Oak Heritage

developed in collaboration with Beverly Weiss, 2001



The oak is an enduring symbol of California’s natural heritage. Found throughout the state from the coast to the Sierras and represented by many species, the oak is a hallmark of California nature. The woodlands they form are home to numerous animal and plant species and their seeds, the ubiquitous acorn, once served as a primary food source for many Native American peoples. The tri-valley area of which Dublin is a part was once an oak woodland comprised primarily of valley blue, and live oak.

Mount Diablo State Park, Sunol Regional Wilderness, and closer to home, Tassajara Creek Regional Park, all attest to the splendor of the trees themselves and the unique habitat they form.

The oak serves as a metaphor for the health and well being of the natural environment at large. Our native oaks, their habitat, and the wildlife they support are disappearing, long threatened by development both here and throughout California. Their fate is in our hands, entirely dependent upon the land use decisions we make.

Within the context of a multi-use park like Ted Fairfield Park, we believe it is possible to enhance awareness of our surroundings by referencing the natural environment. As our appreciation of local natural history can contribute to a broadened sense of community, we felt it appropriate that our proposal for Ted Fairfield Park be thematically based upon the oak. Our goal in doing so is to create a sense of place by providing the citizens of Dublin with a concrete reminder of our natural heritage.

We have freely interpreted the oak in several aspects of our sculpture. The overall shape is reminiscent of the undulating shape of the valley oak leaf. It is intended to call out to us, to remind us of our natural heritage. The sculpture is stepped. By this, we wish to suggest that it is a composite form – built up from parts – very much like oak leaves falling on the ground together. The additive quality of the sculpture also suggests the ecological concepts of community and interdependence. The sides of the sculpture are covered with an impressed design derived from the forms of tree roots. This motif reminds us of how life emerges from the earth beneath our feet. The top surfaces of the sculpture are arrayed with abstract shapes that derive from the leaves of such regional native oaks as blue, valley, and live oak. Their curved sides combine with the stepped form of the sculpture to create a topography that reflects the topography of the surrounding landscape. And throughout the sculpture, color is used to reflect nature both at the level of the oak tree and the surrounding hills.

The sculpture we propose is designed to be interactive. We expect that children will be drawn to it by its inviting structure and coloration and will want to climb upon it. We envision them scrambling up and down and across the sculpture. And of course, by climbing on it, children will gain an immediate, hands-on intimacy with the underlying concepts.

© copyright 2017, Jim Modiano