Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perennial Resource

Steve Hill sent out a link for Perennial Resource sponsored by Walters Gardens. It reminded me of one of my favorite resources Heritage Gardens. Steve also mentioned the local wholesaler Kerbo Nursery that has some great photos of Oklahoma hardy's.

Coming from the Northwest, Heritage Perennials at was one of my favorite sources for unusual but available perennials. As a salesman I couldn't wait for the "Blue Pot" truck to show up. Their quality was consistently exceptional. However, now that I'm so far away from the maritime clime of the western seaboard, I can visit by Internet. Heritage Perennials has a great website resource, updates, newsletters, handy tables, calculators and even ask an expert. You can search by plant characteristics, such as color, height, soil, butterfly or bird attractor.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of resources available, but every now and then I run across these outstanding sites that really are interested in getting you hooked on perennials. Perennial gardening is like a drug. After they get you started on the reliable performers, you will be back for the more needy, rare and exotic. Soon your aesthetic values will change, and the more common but reliable Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' will leave your affections as your most favorite perennial. It will be replaced by the more subtle beauty of the Hellebore and the Heuchera.

Urban Environment

Here are some interesting stats for Oklahoma City from Earthdaynetwork's urban environment report:

OKC ranked 34 out of the 72 cities ranked. Their ranking is about the amount of population affected by environmental change. It seems pretty complex and nebulous at best to understand. However, in the fine details there is some interesting numbers:

Recycling Rate of (1997) 12%
% of Municipal waste recycled by state 3% with a state ranking of 48
% Change in Municipal Solid Waste Generated (1997 to 2004) state ranking of 48
% Change in State Recycling Rate (1997 to 2004) state ranking of 46

The information is dated, but the EDN detail report of Oklahoma City also has some information on watersheds and water pollution.

Other anecdotal notes:

36.62 miles of highway per registered vehicle

close to 1% use public transportation or walking or biking to work, OKC ranked almost bottom of the 72 ranked cities.

23% of children under age 18 living in poverty

Average # of parks per square mile is .2 ranking 47 out of top 72 cities
6.5% tree canopy

no state climate action plan
no green building standards for state buildings

Facts and statistics don't always tell the whole story, but I'm really not surprised by what I read in the report.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Landscape Architecture in the movies

Is Landscape Architecture sexy enough for Jude Law?

Breaking and Entering


Photoshop tends to be the tool of choice for me. I probably over use it, and there are probably programs I could use that would do the same job more efficiently. Photoshop Blog has a tutorial on mapping that has to be a useful tool in my graphics repertoire. What I really need to be searching out and learning more about is hand graphics. Which is definitely not my strong suite. I get a lot of inspiration going through the asai website and then searching for specific illustrators.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stress reliever

Another way I let loose is to get my hands dirty in the garden. I haven't done very much permanent gardening at my current house because I rent. However, I did get outside this afternoon and plant some garlic and onions. I get really ambitious once spring fever sets in so I have to be careful that I don't plant more than I can take care of. It doesn't help that I am gone to Washington 5 weeks out of the summer and come back to the excruciating heat of late July or August.

The backyardgardener has some nice tips on what can be done in our specific USDA plant hardiness zone, central Oklahoma is 7a (from the National Arboretum).

Rough week this week.

It was a rough week at the studio desk this week. It seemed like everything I put my hand to failed miserably. My ego was crushed to the point that I question my current direction and focus. I'm sure I'll be back in the saddle this week. I am very careful to plan and schedule my large assignments so that I have the needed time required to do an acceptable job. It is not that I don't handle stress, because I do. I perform well under stress. I am very careful to allot plenty of time for my assignments, and almost always deliver early. I don't get exceptionally stressed when added work is piled on, because I try and keep time in front of my assignments to play with. I know. It seems like a very strange philosophy. I know me. It seems like a very strange philosophy, but I really prefer to come out of the gate at full speed. I am relentless to the halfway mark, and then I back off (suffer a small degree of burnout) and start polishing my project.

I get very upset when a professor is unorganized and doesn't take into account that I have several other classes and a life that has to have a semblance of a schedule if I am to perform. I get very upset when I suffer because my professor has not been considerate of time. I think it is inconsiderate to presume I can be somewhere at a non scheduled class time without adequate notice. I will stop expressing my frustration here. I am sure I will be back in there with my head in the game tomorrow, and all will be forgiven. I'm not very good at holding grudges.

On to lighter things:
Every now and then I run across a really good web site or blog. Check out Doug Dawgz Blog. In his index of past pages he has some great stories and photos of historic OKC. Great site. I run across some reference in his Deep Deuce history about the Page Woodson school. I had just went up to take some pictures of it earlier this week. I like to get out and take a few pictures as a stress reliever. I thought I would share.

Monday, February 19, 2007

1951 Ruby Grant Aerial

Farming at Ruby Grant has impacted the land. Notice the different placements of the ponds, from 1951 to the present. It is pretty hard to tell from the 1951 aerial what the vegetation was like. It looks much more sparse than the present.

