The Central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects presents an Architecture Week each spring, which is capped off by the Architecture Tour, in which local AIA members get to strut their stuff for the general public, an open house at several different projects at varying degrees of completion. This is the third year I’ve taken the tour (previous tour reports here and here), and it’s always worth the trip. This year’s eight stops, in the order of visitation:
1) 1730 Center Drive, Midwest City
ArtzPlace Oklahoma, just west of Midwest City’s Rose State College, is a full-service arts center for eastern Oklahoma County, offering all manner of arts classes to the community. The brickwork, in three different shades, is just this side of festive, and the 7600-square-foot interior is designed for maximum reconfigurability: bigger rooms can become smaller ones, or vice versa, as needed with minimal effort. The south end, which currently goes nowhere in particular, will eventually incorporate a sculpture garden. (Picture courtesy of ArtzPlace Oklahoma.)
2) 3940 East Wilshire Boulevard
Worth Ross and Jim Roth are having their dream home built on the city’s heavily-forested northeast side, in an elevated location that provides for both excellent drainage (just in case) and a formidable view of the city. Roth, who served on the state Corporation Commission, called for maximum green wherever possible, and he got it: the walls are Insulating Concrete Forms — R-50, they estimated — the countertops are recycled glass, and the heating and air-conditioning are geothermal. The location allows for only minimal landscaping, which is just fine: what’s already there is lovely enough. This house is well short of completion, and should be finished by this time next year, when I expect it will be on the Tour once more. (Photo by me; also on Flickr.)
3) 609 Northwest 42nd Street
The Robertson House in Crown Heights dates back to 1940; a section was added on in 1980, but it never quite fit in with the rest of the house. The objective here was to renovate the home as a unit, opening it up to greater functionality while retaining as much period flavor as possible. Local artists were involved in the production: for instance, fused glass art is incorporated into the bathroom tile. Neat stuff: a ceiling-mounted bicycle rack just inside the entrance, and carpeting replaced with recycled rubber. (Ross and Roth are using similar stuff on their deck.) On a block otherwise full of Tudor Revival houses, this is the house you’ll notice.
4. 3101 North Harvey Parkway
What do you do with the last vacant lot in an entire Historic District? The Hooks took a look around Edgemere Park, a hodgepodge of styles from the 1920s to the 1950s, and decided on a house with mid-century looks and contemporary amenities. And it works: the 1950s are so strong in this house I was ready to put on Sinatra and start to cry. The house is L-shaped, with a single story to the south and a two-story wing to the north, cleverly matching the adjacent homes without particularly looking like either. If you have to have infill development, and I’ve always assumed that you do, this is one of the most appealing ways to do it.
(Photo by me; also on Flickr.)
5. 1305 North Hudson Avenue
The Sieber was a combination motor hotel — there’s still signage to that effect on the south wall — and grocery store, both opened in the late 1920s. The Sieber family kept things going through the 1960s, but eventually things shut down, and a revitalization attempt in the 1980s fell through after the Great Oil Bust. In 1997, Marva Ellard acquired the property and vowed to do something about it. The old 80-room hotel now contains 38 apartments and space for retail on the ground floor. The Art Deco look was preserved as much as possible, partly because it’s enjoying renewed popularity, partly because retaining the period look was essential for securing tax credits. The lobby is still more or less intact, with a lovely mosaic-tile floor. The north building, where the grocery was located, contains two-story townhouses; the south building, the original hotel, contains one- and two-bedroom flats. This being MidTown, some of the views are superb. (Further details here.)
6. 444 North Central Avenue
The Central Avenue Villas at NE 4th and Central are new condos with a strongly-contemporary feel and a markedly-lower price point than some of the townhouses in the neighborhood: the vast majority of the units run $300k or less, and the smallest (around 750 square feet) are around half that. ICF forms were used in exterior construction; a geo-exchange system provides HVAC for the entire building. Floor plans are simple but functional, and there’s a communal outdoor roof terrace. There’s a small surface parking lot for visitors, but residents park underground in a restricted-access area. The exterior design, says the architect, was inspired by a Charlie Christian guitar riff, which makes sense given the project’s Deep Deuce location. (Further details here.)
7. 1 Northeast 2nd Street
Last year I looked at the Brownstones at Maywood Park, a high-end townhouse cluster; the Lofts at Maywood Park, down the street, are aimed at a different audience. There’s something contradictory in the premise here: you think “lofts,” you think repurposing of old construction, and what you have here is new construction trying to look like old construction. This isn’t a problem, though: the target audience is less interested in architectural detail than in accessibility, and this location has scads of it. What’s more, the ground floor is reserved for retail space, meaning that, as Trini remarked on the way out, “you could live here and never have to leave the building.” I know lots of people for whom that would be a major draw. The smallest units start around $130k, though you can spend three times as much for three times the space. (Further details here.)
8. 1711 North Blackwelder Avenue
Despite the different address, this was on last year’s Tour: it’s the warehouse end of the one-time New State Ice Company, which is midway through its conversion. The storefront, still under construction, will be a new location for the Velvet Monkey Salon; the warehouse has been turned into a residence for owner Estrella Evans. I am loath to describe anything not involving James Brown as “funky,” but the term seems to fit here: it’s a riot of colors and forms and shapes. It couldn’t happen to a nicer neighborhood eyesore. The salon, I expect, will be done by next year.