Paul Ryckbost, one of several very talented people who have left the Oklahoma City Planning Department in the wake of engineers’ dominance over City Hall, has a great blog that sometimes tracks his ongoing renovation of a historic home he and family have moved into in Lincoln Terrace. At other times he delves into the very questions and issues that makes one wish he was still at the city’s planning department (don’t worry, all the engineers are still at their desks overseeing everything from the MAPS 3 projects downtown, Project 180 and design of the new boulevard).
So in his latest post, Paul asks:
Why do many of the developers end up choosing out-of-town architects for their developments? I pose the same question for interior design projects, especially restaurants, and for landscape architecture.
He notes that while TAP Architecture and Bryan Fitzsimmons have continued to snag some high profile downtown projects, the big buzz seems to be geared toward out of town firms like GTF Design of Bedford, Texas and AHMM in London.
So yes, Paul has a good question. He left a poll for folks to answer with as well.
He provides four options. Architects in OKC don’t know what they’re doing; Architects in OKC can’t handle this size of work; Architects in OKC are too busy; Architects in OKC aren’t in tune with current design trends.
Interesting. Paul quite cleverly throws in the option “architects in OKC are too busy” knowing very well this is a stalking horse. It’s simply not going to fly as a legitimate reason.
But does the truth lie in the other answers?
It wasn’t that long ago that other local firms were getting the work. And thanks to the Maywood development area in Deep Deuce, we can make comparisons.
Dear architects – I love you guys. And so many of you quietly suggest to me that what this town needs is an architecture critic. I’m not that guy. And I’m not going to pretend to be now. But I know just enough to be provocative even at the risk of angering folks who are great contributors and readers to this blog. I’m not trying to insult anyone. But I do think Paul has a good question – and I’m ready to turn the focus on the work that might suggest why work is shifting to outsiders.
Let’s take a look at the work of HSE Architects, a firm that got a shot at a couple of high profile housing projects early in the game – The Centennial in Lower Bricktown and the 2nd Street Lofts in Maywood.
The developer was Ron Bradshaw, in the days before he was teamed up with Texas contractor and developer Charlie Nicholas. I realize that architects are captive to their clients’ budgets and taste. But in this case, we have a project by the local and by the out-of-town firms two blocks away from each other, on similar steep grades, and with similar parking podium topped by apartments models.
2nd Street Lofts is now cited by folks I talk to as an example of how not to do a project. The answer to the incline with HSE was to create a large blank concrete wall separating the sidewalk from the raised first floor balcony entries to the building’s retail. Needless to say, other than a salon, this space has not worked as retail, but has seen some leasing as office space.
For his second project, the first phase of the Maywood Apartments, again, a couple blocks away, very similar grade, Bradshaw hired an out-of-town architect. Dallas architect Jack C. Irwin came up with this design:
That project is going up now.
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