This is an article regarding the ONEOK Field I saw in Urban Tulsa, written by Michael Bates. Marti Newman makes some excellent points. How do you feel about it?
When History Needs to Repeat Itself
Downtown ballpark could fill an historic gap. To prevent a contrived, “iconic” modern design, how about a humanistic approach to urban architecture
Is it dishonest to build a new building that looks old? Is it cowardly?
The questions were raised and answered in the affirmative in a note I received from Tulsa preservationist Marty Newman in response to my recent column about the proposed design for the new downtown baseball stadium.
In that column, I wrote that the modern design approach proposed for the ballpark — glass and metal and not discernibly a ballpark — reflected “a lack of self-confidence. A confident city could have a baseball stadium that looks like a stadium. An embarrassed and self-conscious city has to have an iconic thingamajig.”
Instead, I urged the architects to look back to classic building styles for inspiration to “create a ballpark that looks like it has been around for 100 years and will be around for at least a 100 more.” I suggested resurrecting the style of one of downtown’s lost treasures — the Coliseum, the Dreamland Theater, or the Cimarron Ballroom, to name three.
Newman emphatically takes exception with this approach:
“I believe that new buildings should look new. Their scale, materials, design, etc., should respect the environment in which they are inserted but they should benefit from a contemporary design palette.
“An urban environment is an opportunity to visibly enjoy the physical embodiment of chronology. Re-creating historic styles interrupts this visual display of time and is, inherently, dishonest.”
He singles out the downtown Tulsa Transit station, built in 1998 in a streamline Art Deco fashion, as “a wasted design opportunity and the physical embodiment of a city so lacking in the confidence of its own ability that it was only comfortable repeating the success of the past. If Tulsans of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s had exhibited the same cowardice we would have no art deco here!”
Later in his note, Newman writes, “I want our new buildings to insert themselves lovingly into the preexisting urban fabric but I very much do not want a brand new building to look like it has been in place for 100 years. We are not the Disney Company and Downtown Tulsa is not a theme park.”
Newman’s credentials to opine about preservation are beyond question. He is a board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and played a major role in bringing that organization’s annual conference to Tulsa this year. He rescued the Fire Alarm Building, one of our city’s finest examples of New Deal-era Art Deco.