Native planting around the Oakland Museum of California Courtesy of Hood Design studio

“We are as close to a town square as Oakland has,” says Lori Fogarty, the director and chief executive of the Oakland Museum of California, founded 50 years ago by the city as a “museum for the people” and bringing together the art, history and natural sciences of the region.

The museum is keeping that inaugural faith with a campaign to raise $85m for a renovation and landscaping project, as well as exhibitions and other initiatives to make the museum more welcoming to visitors in one of the most diverse cities in the US. “We started with the framework that the museum was going to contribute to Oakland becoming a more equitable and empathetic city,” says Fogarty, who aims to raise the average annual attendance from 200,000 to 250,000 and attract more visitors within a ten-mile radius.

This month, the museum is kicking off exterior renovations to its Brutalist-style building with central courtyard and terraced gardens, originally designed by Kevin Roche and landscaped by Dan Kiley. The masterplan by Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio features two new entrances for the seven-acre walled-in campus, better circulation through the public spaces, and a planting scheme of native Californian species. The physical changes are “literally breaking the box and throwing out the welcome mat to our neighbourhood”, says Fogarty, who has allocated $15m for the work, which is due for completion by summer 2020.

“Were one of the few places where theres a beautiful green space, and all of these neighbourhoods feel a sense of connection,” Fogarty adds, pointing out that five distinct communities lie within a mile of the museum.

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She says she was inspired in part by the success of the museums Friday night events, now in their seventh year, which bring in 4,000 to 5,000 people every weekend for outdoor performances, activities and food trucks.

Hood, who is working with the San Francisco-based architectural firm Mark Cavagnero Associates, will remove a corner section of the concrete walls facing Lake Merritt to allow direct access to the museums gardens from the lake and park, which was recently cleaned up as part of Oaklands overall regeneration scheme to attract young professionals and families.

A Lonnie Wilson image from Oaklands Black Panthers at 50 show Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California

Hood will remove many of the overgrown plantings not native to California and create ecoregions including low desert, woodlands and coastal prairie to correspond with programming in the natural sciences galleries and reinforce the museums mission. “We know now that there are much more sustainable ways to plant in our climate,” he says. Two dozen sculptures by artists such as Mark di Suvero, Viola Frey and Peter Voulkos will also be reinstalled.

The campus changes are an extension of what Fogarty has been doing since taking the helm in 2006, overseeing a shift in the museums demographics to better reflect Oakland. People of colour now represent more than half of the museums visitors and staff, as well as two-fifths of its board.

Building on the success of explicitly political and soRead More – Source