Oklahoma City and Tulsa both have a stock of distinguished modernist buildings that is surprising to anyone who visits these cities fort the first time. There are several “Oklahoma modern” websites in the state and residents of these communities take a good deal of pride in their historic structures. But, inexplicably,
Several blocks from these structures, a citywide effort that started from a thoughtful master plan is transforming a stretch of old commercial and manufacturing buildings along Brady Street into a thriving arts district. The plan connects the new baseball stadium—ONEOK Field—with the BOK Center, a César Pelli–designed arena. The city’s Philbrook Museum of Art has opened a new downtown gallery space in an old warehouse that includes a new craft gallery, art studios, and Woody Guthrie Center. The Philbrook downtown is a textbook example of how to save, preserve, and update a perfectly good building. It has a contemporary exhibit space designed by Gluckman Mayner Architects. Directly across Brady Street from this new arts center, the city, with funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, created Guthrie Green, a new public park and performance facility designed by KKT.
Tulsa has barely 400,000 residents, but it is showing its much larger neighbor down route 44 how to preserve its architectural heritage and use it as the basis of a contemporary, re-imagined city.