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Oakland Museum of California Announces First Round of Bay Bridge Steel Program Awardees for Projects in Oakland, San Francisco, Petaluma, and Joshua Tree

(Oakland, CA)—The Oakland Museum of California has announced that five artists, designers and design firms have been awarded steel from the demolition of the Eastern span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge for public projects in Oakland, San Francisco, Petaluma and Joshua Tree, CA, in the first of three rounds of applications for salvaged steel from the historic bridge. The Bay Bridge Steel Program, announced in June 2015, was created in response to significant public interest from Bay Area artists and creative communities to make steel from the bridge available for repurposing and reuse, preserving its legacy and visibility as a major landmark and historic icon via public projects throughout the State. There are two more upcoming application rounds with deadlines scheduled May 2, 2016 and December 1, 2016. Applicants and the public may learn more by visiting

Projects selected from the first of three application rounds include:

Artist Sean Paul Lorentz of Petaluma, California plans to build a cantilevered sculpture from bridge trusses that will “emphasize the incredible strength” of the bridge steel.  He wants to “create a piece with two independent, extreme cantilevered sections with the focal point on the space between the two forms” that will “evoke that climatic moment before the last key stone section is added” to an arch or to a bridge. His plan is to celebrate the time just before the cities of Oakland and San Francisco were united by the 1936 East Span, specifically the cultural value of human triumph over the physical world prevalent at the time and represented by the old Bay Bridge— a major accomplishment of engineering and ingenuity. His plans are for a permanent public installation near the Petaluma River, “the most northern tributary of the San Francisco Bay.”

Eve Soltes, Director of the Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology Center in Joshua Tree, California applied for steel to create an entry gate for the venerated arts center. Well-known Bay Area artist Mark Bulwinkle designed the gate to be fashioned from one of the old Bay Bridges’ top horizontal braces. The gate, which will frame the public entry to the artists’ residency and performing arts venue will celebrate the center’s Bay Area roots where the original owner and designer, composer Lou Harrison (1917-2002), engaged in a “lifetime of artistry, activism and concern for the environment.” Soltes suggests that Lou Harrison and the old Bay Bridge were contemporaries, “Harrison was on the scene in San Francisco composing avant-garde art music with John Cage. They were among the burgeoning WPA generation that went on to be central figures in the modern-art era of the 20th century.”

Bay Area artist Tom Loughlin has designed a sound and light sculpture fabricated from an old Bay Bridge warning light and its platform, as well as a massive structural top chord element which he envisions incorporating into the artwork as an opportunity for seating. According to Loughlin, “The aim of the piece is to call to mind various rhythms that intersect in the San Francisco Bay. The ebb and flow of tide and fog and sunrise and sunset have taken place for eons. The arrival of humans introduced additional rhythms, from our own heartbeat and breath to the pulse of our activity in the urban landscape. The pulsing light and sound of the proposed sculpture call to mind the navigational aids, bridges, and other structures we’ve put into the Bay to assist our travel. Perhaps visitors to the sculpture will find themselves thinking about their place in the natural landscape and the tools we have built to help us traverse it.” Loughlin is investigating sites for public installation of the work that relate directly to the siting of the old Bay Bridge, including Treasure Island.

San Francisco-based landscape architects SURFACEDESIGN, INC. have proposed an overlook and viewing platform for a park in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood created from a series of bridge trusses and other elements. Their project would celebrate the historic bridge “by re-purposing salvaged steel from the original 1936 Eastern span of the Bay Bridge into new landscape features including an overlook and observation platform; the landscape itself will be a vehicle for displaying the cultural and industrial narratives of the construction of the bridge. Park users will be able to engage with the re-purposed steel and learn about the history of the Bridge through a series of interactive exhibits, employing an integrative approach to interpretation, the landscape itself will become a tool for understanding and marking change.”

Oakland-based Hyphae Design Lab has proposed an ambitious repurposing of large bridge structures into the landscape of a new transit hub being planned in conjunction with the Oakland Army Base redevelopment. While approvals are still pending, Hyphae designers propose to “create several architectural and landscape elements out of the steel pieces that leverage the inherent elegance of the original 504’ truss spans: these include a ‘bridge-tower’ that frames the touchdown of pedestrians and bicyclists entering the site from the Bay Trail; an observation deck that frames the entry of visitors from Burma Road and Maritime Street and provides views out to the Port and Bay Bridge; and a series of individual pieces that provide a rhythmic progression to the bermed pathway which connects the Bay Trail through the site.”

The Oakland Museum of California is working under the direction of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee (TBPOC) – which is made up of representatives from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA), and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) — to support and administer the process of distributing steel to be salvaged from the demolition for use in projects that creatively celebrate the original 1936 East Span and/or its history.

To this end, the museum assembled a highly qualified selection committee with expertise in public art, art administration, landscape architecture, structural engineering and the history of the bridge to review proposed projects and award the available bridge steel. The museum has also engaged an independent program consultant, Leslie Pritchett, with extensive public art experience to help administer the Bay Bridge Steel Program.

Application and information materials for the second and third rounds are available on the museum’s web site Applications will be considered for projects that are destined for the public realm within the state of California and that meet key criteria, including celebrating or evoking the bridge, its history, or its importance as an iconic structure. The selection committee will review proposals and award specific elements of cleaned and salvaged steel, at no charge, to successful applicants, who will be responsible for transportation of the steel. It is important to note that this program was established to award grants of bridge steel; it does not provide for funding or ensure that projects will be accepted or approved by the responsible municipal agencies where they are planned; applicants will be responsible for addressing these and other additional requirements. Further information, including a list of elements to be salvaged from the historic bridge, is included in the application materials.
The Bay Bridge Steel Project partners hope that this exciting opportunity is embraced by a broad range of artists, architects, landscape architects, planners and other design professionals working in public contexts and looks forward to seeing projects celebrating the 1936 East Span of the Bay Bridge realized in communities throughout California.

More information about the Bay Bridge Steel Program, including complete details about how to apply, can be found on OMCA’s website at

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA’s groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California’s cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. OMCA is situated between downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt.  Museum admission is $15 general; $10 seniors and students with valid ID, $6 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the new 1000 Oak Street main entrance. For more information, visit

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