Thank you to our tour guides Mark Cavagnero FAIA, Felicia Dunham, and Lori Forgarty, as well as the entire team at the Oakland Museum of California, for helping facilitate such a wonderful tour of the space!
About the Project
“Small Change – Big Impact” is how the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) describes the recent garden and café renovation. Through a series of reductive moves the project opens the Museum to the surrounding neighborhood strengthening engagement and access while supporting the Museum’s mission as a community-centered organization.
Kevin Roche stated in an email from 2011 that the original vision for the museum was to “…be entirely open in all directions.” Whether due to the civil unrest in Oakland during the late 1960’s or other programmatic requirements, the result was an inwardly focused building and garden complex enclosed by concrete walls separating it from Lake Merritt and the surrounding neighborhood.
The renovation focused entirely on opening and integrating the building with the City of Oakland and adding infrastructure to support the museum’s community-based programs. The new entry at 12th Street connects the museum to Lake Merritt across the street which had until now been invisible. The planting renovation introduces a new living collection of native plant species to the museums exhibits, extending opportunities for interpretive content. Access to the garden and extensive outdoor art collection is free, and with the renovation, more universally accessible to all.
On the Museum’s west side, a new large window cuts through the solid façade to the café. A new ramp connecting the café directly to the public way invites foot traffic from the BART station and Laney College across 10th Street, reinforcing access by public transit. OMCA is committed to representing and telling the stories of Oakland and California.
The entire process from the garden master planning through the final design was informed by stakeholders and the community through workshops, surveys, and meetings. In addition, the project offered opportunities for local businesses participation, further fostering connections to the Oakland community.