The one spring event I do not miss in this town is the Architecture Tour, put on by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and from 2007 through 2013 I had the singular delight of getting to take the tour with Trini. She begged off last year — family matters come first, after all — but she was by my side once more this time around, arranging the tour schedule and doing the navigation. (Which latter I should have heeded more often: the answer to the question “Which of these otherwise indistinguishable downtown streets is the one that goes one-way westbound?” is, um, the other one.) The eight tour stops resulted in a 92-mile jaunt, about half of which involved going to and returning from item number three. Without further ado:
1) 3341 Quail Creek Road
A trigonometry test come to life, the Bill Howard home off Quail Creek Country Club is a dazzling array of irregular polygons, reflecting both Howard’s desire to blend into the nearby woodlands and his study under Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1970, but much of its interior pays homage to mid-century modern, which hadn’t been entirely forgotten by then.
2) 12713 St. Andrews Terrace
What do you do if the demand for housing on a single block exceeds the space you’d expect to give to a top-rank residence? If you’re Edward Durrell Stone, you create a design that is oriented “inward,” that doesn’t sprawl across the lot. Stone introduced this idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, and sold plans for it nationwide under the name “House of Good Taste.” Restored last year, it’s simple but elegant.
3) 5800 South Anderson Road
The campus of the Buddha Mind Monastery, on a 20-acre site on the far southeast side, is oriented “inward” in a different way, in the hopes that the visitor will turn toward inner tranquility. The Abbess and her staff have made use of traditional Zen Buddhist themes, and regular classes are offered to novice and long-time follower alike.
4) 1315 North Broadway Place
The Mayfair Apartments, located north of Automobile Alley, are a working definition of splitting the difference: the exterior is pure 1930s, the flats — we visited a fourth-floor walkup, and I never want to hear the words “fourth-floor walkup” ever again — utterly contemporary, and the common areas Somewhere In Between. Several visitors seemed ready to sign a lease for one of the 16 units right then and there, though none of us could imagine how we’d get furniture up and down the narrow stairs.
5) 309 Northwest 13th Street
This postwar Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, now the home of the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, retains the exterior garage doors, but individual offices inside are created out of thirteen repurposed shipping containers. Architect Brian Fitzsimmons, a regular on all the Tours, is happy to show his work.
6) 828 Northwest 8th Street
You can’t have an Architecture Tour without something in SoSA, the South of Saint Anthony district, and here’s the first of two residences therein. This one, from Ken Fitzsimmons’ Task Design, sits on the corner of 8th and Francis, close to the center of gravity of new development in this area, and is designed to fit in both with the new contemporary houses (think “vertical”) and the original pre-1930 housing stock (think “weather-minimizing features”).
7) 925 Northwest 8th Street
Just one block away, and literally right on the corner at Classen, is this Not Really A Shed house; the slope of the roof serves as counterpoint to the slope of the street. The floorplan is Z-shaped, arranged for maximum bedroom light in the morning and as little heat from the setting summer sun as possible, and is about two and half times deeper than it is wide.
8) 30 Northeast 2nd Street
This is the one non-permanent structure on the tour: once again, stacked shipping containers, occupying a space just across from the Aloft Hotel, which is scheduled to contain office space with above-average amenities and, downstairs facing Oklahoma Avenue, a “gourmet corn-dog” eatery, and what’s a downtown without gourmet corn dogs? Ten years from now, they say, this will be dismantled and rebuilt somewhere else.
Photo credits: 1) Doug Howard; 4) Sam Day; 5) Joseph Mills; others by me (which can be seen in larger size on Flickr).