Our City: Oakland Public Design Fair

February 4-6 2016 · Frank Ogawa Plaza · 12 Projects

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The Opportunity: #OurCityOakland

Our City and the City of Oakland partnered to produce the first Our City: Oakland Fair. The Fair invited Oaklanders to imagine, build, and celebrate the future of their community.

This first Fair was focused on the theme of play. From February 4-6 February 2016, Frank Ogawa Plaza came alive with new public design installations and performances that encouraged Oakland kids, families, residents, and visitors of all ages to play in new ways.

The event was generously supported by 50 Fund, the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, and coincided with the weekend of Super Bowl 50, which focused an audience of millions on play in the Bay Area.

Twelve projects were selected for the Fair - see them below. You can also read more about the selection process here.

“Oakland has a rich history of civic engagement, arts and culture, and innovation. This creative initiative merges those three areas while inspiring a community driven planning process to determine how we use and maximize our public spaces.”
Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland

Why Play?

According to the national nonprofit KaBOOM!, only one in four adolescents get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity or active play per day, with the number of younger kids only slightly higher. Access to play is important for mental and physical health, as well as development of critical skills like collaboration, problem-solving, and empathy that youth need to succeed.

A survey from the ParkScore(R) index developed by The Trust for Public Land revealed that while Oakland has ample amounts of total parks and open space, it has just 1.8 playgrounds per 10,000 people - in the bottom 33% of cities surveyed. New opportunities to play in and around downtown - one of the densest residential and commercial areas of Oakland - can support the development of local youth from across Oakland and beyond in an area where many families live, work, and visit often.

Projects that encourage play simultaneously bring new life, energy, and forms of engagement to the city’s public spaces. Vibrant public spaces have been correlated with improvements in public health, sustainability, and community development, among other positive outcomes.


There were three overarching goals, developed by the producing partners. They were to:

  1. Encourage residents and visitors of all ages to PLAY in new ways.
  2. Increase invitations for people to engage and socialize.
  3. Make the Plaza more welcoming to all populations.
No. The City of Oakland contributed as an in-kind partner in areas such as strategy, community outreach, and technical support to help make the project a success. No public funds were contributed toward the project.
No. If a majority of the team’s members live or work in Oakland, they were eligible to apply. This requirement was to ensure that the projects are made by, with, and for the local Oakland community and that funds distributed remain in the local Oakland economy.
Public design is an approach defined by Our City in June 2015 as the process and product of creating with the public by the public for public good in public space. Learn more about public design at: ourcity.is/public-design/

Event Schedule

In addition to the twelve installations, the Fair featured three panel discussions, a storytelling hour, a musical performance, and a public closing party. See the full schedule →

The Site: Frank Ogawa Plaza

Frank Ogawa Plaza, directly in front of City Hall, is at the civic and social heart of Downtown Oakland. It is one of the city’s most important convening spaces, where Oaklanders of all walks of life come together to celebrate, rally, talk, eat, perform, protest, and, yes, play.

At the same time, the plaza is only activated for a small portion of the year. SPUR’s recent report on Downtown Oakland noted that the plaza, while underused, “has the potential to become downtown’s living room”. Activating the space with new public projects created by, with, and for Oakland residents can serve an important role in this transformation.

Producing Partners

Our City

Our City empowers residents to imagine and build the future of their communities. We help governments, cultural institutions, and individuals make their cities better together, through imaginative public design festivals, workshops, and installations. Our City is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California and works with cities everywhere.

See more at: https://ourcity.is and on Twitter at @OurCityIs

City of Oakland

Oakland is nationally recognized for its diversity, cultural and architectural history and stunning natural beauty. Incorporated in 1852, Oakland is the eighth most populated City in California with 400,000 residents and more than 55,000 businesses. The City is celebrated for its vibrant nightlife, dynamic arts culture and flourishing food scene recognized by USA Today, Lonely Planet, and Zagat.

The City is the proud home of three professional sports teams: the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland Athletics and the Golden State Warriors.

Learn more about the City’s accolades and distinctions.

Follow us: @Oakland
Visit us on the web: www.oaklandnet.com

Momentum Sponsors

Bank of the West

Community Sponsors

Project Sponsors

The James Irvine Foundation
Museum of Children's Arts
Kingston 11
Drew Bird


Twelve projects were selected for this first Fair. You can read more about the selection process here.