Architecture + Gardens

Please note: The OMCA Gardens are currently closed.

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Read about the mid-century modernist architecture of the Museum and the recent enhancements by Mark Cavagnero Associates in a A Gift of Architecture 2, available online or at the OMCA Store.

Situated between Lake Merritt and downtown Oakland, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is one of the most significant architectural examples of mid-century modernism in the United States. When the Museum opened in 1969, OMCA's design by Pritzker prize–winning architect Kevin Roche was acclaimed for its bold and innovative premise: a museum that also serves as a vibrant urban park and public space. OMCA’s terraced roof gardens and central courtyard, originally designed by noted landscape architect Dan Kiley, continue to draw Oakland residents and visitors from the Bay Area and beyond.

As we welcome you back after months of temporary closure due to COVID-19, you’ll get a first glimpse at our extraordinary garden transformation, part of our All In! Campaign for OMCA campus improvement project. Building on the vision to serve as a gathering place for the community, award-winning landscape architect Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio, as well as the architecture firm Mark Cavagnero Associates, have partnered with OMCA to improve our outdoor spaces and provide greater access for our community. 

Significant progress has been made to the multi-phased project, including new paving areas, newly-installed sculpture, new native trees and plantings, a new lawn, and a new outdoor stage that will soon be used for programming and performances. Next year, we’ll open up a new entrance at the corner of 12th Street facing Lake Merritt, connecting the Museum to the city of Oakland in a whole new way. We can’t wait for you to see our new look! 

Newly-Redesigned Gardens

With a focus on sustainability and accessibility, OMCA’s terraced gardens facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt have been reinvisioned with new native plantings, amplifying five ecoregions of California on each level of the garden. As part of the first phase of the campus transformation, our central lawn on Level One evokes a coastal forest with a stand of existing redwoods alongside new plantings, creating both a sense of enclosure as well as new perspectives of the Museum and the lake through the new access point along 12th Street, opening in Spring of 2021.

New paving areas, including new ADA-accessible ramps, provide greater accessibility and improved pathways for visitors to flow from the garden to the terraces, and into the galleries and cafe. 

Newly-Installed Sculpture & Garden Interpretation

Throughout the gardens now opening onto  Lake Merritt, visitors will enjoy newly-installed sculptures alongside many existing favorites. You’ll also be invited to learn about the surrounding cityscape of Oakland through new garden interpretations, which will point to historic landmarks and neighborhoods.  
Sculptures by internationally renowned California artists such as Ruth Asawa, Bruce Beasley, Beniamino Bufano, Mark di Suvero, Viola Frey, and George Rickey are among those you’ll enjoy upon your visit to OMCA. Of particular note, a major Peter Voulkos sculpture originally designed for the Museum’s campus will now welcome visitors at the 12th Street entrance.

New Outdoor Stage

The creation of a new, permanent outdoor stage in the central courtyard will support OMCA’s expanded performance, music, and film programs, coming soon. Complete with built-in lighting and sound equipment, the stage will offer an enhanced way for visitors to engage with our outdoor events. Once we are able to safely do so, we’re excited to offer new programming and performances for our community to enjoy year-round. Stay tuned!

New 12th Street Entrance (opening in Spring 2021)    

During construction, an exterior border wall along the Museum’s northern side, facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt, was removed and replaced with three 20-foot openings. In late Spring 2021, this new entryway across the street from the lake will allow for easy access to the gardens and Museum, creating a seamless and welcoming connection to the surrounding neighborhood. 

For more information about OMCA’s campus renovation, see our FAQ page