Tag Archives: oral roberts university

ORU Upgrades Not All Good

11 Aug


Beryl Ford Collection

By Rex Brown www.oklahomamodernblog.com

Love it or hate it, the architecture of Oral Roberts University is nothing if not unique.

For years I’ve heard that ORU is the most visited tourist site in Tulsa. I have no idea if that factoid is true. But I do know from my own personal experience that out-of-state visitors often ask me to drive them past the futuristic campus on South Lewis.

What happens when Tomorrowland runs headlong into cold, hard reality?

I think that’s exactly what’s happening at Oral Roberts University lately. Recent work on the space-age complex has mostly involved improvements to infrastructure- widening a creek, improving drainage, building a bridge. But some of the so-called improvements are more destructive.



Until earlier this week the area around the base of ORU’s famous Prayer Tower was a geometric plot of gardens and bubbling water fountains surrounded by tall trees. The garden was an integral feature of the futuristic complex, strategically situated below Tulsa’s most unmistakable spire. As one passer-by reminisced, “I always thought this is what heaven would be like.”

But earthly finances appear to have disrupted Oral’s vision of heaven on Earth. The recessed garden oasis is currently being mowed under and filled with dirt. Crews are moving in ornamental rock to hide the angular concrete, lava rock and that ubiquitous anodized aluminum. Presumably the maintenance of a complicated system of ornamental fountains require people and money that ORU has deemed unnecessary. It’s apparent that maintaining the unique look and feel is not a high priority.

ORU’s space-age structures, designed by Tulsa architect Frank Wallace, have survived relatively intact for nearly 50 years. Today the campus maintains a kitsch appeal lost on most of the students who attend classes there. Hopefully it’s not lost on the people who pay the bills.

Oral Roberts University, ORU Architecture

8 Nov

oru1Tulsa is home to the futuristic college campus, Oral Roberts University, a playground for the mid century modern lover. Virtually every building on the premises offers unique, modern design with some great architectural style and detail. One thing I have been unable to find is who designed this facility. Does anyone know?

The campus was built in 1963 with a noted futuristic look and architecture. By 2007 its appearance was described as both “a perfect representation of the popular modernistic architecture of the time… the set of the Jetsons” and “dated, like Disney’s Tomorrowland.” Maintenance of the many unique but aging buildings, structures and architectural details on campus has been cited as a growing problem for the university.

This small Christian college, approx 5000 students, is named for its founder, televangelist Oral Roberts claiming God had told him, “Build Me a University. Build it on My Authority, and on the Holy Spirit.” While extremely radical in design the ideas and rules of the school are much more conservative.

All students are required to sign a pledge stating they will live according to the university’s honor code. Prohibited activities include lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, gambling and a range of sexual acts including homosexual behavior. In early 2004 the student dress code was much relaxed for the first time in forty years and described as business casual. For most of the school’s history men were required to wear button-down shirts and ties while women were required to wear skirts (an exception for winter months was added in 2000). In 2006 campus-wide dress code rules were eased even further, allowing students to wear jeans to class and dress even more casually in non-academic settings. Restrictions on men concerning hair length, facial hair and earrings remain.


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