OMCA Event Space

Trading Up Places

The Oakland Museum came to Jensen Architects in search of a way to activate a prominent yet often unnoticed space.

Holding Court

Located near Oakland’s scenic Lake Merritt, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) presents art, history, and natural sciences in a mid-century modern landmark, conceived by architect Kevin Roche as a museum that also serves as an urban park. OMCA’s curators realized that one of the museum’s outdoor spaces, the entry courtyard, could be more than just an area visitors passed through on the way into the museum proper. They wanted to transform this in-between space into a flexible outdoor room for workshops, performances, art installations, and other events — and also an enjoyable spot where visitors could relax.

Good Hangups

Jensen’s concept combines a blackboard wall and a “kit of parts” hanging in plain view: tables and chairs for the courtyard are stored on the wall, an idea inspired by houses in Shaker communities. The seemingly simple idea made for an eye-catching and literally engaging visual, as museumgoers and staff could now pick their own seats and tables from the wall and reconfigure the space however they wanted.

Practical Surrealism

The rows of white furniture (three types of chairs, and tables of two different sizes) hanging on the solid black wall looked like they were unsupported in space — a humorous, almost surreal optical illusion. Snap-to-grid hooks in the wall support the furniture, which is from Fermob, a French company known for its colorful outdoor furniture. An added bonus: the black wall doubles as a chalkboard during talks and demonstrations.

Getting Active

OMCA visitors immediately gravitated to the playful makeover, taking time to pause where they once ambled through. And the lessons of activating a previously unmemorable space using economical means, and without changing the surrounding architecture, deepens Jensen’s thinking about interactive environments for schools, workplaces and cultural venues.

Oakland Museum of California


2013 AIA San Francisco Merit Award
Architizer A+ 2013 Special Mention in Landscape Parks Category
2012 AIA California Council Honor Award for Small Projects
The Spark International 2012 Bronze Awards


California Home + Design, “Oakland Museum of California Event Space,” February 2012
Inside | Out, “A Conversation with Mark Jensen,” Summer/Fall 2011
The Spark International 2012 Bronze Awards


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Gretchen Krebs
Project Team
Ricardo Gonzalez


Johnstone McAuliffe Construction


Cesar Rubio
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