Gardens

When the Oakland Museum of California opened its doors in 1969, it was hailed as a breakthrough in museum design. Working in close collaboration, architect Kevin Roche and landscape architect Dan Kiley created an urban masterpiece that seamlessly integrat­ed luxuriant gardens into the building’s master plan. Today, the gardens are a beloved oasis in the heart of Oakland, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy world-class sculptures in a tranquil and verdant setting.

Tour the Gardens!
On the first Sunday of every month at 1 pm, the Council on Architecture leads educational tours of the Museum’s architecture and gardens.

Creative Landscaping
Rising above a spacious central courtyard, the terraced gardens and sculpture areas mirror the building’s rectilinear design. Kiley introduced plants of varying textures, sizes, and growing habits, giving the 26,400-square-foot gardens a pleasing visual interest. The courtyard and surrounding areas feature a tower­ing white alder tree, cedars, and redwoods, providing welcome shade. For the roof gardens, Kiley eloquently described his selection of plants—flowering pear trees from China, azaleas, camellias, Australian bottlebrush, olive trees—as “a lacy veil superimposed on the sur­face to complement and soften the rigid geometry of the structure.”

Striking Sculptures
The artworks on view in the gardens represent a wide variety of styles and periods. The central courtyard is dominat­ed by Two Red Lines II, a soaring kinetic sculpture created by George Rickey in 1966. A level above, overlooking Lake Merritt is Big Peace IV, a sunny yellow peace sign fabricated out of steel by Cuban-born art­ist Tony Labat in 2008. The top-level terramce features Homage to Charlie Parker, a large steel piece made by the renowned artist Mark di Suvero in 1977, and Viola Frey’s 1984 sculpture, Man Observing, Series III enlivens the environs near the third-level terraces.

Reflecting Pool, Koi Pond
On OMCA’s ground level is a large pool that connects to the main gardens. Surrounded by deodar trees, the pool is filled with koi and water lilies on one side and native California plants and Bay Area freshwater fish on the other. Dramatically poised in the pool’s center is a large Lucite sculpture, Tragamon, by Bruce Beasley. Installed in 1972, Tragamon is a prismatic work that, in certain light, casts gorgeous bands of color on the Museum’s walls and steps.