One of the features of the proposed makeover is a series of “spinner towers” that would be funded through private donations. It just so happens that one of these towers is on display outside of architect Rand Elliott’s offices at 6th and Harrison. I hope this photo helps.
I’ve also been asked to reprint Blair Humphreys’ full remarks concerning this project. I will also note that I’ve asked Elliott if he wants to comment on this matter – so far he has politely declined to do so.
Humphreys is no stranger to long-time readers of OKC Central. He is Executive Director of the Institute for Quality Communities and Asst Professor in the College of Architecture. He has a Masters in City Planning and Urban Design degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Oklahoma. He is a founding member of ULI Oklahoma, currently serving as the Vice-Chair for Mission Advancement of the statewide organization.
Humphreys teaches graduate-level Urban Design Theory, and has previously taught in the Urban Design Studio. In 2011, Blair served as the faculty advisor of OU’s award winning Hines/ULI Urban Design Competition team. He also has acted as a consultant in development efforts along Automobile Alley and in MidTown.
Humphreys’ comments to Downtown Design Review Committee on the Civic Center Park redesign:
The new Myriad Gardens is special.
It is a captivating mix of spaces and attractions that seem to offer something for everyone on every day, all year long. It gets right everything that the old Myriad Gardens got wrong, while being careful to retain everything that the old Myriad Gardens got right.”
In fact, the shift from rigid to flexible is something of a theme with a park now appropriately offering “myriad” attractions for a range of users. A restaurant will sit on the edge of a fun-natured plaza sure to host laughing children year-round. The plaza features a splash fountain during the summer that converts to a skating rink during the winter.
As famed urbanist William Whyte pointed, “What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people.” The new Myriad Gardens gets this: It is a public space for people. Hopefully, it is just the beginning of our transformation into a city for people — a city worth staying in.
Simply put, the new Myriad Gardens and all Project 180 improvements to date have made our city a better place for people. The new Bicentennial park design does not.
I expressed similar concerns to the project manager about the direction of this park at informational meeting about Project 180 over two years ago when I was told that this park would be focused on passive observation. I am not aware of a single successful public park created for passive observation. Citygarden in St. Louis, the best new sculpture garden in the world, is the opposite, encouraging interaction with the art and among the adults and children that flock to it.
I have been waiting these two years for a public forum in which to offer my input both as a passionate promoter of great public spaces and a native citizen of Oklahoma City. I am not aware of any public meeting I missed, but apologize that these criticisms have not been offered until today.
When compared to the existing Bicentennial park, the new design is:
less respectful of our city’s history
and far less appropriate for such an important civic site.
What makes the Myriad Gardens special is that it was carefully crafted for the people of our city, whether workers downtown, residents from surrounding neighborhoods, or children enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon. It may not win an architectural design award or be praised by the critics in New York and Chicago, but it is already cherished by the people of our city and will be for many decades to come.
In the case of the new Bicentennial Park, with polished steel, fresh landscaping and an abundance of beautiful granite it will definitely have some initial appeal. But ultimately, the inherent flaws of the design as a usable public space for people will lead to the parks demise. While we will be able to rectify this mistake with further design and additional investment, we will not be able to retrieve the history lost or return the money wasted.
I don’t support a continuance, rather I recommend denial of this item to provide for a complete redesign that includes the input of the community and the expertise of a proven public space professional. I would encourage the city to design a park (not to meet the 75th anniversary gala deadline next fall, but) that will still be cherished when the Civic Center’s 100 year anniversary gala takes place.