Possible roundabout has iconic art potential for Oklahoma City's boulevard

One or more roundabouts or traffic circles could be part of a plan to keep Oklahoma City's planned downtown boulevard at ground level. It could create an opportunity for an iconic piece of public art as a gateway to downtown.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: August 6, 2012

If the planned downtown Oklahoma City grand boulevard includes a roundabout or traffic circle as part of efforts to keep the road at ground level, it's going to create some prime real estate for a potentially iconic piece of public art.

The boulevard, which will replace the old alignment of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway bridge, is intended to be a magnet for development as it bisects Oklahoma City's urban core between downtown and the Oklahoma River. Studies are under way now to determine if the road can be kept at ground level as it passes through a complicated series of intersections, and some of the ideas to keep it at-grade include at least one large roundabout or traffic circle.

Some of the world's most recognizable landmarks, including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, are the centerpieces of roundabouts and traffic circles. The chance to get started on something unique to Oklahoma City in such a setting is enticing to local public art advocates.

“Roundabouts particularly, I always feel as if the art is springing forth from the ground, and you can't help but to notice it and see it,” said Debby Williams, director of the state's Art in Public Places program.

“Those are just spaces that beg for attention.”

Downtown gateway

The area near where the old Crosstown bridge comes in near Reno and Western avenues and Classen Boulevard is the most likely candidate for a roundabout or traffic circle on the boulevard, if one is used. Because of the placement, it could serve as a gateway into the downtown area for people using the boulevard.

Such a focal point with a void in the middle is an obvious candidate for an eye-catching bit of public art or landscaping.

“They're placeholders that call for more in an urban environment, and we want to fill those things up,” said Robbie Kienzle, Oklahoma City's arts and cultural affairs liaison. “As a community, it shows our growth. It shows what we're reaching for.”

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