2005 aerial with old farm fields laid over the top

1951 Aerial with farmed fields marked in green

Ruby Grant Studio Design and Analysis

Because of the way that my studios have fallen, I am doing somethings backwards. Last semester we did a design of Ruby Grant Park. We had some design elements that we had to incorporate into the park, like cross country track, art, community track, amphitheater and the environment. So this semester I am going back and taking another look at site analysis. I am getting a little bit different perspective after going out again and traipsing over the site. My thoughts, although not the most articulate, are that Ruby Grant has the potential to represent the Cross Timbers while reflecting our agricultural roots.

After walking over the site this weekend, I could see that farming this land has not had major negative impact. I would argue that it is what has preserved the site. The upland prairies and lower riparian corridors have had minimal disturbance. I believe there are areas that may never have had a plow run through them. And most significantly the eastern red cedar has not been allowed to dominate the landscape and take control.

Ruby Grant is special. It is a jewel, and I fear that Norman doesn't realize what they have.

I guess the following is a little bit of a teaser, because I don't include my plans just my over arching concepts of the park. Maybe at a later date I will include some of my design work on this project.

In the summer of 04, I did an exploration of agriculture and its impact on Architecture. During that investigation I realized the importance agriculture has on our perceptions of land, city and country.

I read Wendell Berry and William Cronon and other books on land and the environment.

Here is an excerpt from my end of the semester essay: in hindsight it was a design challenge.

“A nature park may not be expedient in downtown New York, but what about a natural park for the soul? What about a forest belt in the city that reflected the native landscape and brought a sense of regional identity? I would not want to encourage wildlife in our cities, but there is a place for native habitat. Butterflies, frogs, songbirds, beetles and other creatures have proven adaptable enough to find niches of habitat in our cities. I propose to tear out the concrete encasements of our streams that run silently under our streets, and return their gurgles to the surface. They are fragile and vital and a wealth of life.

Our concrete creeks are a tragedy for the frog, the heron and the fish. It is even more of a tragedy for the children of Norman. They should have their pants rolled up and should be wading through the creek. Exploring life. Wondering how the water skipper stays on the water surface. Investigating life under stones. Watching dragonflies dart. Inspecting the web of a spider. Following the path of a working ant. Tasting the nectar of the toadflax. Chewing the sweet node of spring wheatgrass. Learning developing, broadening their minds, increasing their wonder and piquing their curiosity. The creek for a child is one of the fundamental experiences that lead to the awareness of the spirit of nature. It is this spirit of nature that our children will need to draw on when called to face the dilemmas of global climate change, air pollution, land use, habitat destruction and water pollution.

In hindsight this was a design challenge. When I got the opportunity to work on Ruby Grant in studio it was the opportunity to put up or shut up about how nature and community should live in harmony.

My design intent:

· Provide a space that encourages increased movement and activity of the community to promote better health.

· Include a world-class cross country course with the flexibility to embrace the active play needs of the community

· Incorporate space for community art, education and events.

· Be sensitive and responsible to the environmental issues of the site and pursue long-term environmental health and stability

· Embrace the regional and historical identity of the site

James Corner was also a large influence on my design.

I studied the Downsview Park competition and tried to incorporate the over reaching principles into my design. James Corner's design was called Emergent Ecologies and was the layering of two systems Circuits which represented the human components and Through Flows which represented the natural and informational flows of the site.

In Recovering Landscapes, James Corner writes “…the meaning of Landschaft comprises a deep and intimate mode of relationship not only among buildings and fields, but also among patterns of occupation, activity, and space, each often bound into calendrical time.:

In designing Cross Park (Ruby Grant Park) I used the dynamics of the environment to engage, direct and mold the geometries of the two major systems—the activity circuit and the natural dynamics of the site. Activity and human occupation ebb and flow with the time, the day and the season, and the natural dynamics of the site are the physical and spiritual aspects of the environment and the foundation of the human experience.

Cross Park is not covered in a seductive veil of contrived beauty. It is an expression of the spiritual beauty of the raw and regional dynamics of the native cross timber system. Cross Park is not an idealized picture of the past, but it is an engagement in the present.

The occupation and activity of Cross Park is the life of the park. The natural dynamics of the park are the spirit.


· Link services activity zones and facilities

· Stream and concentrate events, activities and art along and within the circulation corridors


· Address the present health and future impacts of the hydrological system

· Use natural processes to reduce maintenance and maximize long-term health of the environment

· Use fire as a natural maintenance tool for upland prairie and riparian corridor

· Create ditches and furrows around old farm fields and parking areas to prevent chemicals and pesticides from getting into hydrological system

· Maximize old farm fields for human use

· Maximize prairie systems for increased habitat productivity

I think that the Sutton Wilderness Park is an example of what we do not want in a park. The Sutton Wilderness philosophy of walking away from the land and allowing the nature to do its thing has failed. The reason is because fire has been taken out of the equation. The prairie system evolved around fire.

