Skip to main content

A Garden Round-Up

Sitting smack dab in the middle of Oklahoma City at the Will Rogers Gardens is a gem of a building. It's a little jewel box that is easily overlooked. From the street the most noticeable feature is a three-spire metal sculpture that would look right at home on a Bruce Goff blueprint.

Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Building
Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Building
1963 Turnbull & Mills
But as we pulled into the parking lot the red brick building became noticeably more interesting. The white concrete trim has distinctive markings- almost a Native American motif. A round rooftop rises up from the center of the building like a drum, vertical steel accents point skyward emphasizing the drum's height over an otherwise low-slung structure. We realized this was no normal rec center! Then we saw stainless-steel letters beside the entrance stating: "WILL ROGERS GARDENS EXHIBITION BUILDING."

We were intrigued.

Built in 1963 this unique building serves as the headquarters for the Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs. It is situated at the entrance to the park and gardens at NW 36th Street and Grand Boulevard. Today the building is used for club meetings, educational workshops, exhibitions and flower sales. As we wandered the grounds it became apparent this building was a nice example of Oklahoma modernism- in great shape and relatively unmolested. Here are a few photos from our visit:


We were fortunate that afternoon to meet Leslie Johnson. She is a park worker who appreciates the building's unusual design- and was nice enough to show us around. The circular lobby is surrounded by meeting rooms, a kitchen and the titular exhibit hall. The ceiling of the central space emphasizes the exterior theme with indirect lighting and concentric wood batting. The exposition area is flanked by clerestory windows along the far wall and an entrance framed by the lobby's circular soffit.

One noteworthy modification to the building involves the display cases next to the exhibit entrance. If you look closely you'll notice they're exactly the same dimensions as a classic telephone booth. It's no coincidence! Sometime in the Eighties the pay phones were replaced with corkboard and cabinet doors. You'll notice another "improvement" as you enter the building. At the foot of the towering space-age sculpture are a couple of pieces of statuary that don't quite fit in. As is so often the case with such monuments the intentions are noble. But incorporating classical objects nearby (or in this case inside of) a Mid-Century Modern structure creates a stylistic crash that scuttles the whole. And it's typically done in the name of "sprucing up," which is the greatest irony of all.

Comments

Mike Merrill said…
Way cool

Modern Choices

Popular posts from this blog

Home of ORU Architect on the Auction Block

Frank Wallace is best known as the man behind the futuristic look of the Oral Roberts University campus. On October 14, 2010 his unique home overlooking ORU will be sold in a public auction conducted by Mister Ed's Auctions. Jackie and I recently had a chance to visit with Mr. Wallace and learn more about the house, his career and his thoughts on architecture.

When we visited we expected to snap a few photos of an empty house and speak with a representative from the auction company. To our surprise the door opened, and we were greeted by Mr. Wallace himself! After assuring him we were not architects, he let us look around. Unfortunately we were not prepared to interview the man whose buildings incite such extremely diverse reactions- but that didn't stop me from asking him several questions anyway. 

The home, completed in 1980, was designed and built by Wallace who is now 87. The expansive home is so large that Wallace spends most of his time in a room that was his late w…

Oklahoma Modernism Weekend: Home Tour Highlights

The World Museum

The widening of I-44 through Tulsa will soon claim another mid-century building (see Modern Homes Make Way for I-44).

This unusual landmark near Peoria, once known as the World Museum, is being emptied in preparation for demolition.

The concrete complex was built in 1963 by the Osborn Ministries as a museum and "Interstate Temple." Self-proclaimed minister, T. L. Osborn, and his wife, Daisy, traveled the world as Christian missionaries and collected art and artifacts on their journeys. The unusual La Concha-esque building housed their partial collection and distracted motorists touring along the new Skelly Bypass (aka I-44).

The exterior of the building is adorned with maps of the world's continents. In its heyday there was a good deal more- a giant outline of Jesus was on one wall. The inscription below it, "REX," provided one of my earliest Latin lessons when I asked Dad why that building had my name on it. There was also a large globe that once stood out front …