Museum Work Crews Protect Live Oaks

Building the new Ohr-O'Keefe museum is all about the trees.

Dozens of live oaks highlight the beach front property, and are prominently featured in the architect's design.  That's why construction crews are taking such great care to preserve and protect the trees.

Careful construction begins with the roots.

Architect Frank Gehry promises the new Ohr O'Keefe museum will "dance among the trees". Construction crews are taking great care to protect and preserve the centuries old oaks.

Air pressure is used, instead of a shovel, to dig holes where pilings will be poured among the root system.

"The air spade removes the soil with compressed air rather than mechanically digging. We see a root, a major root coming through, then we will relocate the piling," said project architect, Joey Crain.

The trees have always been an integral part of the museum design. The finished project, several small buildings nestled among the oaks, will invite museum visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the oaks.

Margie Gowdy is museum director.

"When Frank first came to the site, he said the site almost didn't need architecture, that the architecture was provided by God. So it very much has been a part of his vision. And he designed the six different buildings to be placed among the trees," she explained.

Protecting the trees root system from the impact of heavy equipment is also a critical concern. And that's where giant piles of mulch come into play.

A blanket of mulch around the trees and throughout the site helps cushion the weight of heavy equipment.

"With the mulch, if we do have to roll heavy equipment over, it will spread the load. It won't compact the soil and it won't hurt the roots," said Crain.

Taking care to protect the roots will help ensure that future generations enjoy both the Ohr-O'Keefe museum and the magnificent live oaks.

The twenty million dollar museum is scheduled to open in late 2005.