Studio brief – identify a pivot point within Oakland’s past 30 years, implement a change and follow that through to the present. The site, situated in West Oakland on Mandela Parkway is a redlined district. The project must consider Oakland’s people and confront nascent racial issues.
The Oakland Coliseum district has long been the source and site of unequal investment, inadequately providing long-term value for the residents of Oakland. My timeline begins in 1995 with the county-funded $350 million renovation of the Coliseum district – a desperate attempt to entice Oakland’s three professional sports teams to stay. By 2020, each of the three teams have left — their combined worth exceeding $6.5 billion, having grown seven fold since 1995. Oakland will continue to pay off the $350 million debt, until 2024, while the Coliseum facilities lay bare in a field of 10,000 parking spaces. Throughout the same period, neighboring cities San Francisco and Silicon Valley had taken advantage of a growing tech and gaming scene – an endeavor inconsiderate of its local culture. As tech epicenters, a vast majority of the imagery we interact with today is produced from within.
Oakland is 64% black. Re-Imaging Oakland speculates on a future in which the young, black community of Oakland are given the opportunity to re-imagine a tech future to include their likenesses. Black Americans, Hispanics, and those in lower socio-economic groups spend more time and money on the gaming industry, however, they are the lowest represented group in game development.
What if the money was put into an educational system, embracing technology as both recreation and industry? What if the tech future was led by black and minority groups? What if games and digital media were actually calibrated for a diverse audience? What if we had experienced accurate representations of ourselves across all platforms of electronic arts when we were young? By asking and playing out what if, “we are able to reflect on what was lost but also what can be achieved if we take action today” – Walter Hood
Re-Imaging Oakland occupies a campus on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland. Historically significant but under-utilized industrial warehouses and public amenities are transformed into a community-based testing grounds for digital media development. Re-Imaging Oakland re-imagines gaming recreation, the media industry and bodily representations on local and global scales. Re-Imaging Oakland is a redefined community center with the mission of documenting and prioritizing the body in space.
Motion capturing hardware is installed throughout public and private amenities within the campus. Voluntary users are given the opportunity to step onto the stage to record their movements and share that data to an open-source archive.
Game developers and electronic art creators will have access to a variety of gestural information to deploy across their platforms, adding real texture to their scenographic environments. Re-Imaging Oakland’s mission is to cultivate a hyper-modern, black tech culture; employing, interacting and supporting a localized demographic. Re-Imaging Oakland has the potential to set a global standard, empowering overlooked communities and providing a future in both the real and virtual realm.