One hundred thirty-seven miles.
This year’s Architecture Tour started in far-northern Edmond and ended in far-eastern Norman, leaving me with a real concern as to whether we’d make it to all seven sites in time. I needn’t have worried. Trini takes her job as navigator very seriously, and by the time we first entered the Norman Traffic Death March, we were practically assured of our completion ribbons. (Okay, we don’t get ribbons, exactly, but they mark off each site you visit with a highlighter, and this year they used four different colors.)
Given the geography involved, we followed the ticket order exactly, and this is where we ended up:
1) 1701 Woodhill Road, Edmond
The owners of this stone-over-wood-frame Colorado contemporary, circa 1976, started planning to remodel in early 2009; then a rare late-winter tornado took out 75 percent of the house, and they were more or less forced to update everything ahead of schedule. The exterior was pushed about one notch in the direction of Rustic, though the fittings are clearly contemporary. (Here’s how it looked before the reconstruction.) Positioned on top of a hill at the end of a twisty road, it’s the sort of house you hope your eccentric aunt leaves you in her will.
2) 1000 Northwest 37th Street
You saw 7 at Crown Heights, to give it its formal name, on last year’s tour; the exterior is much the same as it was then, but the interiors have been filled in nicely, and the courtyard and pool are now finished. The “7” designation comes from the fact that there are seven units, spread over two buildings at a right angle to one another. It still amazes me that the city ever wanted this torn down.
3) 430 Northwest 12th Street
It wouldn’t be an Architecture Tour without something from Brian Fitzsimmons. This year’s former sow’s ear is a Midtown two-story office building, dating to the 1950s, somewhere between retired and ruined. Fitzsimmons’ silk-pursification was audacious enough to add a third story and recasting the building into 26 apartments, not all of which are flats. We saw a unit facing downtown, and the view of course was fabulous. (Covered parking, we are told, is in the works.) As always with Fitzsimmons, natural light is a given; every angle is chosen to maximize the value of incoming sun without boiling you to death in the summer, which is why there is as little glass as possible on the east and west ends.
4) 123 Northwest 8th Street
Perhaps by coincidence, Lingo Construction, whose offices you see here, is doing the heavy lifting on 430 NW 12th, supra. This was a 1930 auto-supply operation — being around the corner from Automobile Alley made that almost a given — and its redesign is an ingenious combination of both vintage and vintage-looking structural components, either exposed or, as in this shot, covered with clear polycarbonate. On the east exterior wall is some sort of faded-beyond-recognition painted advertisement, presumably for something automotive, a reminder that this is downtown, dammit, and we don’t cover things up with EIFS if we can help it.
5) 1729 Northwest 3rd Street
I wrote about this neighborhood back in 2004: “Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming ‘Blight!’ and calling for intervention.” One of the problems is that gentrification of downtown has gradually pushed much of the city’s homeless contingent to the near west side. The Homeless Alliance operates WestTown Campus, which consists of two structures, a Resource Center (seen here) and a similarly designed Day Shelter. The idea was to make it look like less of a large impersonal institution, and I believe they succeeded.
6. 1009 Woodland Drive, Norman
Brent Swift, who owns 7 at Crown Heights, also owns this Mid-Century Modern house in near-west Norman, a lovely little L-shaped ranch (not entirely unlike my own) with a lot of improvements made and a lot of accumulated non-improvements removed. The west wall of the east wing is set off with a line of exterior windows each set at about a 25-degree angle, with concealed storage space along the entire hallway. Trini spotted a For Sale sign; I think she’d have bought it if she’d thought the check would have cleared.
7. 3200 Sexton Drive, Norman
Just the idea of an Underground Loft is intriguing, and this home, built into the side of a hill off a gravel road south of Lake Thunderbird, is fascinating because of its origins — the original architect wanted the advantages of semi-buried construction, but he wanted the place to look absolutely ordinary otherwise. The current owners have redone it to look more like the concrete-and-steel “bunker” that it really is. (We looked at vintage photos on display, and the major virtue on display is innocuousness.) This old-construction look gives the interior the appearance of, yes, a loft. The owner told us that he bought the place more or less on sight, despite not at all being in the market at the time; he saw something in it that no one else had.
(Photo credits: 1, yours truly; 3, rendering by Brian Fitzsimmons; 5-6, Joseph Mills Photography; others furnished by Central Oklahoma Chapter, American Institute of Architects.)