The Vision: The Oakland Museum of California’s Insanely Cool Event Space


If the Shakers had been secret modernists, their patios might have looked a lot like this.

The history books claim nothing of the sort, but the Shakers’ unfussy aesthetic and signature method of storing extra chairs—by hanging them, like works of art, on the wall—have influenced other designers for decades, including San Francisco’s own Mark Jensen of Jensen Architects. Jensen created an outdoor event space for the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California that is a nod to both the 18th-century religious order and the East Bay institution’s 1969 mission statement to be “a museum for the people.”

“We wanted to create a space that was woven into the city,” says Jensen. “It’s free to the public during the day, so anyone can just walk right in.” Formerly a barren entry court, the area will now host exhibitions and events, and thanks to Jensen’s Shaker-inspired kit of parts, it can easily be reconfigured to host any number or type of guests. Chairs and folding tables from Fermob hang from the wall (which was covered in blackboard paint), ready to be plucked from their perch and put into use by staff or visitors. The black-and-white palette was chosen for its graphic statement as well as its ability to serve as a canvas for an ever-changing human installation. “We felt we didn’t need to provide the color,” says Jensen. “The color and life would come from the people who use it.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of California Home + Design.

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