a few things, including Berkeley’s upcoming show called Mahjong, a selection of contemporary Chinese art from the collection of Uli Sigg, the former Swiss ambassador to Beijing. We also got into the new building that the Japanese architect Toyo Ito has designed for her museum and the Pacific Film Archive. He was announced as the architect last September but the first images of his proposal, at least that I’m aware of, appeared last week.

In the competition for the Berkeley Museum, Ito was picked over a field that also included Tadao Ando, SANAA, Brad Cloepfil’s firm and Kengo Kuma, another Japanese architect who I don’t think has worked in the U.S. before. I’ve wondered for years when Ito, who has a high profile in Japan, was going to make his way across the Pacific. When I saw it a few years ago, his Tod’s store on the Omotesando, Tokyo’s high end shopping boulevard, was much more appealing to me than Herzog & de Meuron’s famous Prada store a few blocks away. It was some of the most enjoyable structural concrete I’d ever seen. (Now there’s an odd sentence. The unmistakable tone of the true architecture nerd.) Anyway, it made the rest of that would-be sophisticated street look strictly dressed for business.

Tod’s Omotesando, Toyo Ito, 2004 /Photo: HIRO SAKAGUCHI