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  • LAKE

    a hub for restoration and renewal

    As architects and designers, we are fascinated by how urban spaces, forms, and materials have the power to affect people physiologically, socially and culturally. Historically and still to this day, this power is so often abused and used as a tool to intentionally segregate the urban fabric and the communities who make their homes and livelihoods within it to benefit existing power structures. Consider a typical contemporary urban development — dwellings above, parking below, and a series of self-contained and often vacant commercial spaces at street level — creating monotonous and mundane urban streetscapes devoid of activity and life. The LAKE project presents a different, more radical approach to upending this systemic pattern of urban development.

    Located in the center of the Black Arts Movement Business District on 14th Street in Oakland, this project envisions a thriving urban promenade filled with Black-owned and Black-centered businesses occupying flexible indoor and outdoor spaces that support gathering, shopping, experiencing, and celebrating Oakland’s vibrant Black community and culture. LAKE is located in the ground floor of a newly constructed residential mixed-use building, three blocks from Lake Merritt and four from Broadway — an important corridor linking East Oakland to Downtown. The proximity to the Lake brings with it a quality of light and fresh air that is emblematic of the neighborhood.

    The vision for LAKE is a block-long promenade that blurs the line between indoor / outdoor and commercial / community spaces. It includes a full-service eatery and bar to the West, and to the East, a cafe, offering coffee, tea, juices, and snacks, and a distribution location for CSA boxes with locally-sourced organic produce. Grounding the promenade’s center is a combination salon/barbershop with a strong wellness component offering services such as massage, sauna, and spa treatments. The promenade is further activated by pull-out or pop-up retail display elements showcasing the wares of local black entrepreneurs and craftspeople and a newspaper/zine kiosk that encourages locals to connect and share information.

    LAKE’s color palette was developed by considering a meeting between earth and water at the shore and how one leads into the other. Warm earthy browns and deep blue gradients play out particularly well in clay plaster — a beautifully engaging medium that literally creates its own earthy atmosphere as it absorbs and releases moisture from the immediate environment. We collaborated closely with San Francisco based artisan, Orit Yanai to develop the color palette and detailing of sensually stimulating and immersive earthen spaces throughout the LAKE project.
    Through providing much needed access to healthy food, cultural programming and support for local businesses, the LAKE project has been crafted to bring sustenance, joy and light to Oakland.