Landslide2008: Marvels of Modernism


When the Kaiser Center was first built, it was the only high-rise building on Lake Merritt. The traditional "downtown" section was several blocks away and no other buildings above eight stories were allowed in the Lake Merritt area. Today Kaiser Center is surrounded by high-rise buildings, including the Ordway Building which was constructed by Kaiser Industries just a few years after the Kaiser Center was completed. These other buildings, including the recently completed high-rise cathedral building on the east side of the garden, have altered wind patterns and the amount of light that reaches the roof garden.

Photo © Tom Fox

The Kaiser industrial empire was eventually dismantled and the Kaiser Center sold and later sold again. Kaiser Center’s current owner, a partnership including San Francisco’s The Swig Company, is proposing the development of two additional high-rise office towers on the Kaiser Center site. These plans are somewhat consistent with Kaiser’s original masterplan for the site, but reflect updated urban planning ideals and site-sensitive design considerations. The proposed project would modify the shape of the garden while increasing its overall size, sunlight from the south, and the garden’s public accessibility. These changes will alter the light and shade on the garden and may necessitate changes in planting choices for the garden.

Much of the garden’s original hardscape is in need of repair, simply because of its age. Drainage has always presented a challenge and, as a result, some of the original planting materials had to be modified accordingly for areas of the garden that received too much water. Also, though the parking garage’s expansion joints functioned as planned during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the garden was damaged. The current owners have addressed many of the needed repairs and plan to continue doing so as the new project is undertaken.

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List of Marvels

Boston City Hall Plaza
Boston, Massachusetts

Estates Drive Reservoir
Oakland, California

Heritage Plaza
Heritage Park
Fort Worth, Texas

Kaiser Roof Garden
Kaiser Center
Oakland, California

Lake Elizabeth
Allegheny Commons
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Manhattan Square Park
Rochester, New York

Mill Creek Canyon

Kent, Washington

Miller Garden
Columbus, Indiana

El Monte
Hato Rey, Puerto Rico

Pacific Science
Center Courtyard

Seattle, Washington

San Francisco, California

Peavey Plaza
Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota

education partners
Garden DesignGeorge Eastman House
Additional Sponsors

American Society of Landscape Architects’ Indiana, Pennsylvania/Delaware, Minnesota, Northern California, Texas, Upstate New York, and Washington Chapters • Astorino • Charles Butt • Design Within Reach • Topher Delaney • Sandy Donnell & Justin Faggioli • Fathom • Tom Fox • Hillman Foundation • Indianapolis Museum of Art • Lorraine Osmundson • Richard T. Murphy • National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Northeast, Southwest, and Western Offices- with funds from the Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation of New York, Dodge Jones Foundation Intervention Fund, and Eastern Massachusetts Preservation Fund • James Richards • Seibert & Rice • Diana & Bruce Shuman • Ann Stack • SWA Group • TBG Partners • Michal and Jeffrey William Tincup • Unilock Inc. • The Woltz Charitable Trust