'Iconic' status unlikely to save Oklahoma City's Stage Center
“Iconic” is a word overused by a profession (our own) that seems to find an iconic this or that on every block. Yet it’s hard to otherwise describe Stage Center in downtown Oklahoma City, said to be an iconic piece of architecture that must be saved primarily because it’s an iconic piece of architecture.
That it’s not much else except an unused, deteriorating structure on a valuable piece of land is self-evident. No one has come forward to rescue this John Johansen-designed building that opened in 1970 and is featured in architecture textbooks.
The New York Times reported in April on a slew of Modernist buildings reaching middle age and showing signs of decay. Slapping the “iconic” label on such structures won’t save them. That takes cash and determination, the kind that rescued the Skirvin Plaza Hotel but not the International-style Downtown YMCA building.
The Union Tank Car Dome, a spitting image of the Gold Dome at NW 23 in Classen, was completed in Baton Rouge, La., in 1958, in the heyday of geodesic dome guru Buckminster Fuller. Its unique design and links to a famous designer didn’t save the dome. It was demolished in 2007 after years of disuse. Stage Center has reached that phase and could be next on the list of “iconic” structures to fall.
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