For more than a year, whenever I had the opportunity to visit UC Berkeley’s Scandinavian Department, I walked passed the construction of a building near campus. The building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is intriguing: very angular with skylights and windows both bringing in light and inviting passersby to peek in and then come in. At one point it looked like the university cleaned up and reused its former printing plant, but now sweeping over the roof is a glistening, angular ribbed-metal wing cascading down from the five-story roof as though it were a waterfall channeled into a point on the ground. Adjoining this at a 90 degree angle is a huge screen facing the corner of Addison and Oxford streets. Movie theater opens with "Sjunde Inseglet"

Inside, the dynamic tension between galleries, café and theater complements and contrasts as one functional area leads to the next. This is a collection of spaces in which to contemplate superb international art and the research facilities in which to study troves of media and commentary.


This is the magnificent new home of the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) and the stunning Pacific Film Archives (PFA), which focuses on foreign films from around the world. Together the two form BAM/PFA (, the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley.

The Barbro Osher Theater
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, I had the distinct pleasure to be among a sold-out crowd visiting the reopening of the PFA at its new home, the Barbro Osher Theater, named for our own Consul General of Sweden for northern California, who together with her husband, Barney Osher, are among the most generous philanthropists for the arts and education locally, regionally and nationally (the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes is in all 50 states).

The program opened with refreshments and an appreciative toast to the museum’s benefactor. We were in BAMPFA’s interesting sunken amphitheater, Crane Forum, with a huge mural on the wall and several levels of wood stadium benches with cushions spread about. At one end of the amphitheater, the tiers rise one floor high with a staircase beside the other wall. The entire amphitheater probably packs in a couple hundred people.

The chairman of the BAMPFA board, acknowledging that he and Barbro go back at least a third of a century on the board, thanked the Oshers for their generosity, which has often been crucial for sustaining it, and as in this case, for creating new venues and ventures. He was followed by BAMPFA Director Lawrence Rinder, who similarly thanked Barbro for her enthusiastic support for their mission which brought them to today.

As the audience then filed into the new state-of-the-art theater, we appreciated how this new facility would bring thousands of cinephiles from the campus and surrounding Bay Area to view the most moving of our contemporary art forms.

Susan Oxtoby, senior film curator of PFA, took the lectern to describe the new season’s remarkable offerings. She thanked the Oshers for donating this gift for all movie-lovers, which will allow them to appreciate the art and its development through the ages, across time and space, yet with particular depth in the masters of the medium, which the Oshers have also supported.

The arrival of a masterpiece
When it was Barbro’s turn to speak, she gave heartfelt thanks to her husband (and his consigliere) for their kindness in naming this theater for her. Many people delight in their home theater systems, but imagine, she remarked, having a theater named for you to entertain others on a topic you are so passionate about. She also thanked the PFA for allowing her to choose the first film. Of course, she admitted, it was not hard to select the Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, but which of his great offerings? She chose the iconic classic, The Seventh Seal, because for her, like so many others, it was the heralding comet announcing the arrival of a world master and a masterpiece. And as she thought back with great pleasure to her student days in Sweden, she was grateful there were little cinemas in every town, not showing trivial American amusements but the art films from the best of Europe and elsewhere.

Professor Linda Haverty Rugg, an authority on Ingmar Bergman from UC Berkeley's Scandinavian Department, provided a most interesting introduction to the film, piquing our interest in seeing the film with new insight. We were lucky enough to do so there in the new Barbro Osher Theater.

With this auspicious beginning, PFA’s Barbro Osher Theater sets the standard for the institution’s teaching of new generations of students and lovers of cinema to appreciate the most significant of films for their art and intellect.

The new museum has a wonderful new café where members and guests can relax and discuss interpretations or be inspired to create new masterpieces. We thank and congratulate Barney and Barbro Osher for such a significant monument. They are both indeed our benefactors, not merely etymologically as “do-gooders” but as importantly for continually improving our communities and lifetime learners.

Ted Olsson
San Francisco