601 City Center
Design David Brenner
Installation Habitat Horticulture
Architect KSH Architects
General Contractor Hathaway Dinwiddle Construction
Dimensions 33' 4-1/4" wide x 19' high
Completion Date June 2019
Location Oakland, CA
Photographer Garry Belinsky
Urban Ecotones, a living wall designed by David Brenner, founder and principal at Habitat Horticulture, is the first living wall to achieve artistic designation under Oakland’s Public Art for Private Development municipal code.
With more than 25 plant species that intertwine to form a living, multi-dimensional tapestry, the 19-foot-by-34-foot living wall resides in the east lobby of 601 City Center – the public space access of a new 24 story, 600,000 sqft mixed-use commercial building opened in the fall of 2019 by real estate investment and development firm, Shorenstein Properties. On the other side of the lobby sits Sense of Place, a digital data painting created by internationally renowned artist, Refik Anadol – the other public art commission for the building’s communal space.
As reflected in the title of David Brenner’s design, an ecotone is a transition zone where two adjacent communities come together to share characteristics. Urban Ecotones is an interplay of the varying tones, colors and textures woven together to celebrate Oakland as an epicenter for eclectic, cultural expression.
“I designed Urban Ecotones with the intention to mimic what Sense of Place would communicate in both the visual design and subtext,“ explains Brenner. “The diversity in tones, colors, texture variance, and composition of the living wall reflects continuous movement, and the interaction between the species will subtly evolve overtime.”
Visible from both inside and outside the lobby's public space, the two artworks reflect and respond to the surrounding environment and passersby, though in very different ways. While the plant medium of Urban Ecotones evolves with the interior climate, seasons, and plant life cycles, Sense of Place uses sensor devices to capture real-time raw data of detailed weather metrics, WiFi and LTE activity, radio wave activity and ambient sound. The invisible forces and patterns surrounding 601 City Center are projected on a 360 square foot LED screen to display an array of undulating and colorful visuals that never repeat.
“We turned to David Brenner due to his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and his reputation in the field for his distinctive creations that could qualify as art, ” explains Patrick Hanlon, senior associate at Shorenstein Properties and a project manager for 601 City Center. “Our intent was to present Refik’s and David’s piece as a wholly integrated concept – a digital and analog representation of diversity in time, place, and space that could be enjoyed by all walks of life in Oakland.”
Under Oakland city policy, one percent of the total construction budget for new commercial properties must be allocated to public art. While developing 601 City Center, a decade-long endeavor, Shorenstein Properties envisioned the building’s dual interior lobbies as the ideal transitional space to feature two large-scale installations that would carry impact to Oakland residents. To complement the dynamic presentation of Sense of Place, the project leads at Shorenstein Properties were keen on integrating a living wall concept in a thoughtful juxtaposition of mediums and brought forward a novel proposal for Oakland officials to consider David Brenner’s concept for Urban Ecotones as an artistic installation under their requirements.
Kristen Zaremba, Public Art Coordinator for the City of Oakland, notes that while earthworks and land art are not uncommon in public art practice, the notion of a living wall as a unique work of art was an entirely new category which, in this case, met the public art requirements as defined by the city.
“Our goal for the public art program is to create unique and special places that reorient your thinking, attitude or mindset,” said Kristen Zaremba, Public Art Coordinator for the City of Oakland who approved the public art proposal for Urban Ecotones. “David Brenner’s body of work, his documented artistic process, and his articulation of an intent to capture the essence of Oakland in his piece met all the markings of an artist championing for inclusion of green walls in the public art discourse.”
"Not only is this living wall stunning, it also met a regulatory requirement by being realized as public art by the city, and this status may potentially open up future funding opportunities for the green wall industry," adds Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.
Taken together, Urban Ecotones and Sense of Place consists of a diverse suite of visual styles and aesthetics, each telling a unique real-time story of the changing forces and patterns at play the urban environment.
See Urban Ecotones at 601 City Center, located at 601 12th Street in Oakland – a LEED Gold Certified building by architect Korth Sunseri Hagey and General Contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie. The lobby is open to the public Monday through Friday during regular business hours.
About Shorenstein Properties LLC
Founded in 1924, Shorenstein Properties LLC is a privately-owned, real estate firm that owns and operates high-quality office, residential and mixed-use properties across the U.S., with offices in San Francisco and New York. Since 1992, Shorenstein has sponsored twelve closed-end investment funds with total equity commitments of $8.8 billion, of which Shorenstein committed $723.5 million. The firm uses its integrated investment and operating capabilities to take advantage of opportunities that, at the particular time in the investment cycle, offer the most attractive returns. Investments have included ground-up developments, asset repositioning and stabilized assets; investment structures have included asset acquisitions, mezzanine loans, preferred equity investments and structured joint ventures. These funds have invested in properties totaling 67 million square feet in transactions with a gross investment value in excess of $16 billion.