Let’s define innovative first. It’s not easy, especially when it comes to discussing street lights, furniture and traffic poles. But Aubrey Hammontree, the city’s urban planner, gave what might be a good starting line when it comes to street lights.
It looks cool – and it’s far removed from any street lights seen today. Because this prototype being introduced in New York City uses LED lights, it’s far more energy efficient. And yet it’s contemporary design isn’t jarring – and it has been said the wire connections up top are reminicient of early day gas lights.
Here’s the background story from the Aug. 10, 2009 issue of Architect Magazine:
The prototype is the result of the second of two competitions held by New York City. The streetlight’s form emerged in the first competition, won by a team that included OVI and Sobek, and was led by New York–based architect Thomas Phifer and Partners. For the second competition, to develop a prototype, OVI and Sobek were the only entrants. Phifer is contracted separately to oversee aesthetic changes during the prototyping phase. Despite this slightly tangled project history, the jury focused its praise on the harmony between design and engineering: “The form seemed purposeful,” John Ronan said, “a nice integration of form and technology.”
The arced luminaire housing stands in sharp contrast to the squat, bulbous forms of standard high-pressure sodium streetlights. The pole can be locked into place with bolts already embedded in the sidewalks for existing streetlights, and its fluted profile allows signs to be slid into metal guides and locked into place at any orientation on the surface. “That’s going to clean up the cityscape right there,” Craig Hodgetts said. The testing and engineering is done, and the project is just waiting for the green light from the city.
No such competition is being held in Oklahoma City. And yet the opportunity for Oklahoma City to transform its downtown streets, all at once, is almost unmatched anywhere – including New York City where so much innovation has taken place.
I’m in a delicate position – I’ve been given generous access to a process underway to implement the wishes of Devon Energy to improve all of downtown through its $115 million tax increment financing district. And yet these wishes come with a radically short timeframe to get it all done. Smart good people are tasked with making decisions that will shape downtown development for decades.
Over the next week I’ll be delving into conditions that exist today, how the streets can guide development, how streetscapes have been pursued downtown this past decade and what’s being contemplated. And then, as respectfully and politely as I can, I will ask, are we rushing into mediocrity despite the best of intentions? Are the right people at the table? And can Oklahoma City match NYC’s Phifer competition?
“Think of this as the perfect simple black dress – one that must go with all the various accessories found in the outlying districts like Bricktown, MidTown, Automobile Alley and Film Row. That’s what we’re shopping for. Something that is classy, elegant and timeless.”
- One of several very talented local design experts I’ve spoken to this past week.