From the Great Migration to the movement of goods through the Port of Oakland. From passionate demands for justice to immigrants seeking sanctuary. Presently, the resurgence of artists and creatives moving to the East Bay continues Oakland’s identity as one of physical and social movement. Today’s political climate, marked by sweeping privatization of public and communal property, puts not only public spaces and services at risk, but also ways of life. This is the contemporary “tragedy of the commons.” It is through the lens of physical and social movement that we aim to focus the improvements at the 880 underpasses. At a civic scale, this means a radical reclaiming of the commons under the freeway that unwittingly partitions Downtown Oakland, Old Oakland, and Chinatown from Jack London and the waterfront. A modern notion of the commons redefines stewardship of the public realm, not as a collection of discrete plazas and parks, but one that recognizes the sidewalks, streets, and leftover spaces that comprise the ligaments of an organism. Even the space below an underpass is part of our civic commons, and deserves our care.
At a human scale, this means ensuring safe movement through space in a way that encourages understanding of one’s surroundings. An honest recognition of the harsh environmental conditions under the freeway calls for an approach that brings vulnerable populations to the table and mitigates public healthissues.
Our approach seeks to build a framework, set the stage, and offer a gallery for community expression. Art by and for the community will illuminate local culture and increase connectivity between Oakland’s neighborhoods, to the waterfront, and beyond. Local pressures caused by rising population are immediate and real. Our hope is that through this process of community engagement and design we can contribute to an overall vision of growth for Oakland that is ambitious while compassionate. Oakland can and must grow in a manner that celebrates existing ways of life.