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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wishful Re-coloring of a Legendary High School

Oakland is home to so many historical architectural gems. When I first moved here, I had to really watch my driving because of the distracting amount of stunning architecture in every direction. I also love that Oakland doesn't shy away from color!

 photo: QT Luong

One of many colorful murals:

Photo: Marie Brady

One the flip side, it's no secret that Oakland has had it's share of rough times. Much of the industry such as shipbuilding, auto production and other various factories that provided jobs left just as legions of people arrived in search of once plentiful jobs after World War II. Like many urban cities, Oakland has been struggling to reinvent and revitalize itself as the decades have challenged it's past identity.

Downtown Oakland 1946 via archives:

I get a case of the sads when I see so much of the rich architectural heritage of the city shuttered, neglected or poorly redone. One can almost hear the buildings protesting, “ Hey, I was once lovely and something to behold.” 

Tile lined WC Morse building across from Tech High: 

 Photo: Marie Brady

I'll save some of these stunning landmarks for another post as I dive into a sub category of Oakland Architecture, the public schools. Some refurbished landmarks like the Paramount and Fox Theaters having us residents jumping for joy and hopeful at this direction of urban renewal.

One of Oakland's schools that has always fascinated me is the nearly century old Oakland Technical High School. It's alumni include Clint Eastwood, The Pointer Sisters, Frank Oz and baseball great Ricky Henderson among many others. This neoclassical sprawling building is set along the busy street of Broadway which leads into downtown Oakland many blocks away.

Vintage Postcard:

Just up a few blocks up the hill is the stylish, hip Rockridge district 

 .......while heading into downtown Oakland is the Paramount Theater and many new, exciting restaurants. This part of Broadway, however, is doted by shuttered buildings many of which I've never seen open in a decade alone with many closed car dealerships.

I've never seen this restaurant across from the school in business in the last 10 years:

Photo: Marie Brady

While Oakland Tech has had a reputation in recent decades as a tough inner city school, it's newer engineering and technology program has become the darling of the school system and is attracting many students away from local private high schools by the droves. Admission to this program is hard won but colleges eagerly snap up their graduates.

Photo: Marie Brady
 I noticed Tech was painted a few years ago and I am less than excited about the outcome. While the historic pictures show that it has always been pale in color........

Oakland Tech in it's opening year of 1914 via archives:

Oakland Tech in 1940 via archives:

........the institutional looking white with the baby blue details leaves a lot to be desired. To me it looks depressing and cheap. Bad white and  playing up details could have really made this building sing again!

The massive, financially strapped school district has a set group of about 6 color palettes which they must feel make maintenance more cost effective and streamlined. (more about this in a future post on dealing with school districts and institutional color). I really believe that when you give an already challenged group of students a handsome, well maintained building to learn in, they will rise to the occasion and feel proud of their school.

Neoclassical architecture is often painted white or in stone types of colors with occasional colorful flourishes. This school has some inlayed blue Greek fretwork near the roof line as well as green leaf tile accents and medallions above the columns. I have to wonder at what's  possible for this school so I played around with options for color. 

I took a little creative license moving away from the white but I still believe the correct white would also do wonders...... I also have a selfish reason for dreaming of seeing what has been declared a local landmark freshened up. My older son may well be attending their fabulous engineering program in 2 years.

Which is YOUR favorite?


Elizabeth Brown said...

Number five is my favorite. I like the idea of treating the columns and pediment as one.

Very nice post, indeed.

K&B by the Sea said...

I agree, the school really needs some colour. All your mock-ups look great, but I think I have to pick #3 as my favourite. Love the blue trim and white columns - it looks really fresh and happy :-)

debra disman said...

I like number 1 and number 5. I like the stronger body color on 5, but I like the clean (sorry Kelly! I know you don;t like the use of the word "clean" as regards to design descriptors!) look of number 1.
Cheers Marie...nice post!

Unknown said...

with all that beautiful tile work,it's a shame they didn't play up the colors more! i agree, a structure that has a strong presence should have equally strong color sense. such a shame to stay dingy white. I love your suggestions, especially #1, 5 and 6. you should send this to the district superintendent. course, the cost of repainting a massive building like this must be enormous...

Unknown said...

P.S. you need a twitter link for each post so we can share your wonderful articles

Marie Brady said...

I know I've been hoping to include Twitter here and update everything. Ah, some day.....Sadly having been a PTA board member and design committee member with another district school, I know the district has a repainting schedule that is rather strictly in place due to budgets. It will probably come up again for repainting in 10 years at the earliest...:(

Sweet Lily said...

Absolutely wonderful!!
Hmm... I'd pick no.4 as my favorite.

Unknown said...

I prefer the second one myself! Marie, love how you changed colors. This is a wonderful way to work with clients. What program did you use?

Kelly Frances Dunn said...

I am tending towards #4 the most :) Very cool! XO, Kelly

Marie Brady said...

Thanks! I sometimes use PhotoShop CS5 but I also love the older version of Ben Moore's color software which I used here. It's simple and does the trick.

UpperBottom said...

hi, first time visitor here. NUMBER 5. for sure. all pretty awesome though. that was fun.

happy sunday,