Launch Slideshow

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Hood Design

Hood Design

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    Jason Fulford

    Hood, 53, will keep his talents in Oakland, Calif., but he is moving from his live-in space in his studio to a new residence closer to the University of California at Berkeley.

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    Jason Fulford

    Hood Design currently employs five designers, but that number may increase with the expansion of the studio.

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    Jason Fulford

    Detail from the signature red doors that first attracted Hood to the studio.

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    Jason Fulford

    Hood acknowledges that his studio has a comfortable quality absent from many of the sleek studios of his peers.

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    Jason Fulford

    Hood’s notion of personal “presence” is evident in the juxtaposition of bamboo and barbecue in the studio courtyard.

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    Jason Fulford

    "There is a sense that work is being made," Hood says. "We make a lot of models. I still draw. Work is all around you, from mock-up to materials."

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    Jason Fulford

    "It’s what I think of as a studio. It’s not an office per se," Hood says. It’s not an environment suited to every designer who comes in. "The ones who don’t share that attitude get frustrated very fast."

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    Jason Fulford

    Hood notes that his current studio has weathered the entire technological transformation of architecture—and remains unchanged in some ways.

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    jason fulford

    Hood’s design for the 2.5-acre stretch of Seventh Street encompassing the West Oakland BART station includes pedestrian “dancing lights” and other features to reconcile the site’s industrial-rail past and gentrified-corridor future.

Walter Hood, 53, has maintained his West Oakland, Calif., studio for 15 years. “It has these double-wide red doors,” he says. “I was renting in the area for a while, and I used to go by when it was a neon-sign manufacturer, and I was drawn by the doors.” Hood lives in a space above the studio, with no real physical barrier separating home and office. But as early as this summer, Hood’s moving out. The designer is rehabbing a new residence for himself about three miles away from his studio—within biking distance of the University of California at Berkeley, where he is a professor. At the same time, he is expanding his studio. “We’ve always been five people—and that’s five too many,” Hood says. “I’m really intrigued about what happens this summer when I get three times the space.”

Among Hood’s best-known projects is his work for San Francisco’s De Young Museum, where the landscape outside continues into the building, and Oakland’s Splash Pad Park, a former traffic island under I-580. A number of his current projects are planned for the Bay area, including two BART stations (one in West Oakland), the Powell Street Promendade, and a public-art piece in Hunter’s Point. Yet Hood Design’s corner of West Oakland has changed little in 20 years. Gentrification hasn’t yet come to the area, which is largely characterized by single-family dwellings. Its neighbors are “still the drug dealers, the prostitutes, the artists,” he says.

“I notice now with a lot of the newer generation—or maybe I should say with the rise of technology—we’re becoming less present in the work,” Hood says. “The idiosyncracy of the work has almost disappeared because we don’t commit ourselves in the same way.” In part, the lived-in quality of his studio directly reflects the nature of his approach to landscape design. “Maybe I’m just old-school, but I still believe in being present," he says. "Being able to pick up the phone and call a client instead of email.”

Hood says that one of his ongoing goals is to build what he describes as a “cultural practice”—with a flexibility to respond to the wide variety of projects he takes on. With temporary installations and museum commissions as well as landscape architecture and traditional garden projects in the works, this notion is a moving target. “I think Diller [Scofidio + Renfro] would be one of my champions who are able to work that magic,” Hood says. “There’s not a lot of landscape firms that can.”