University of California Telegraph Ave./Bancroft Way. The foremost attraction here is, of course, higher learning. Known for academic excellence, U.C. Berkeley boasts a faculty distinguished by 17 Nobel Prize winners. Many noteworthy facilities on this 1,232-acre campus are open to the public.
●The Bear’s Lair
●Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) 2155 Center St./Oxford St., downtown. Fee; free 1st Thursday of month. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAMPFA is now ensconced in its new home—a building that reflects the institution’s unique half art, half film duality by mixing the repurposed existing building that was formerly the U.C. Press printing plant with a freestanding stainless steel-sheathed addition that is swirly and contemporary on the exterior. From the street, passersby can see inside through windows and outside they can view video art on a huge screen at the north end of the building facing Addison Street. This new space is very different from the former dramatic and rustically finished structure that always reminded me of an angular Guggenheim. Old and new have been merged throughout, an example of which is the wood seating sculpture known as the Crane Forum, which was made from the wood of Canary Island pines that were growing on site and had to be cut down for construction. A monumental mural is displayed on the giant Art Wall behind the forum, and periodically the mural is painted over with a new one. The Berkeley Art Museum’s encyclopedic permanent collection stresses modern and Asian art and includes a large collection of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann. More images.
One of the leading cinameteques on the West Coast, the Pacific Film Archive has one of five world-class public archival film collections in the U.S. It has the largest collection of Japanese titles outside of Japan and one of the world’s largest collections of silent and early films from the former Soviet Union and pre-1960 Eastern Europe, plus hundreds of experimental movies by West Coast filmmakers. Film programs span world cinema from the silent era to the present and include retrospectives of important directors. Located at the back of the museum’s entry hallway, up a few steps, and through a small red door, the Barbro Osher theater looks much as it did in its prior location on Bancroft Way, but has been updated to state of the art. It is a small (232 seats) black womb filled with seats. The theater is clean, the sound system excellent, and the audience well mannered. No snacks are permitted inside. A smaller theater is integrated into the lower-level galleries, and its short shows are tied in with exhibitions. Also, a research film library is a free public resource.
Babette cafe now operates on the second floor (at the previous location it was in the basement adjacent to a sculpture garden) and provides peek-a-boo views of the galleries below. As before, diners can enter here without paying museum admission.
●Cal Day Open House Annually in April. Free. Most of the university departments sponsor exhibits and events, and some campus museums are open to the public only at this event.
●Cal Performances Some free. Acclaimed internationally for presenting extraordinary talent, this series is famous for showcasing the latest works of established artists and the debuts of new talent.
●Cal Student Store This is where to get your official U.C. tees and caps.
●Campanile In center of campus. Fee for elevator. Modeled after the slightly taller campanile in St. Marks Square in Venice, this campus landmark stands 307 feet tall--the equivalent of 30 stories. It is also known as Sather Tower. When classes are in session, 10-minute mini-concerts are hand-played on its 61-bell carillon three times each weekday at 7:50 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. On Sundays, a 45-minute recital is performed at 2 p.m.--the perfect time to enjoy a picnic on the surrounding lawn. An elevator takes visitors up 200 feet to an observation platform for a 360-degree view of the area.
●Campus Tour 2200 University Ave./Oxford St., Visitors Center, 101 University Hall. Free. This guided tour is a good way to get an overview of the campus. A self-guiding tour brochure is also available.
●Free Speech Movement Cafe
●Grinnell Natural Area Entrance near University Ave., across the street from BAMPFA at the southeast corner. Dedicated to the late professor Joseph Grinnell, who was the campus’s first director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, this shady spot is home to majestic redwood trees, coast live oaks, and Monterey pines, as well as to an impressive Eucalyptus grove
●Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Free. Must be age 16+. During this 2 ½-hour tour, visitors receive a general Lab Overview, which includes highlights of the 25 scientific breakthroughs discovered at Berkeley Lab. Visitors also tour the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and the Molecular Foundry--Berkeley Lab’s Nanoscience Research Facility.
image copyright Peg Skorpinski, courtesy of Lawrence Hall
●Lawrence Hall of Science 1 Centennial Dr., below Grizzly Peak Blvd. Parking $1/hr. Located high in the hills behind the campus, this hands-on museum was established by the university in 1968 as a memorial to Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who developed the cyclotron and was the university’s first Nobel laureate. The 65-ton electromagnet that was used to provide a large magnetic field for the 27-inch cyclotron in the early 1930s is displayed outside in front of the hall, and the original 5-inch, hand-held cyclotron is displayed inside the hall. Special events are scheduled regularly. Though exhibits are of special interest to grade-school children, pre-schoolers especially enjoy the water area of the outdoor Forces that Shape the Bay exhibit (picnic tables are provided here) and the Design Quest activity room with crafts materials galore. Teens often respond to the astronomy shows in the small Holt Planetarium and also like the Ingenuity Lab. The hall’s permanent exhibits include a seismic recorder and the Nano area, where you will discover a world that is normally too small to see. Couches and chairs are found throughout for resting. On weekends, the Animal Discover Room permits finding out more about small animals such as chinchillas and turtles. Outside on the vast entry plaza overlooking the San Francisco Bay, kids can climb on a life-size adolescent fin whale and a DNA molecule play structure.
The short-order The Bay View Cafe dispenses well-priced fare—including several choices for vegetarians and vegans—and provides a magnificent panoramic view of the bay and San Francisco.
Check out the LHS live via webcam.
●The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life 2121 Allston Way, downtown. Free. The first Jewish museum established in the western U.S., the Magnes focuses on the art and history of the Jewish experience. It recently got a new home and name and is now a research unit of U.C.’s Bancroft Library, with an archives, library, and museum. Its public galleries focus on Jewish Art (painting and sculpture, photography, works on paper and artist books, as well as digital and mixed media) and Jewish Life (thousands of objects representing personal and family rituals, synagogue and communal life, and the social interactions among Jewish and host communities in the Global Jewish Diaspora throughout history).
●Museum of Paleontology Near Oxford St./University Ave., 1101 Valley Life Sciences Bldg. Free. Initiated in the 1860s, this is a research museum with limited public exhibits. Its collection of fossils is one of the largest and oldest in North America, and displays include a complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and the largest Triceratops skull ever found.
In the same building (room 3101; free), the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology holds one of the largest and most important collections of vertebrates in the world.
●Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology Bancroft Way/College Ave., 103 Kroeber Hall. Fee. Part of the campus since 1901, this museum houses the largest anthropological research collection (more than 4 million artifacts) in the western U.S. Exhibits change regularly.
●University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley 200 Centennial Dr. Free 1st Thursday; parking $1-$1.50/hr. No dogs. Located behind the campus in lush Strawberry Canyon, this “library of living plants” covers 34 acres and contains more than 13,000 different types of plants organized by continent of origin. Of special interest are the herb garden, rhododendron dell, California native plants area (this is the world’s largest collection, and it includes about 1/4 of the state’s native species), old rose garden, and Chinese medicinal herb garden featuring more than 90 rare plants. Children particularly enjoy the greenhouse filled with carnivorous plants and the lily pond stocked with colorful koi. Additionally, this peaceful spot has a lawn area that is perfect for picnicking, and several picnic tables are also scattered throughout. The magnificent Mather Redwood Grove is located across the street and requires a gate code; it is also the site for summer concerts. A 1911 Julia Morgan building, now known as Julia Morgan Hall, was recently relocated from the campus to here and is now open for some events.