how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

after a long period of closure due to the pandemic, and more than a year of construction work, the oakland museum of california (OMCA) has announced that its renovated campus and reinstalled sculpture garden will reopen on june 18, 2021. led by landscape architect walter hood and project architect mark cavagnero, the museum’s renovation focused on enhancing access to the multi-terraced campus — a significant example of mid-century modernism that was completed by kevin roche and john dinkeloo in 1969. the masterplan also involved improving visitor amenities and significantly updating and refreshing the planting scheme in order to make the venue’s outdoor spaces, originally designed by dan kiley, a true gathering place for the community.

 

to learn more about the project, designboom speaks with walter hood and mark cavagnero who explain the renovation in more detail.

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus
all images © tim griffith, unless otherwise stated

 

 

in september 2019, work began on a renovation plan by hood design studio and mark cavagnero associates to enhance OMCA’s seven-acre campus. completed work includes the removal of an exterior border wall along the museum’s northern side, facing oakland’s lake merritt, and the creation of a new entrance on 12th street, which physically opens the campus to this major pedestrian corner. alterations have also been made along 10th street, to the south, providing public event space, while creating better pedestrian access — including two new ADA-accessible ramps onto the campus.

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

‘we were first hired to develop a masterplan for the campus landscape,’ landscape architect walter hood tells designboom. ‘the masterplan featured five categories of investigation: 1. breaking the box — where to cut openings in the walls; 2. city and the museum — getting out of the box and connecting the neighborhood context; 3. site curation — what sculptures to keep; 4. gardens and the museum — connecting to other neighborhood gardens; 5. museum as infrastructure — investigating sustainable practices, solar, water, soils, etc.’

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

‘we were asked to create connections to the community, improve access to the museum, and better engage the neighborhood to support the museum’s programs,’ continues project architect mark cavagnero. ‘we wanted to maintain the conceptual approach of the original design, which embraces the duality of building and landscape, museum and urban park, but shift the building’s inward focus to be in line with the museum’s mission of serving the community.’

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

at the heart of the renovation is OMCA’s terraced gardens, positioned at each of the museum’s three stories and originally conceived by landscape architect dan kiley in collaboration with kevin roche. ‘research and review of early concepts and model studies by roche and kiley helped guide the transformation of rochelle court (the early model showed tree bosque instead of walls), and careful study of building landscape wall proportions,’ explains walter hood. ‘all campus openings are the same dimension, so we made sure to use same.’

oakland-museum-of-california-renovation-walter-hood-mark-cavagnero-designboom-1800b

 

the gardens are being refreshed with new, environmentally sensitive plantings native to california: each terrace will represent an ecoregion of california, containing plants found throughout the state in a free and accessible public space. ‘we wanted the landscape to reflect this time and place,’ hood continues. ‘climate, ecological, and physical issues shaped the plant selection and conceptual framework. at each level we want visitors to experience the california landscape in its varied ecotone which include low desert, mediterranean, woodlands, coastal forest, and coastal prairie.’

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

meanwhile, upgrades to the infrastructure better integrate the gardens with the in-gallery exhibitions and make OMCA’s outdoor sculptures, which have been reinstalled, more visible. a number of these sculptures have undergone renovation, including betty gold’s monumental holistic 1 (1978), george rickey’s two red lines (1966), and peter voulkos’ mr. ishi (1969). other internationally renowned california artists featured in the garden include ruth asawa, bruce beasley, beniamino bufano, mark di suvero, and viola frey.

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

in addition, OMCA has commissioned oakland-based artist binta ayofemi to create sculpture and furniture for the exterior spaces of the newly renovated campus. supporting the museum’s vision to provide visitors with a more welcoming environment, ayofemi’s works, which are inspired in part by the culture and history of oakland, are intended to encourage a more comfortable and longer visitor experience. her seating, tables, and other furniture — which she refers to as ‘portals’ — will be positioned in the garden and other outdoor public spaces across the museum campus.

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

‘we hope visitors notice a collective change,’ mark cavagnero shares with designboom. ‘in removing the exterior border wall facing lake merritt, and creating new windows and entries, visitors will notice a feeling of openness and activation, with new sightlines, access to amenities, and gathering areas.’

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

‘we are thrilled to finally be reopening, and to welcome back the community that has done so much to help sustain us during this challenging time,’ adds OMCA director and CEO lori fogarty. ‘we’re excited to share the updates that have taken place on campus during the closure, which have enhanced the museum’s role as a public gathering place by creating new spaces for the community to convene.’

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus

 

 

the oakland museum of california will reopen on june 18, 2021 with three free community access days. in its initial phase, the museum will be open to the public friday through sunday from 11am to 5pm.

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus
a detailed view of OMCA’s site plan from an aerial perspective | image courtesy of hood design studio

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus
the original site map included tree plantings along the perimeter of the building | image courtesy of OMCA

how the oakland museum of california transformed its landmark modernist campus
OMCA shown before it was completed in 1969 | image courtesy of OMCA

 

 

project info:

 

name: oakland museum of california campus renovation project
location: oakland museum of california, oakland, CA
project leads: walter hood (hood design studio) and mark cavagnero (mark cavagnero associates)
general contractor: cahill constructions
reopening: june 18, 2021

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