I have isolated the two vital environmental corridors. I would like to bring fire back into the natural cycle of the prairie on a 5-12 year rotation, and return these corridors back to a more healthy prairie system.

The Benefits:

· Reduced maintenance

· Control of trees and invasive species

· Increased habitat productivity

· Increased awareness of the cross timbers and mixed grass prairie system.

· Regional identity, appreciation and education


Cross Park can be one of Norman’s finest jewels. This design would encourage movement and the health of the community. It would be fertile ground for the expression of art. The reflection of the Native Cross Timbers can be found in the environmental corridors and honor is paid to the history of the farmland. The cross country track is flexible enough to be used by the community and still be an asset to the local cross country teams.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ruby Grant Park

My current project is site analysis of the Ruby Grant farm. A quarter section, 160 acres, farm probably owned by the same family since the shots were fired in the air on the land run. The property was donated to OU, who has sold it to the city with the stipulation it become a park. I think it is an absolute treasure. It appears that the eastern red cedar has been kept under control. The property has two creeks, beaver dams and the little river flowing through it. It has remarkable topography considering the surrounding flat prairie. The upland prairies just up out of the lower riparian corridor are shoulder height with grass and Forbes. Black willow, hackberry, cottonwood dominate the canopy while dogwood and coral berry thrive in the understory. Plum and persimmon thickets thrive in the open savanna and sumac and soap berry cling to the edges of the forest in dense colonies. I also suspect native ash and hawthorn to be numbered. I saw a few lone pecans, but no oak or hickory.

The grasses are abundant, and even the farmed fields have native grass creeping into them. I don't know my prairie grasses very well, but I did see little and big bluestem, sedge in the wetlands and large communities of panicum. My wording tonight is hodgepodge and I'm not sticking to common or Latin. I'm tired, and if I don't write it, it won't get recorded.

Birds: hawks, big and small, bluebird with rosy bellies, crowned sparrow, larks, cardinal, wax wing, ducks of a couple species, blue heron, robin, wren?, fly catcher or mockingbird?. Numerous nests.

Beaver, turtle, coyote, grazing deer, rabbit, mice trails.

The Ruby Grant property is a treasure. It has historic farm value, mix grass prairie, savanna prairie views and communities, wetlands, bogs or marshes, ponds, creeks and waterfall. I hope to write more on Ruby Grant, but tonight I'm just going to get up yesterday's pictures. It was really bright at mid-day when I went out, so the pictures are a little bit washed out.

More to come...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Waste Water/Storm Water Runoff problem

I think the state has a lot to learn about dealing with excess water. Thanks Amanda for the comments and the link. Eco Tecture There are so many different ways to capture and use excess runoff as your site talks about. The Landscape Architecture magazine a couple of issues ago had a great article highlighting Portland's street solutions by Kevin Robert Perry, ASLA.

I have only lived in Central Oklahoma for about 6 years. However, it is not uncommon to get a deluge of rain that runs up over the top of the curbs. I know that it is the smaller and more regular rainstorm that creates the bulk of the runoff.

Brent sent me the Oklahoma Mesonet link that gives the actual monthly extremes. Oklahoma has some reasons for paying closer attention to water run off.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm game--I love words

I love words, and what better words than landscape words?

NPR writes: Writers Preserve American Landscape Words

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape

by Barry Lopez (Editor), Debra Gwartney (Editor)

I'm going to add it to my wish list. Of course my wish list is huge, but this book will be up there.

Web Rave

Rob Cardillo's site is a must see! Thanks to the Garden Rant for passing that tip along.

OK-GAP overload

Some days I get information overload and lost in the details! However, here is an interesting project worth checking out. I peruse Oklahoma Biological Survey from time to time. There is all sorts of valuable information there. Yesterday I was researching a project for some site analysis information when I came across the OK-GAP project. This is a monstrous document, almost 800 pages of monster, to wade through and try to wrap your head around. It is at the state level so it has a fairly wide scope. However, there some great information to be gleaned from the document itself, the bibliography and the maps and the appendices.

Appendices 1 is the Oklahoma Landcover Classification Key. Even though there is a an ecoregion map at the epa site. This gives a little more scientific means of understanding the vegetation of the landscape. If you like to put things in neat little boxes, this can help. It just adds another dimension to understanding the land. Of course the epa, Duck and Fletcher map, Gap and other sources all have different labels for different vegetation regions depending on their focus. It can be so complex!

At the bottom of the OK-GAP report is hundreds(I didn't actually count, but there is a lot.) of maps your favorite or least favorite Oklahoma species, mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird. These maps are great, and worthy of framing. Check it out.

I just photo clipped these off the OK-GAP project and they in no way reflect the quality of the pdf file that is available.

This is one of the species maps.

Mammals, birds, reptiles and more.

I might have to frame this one too.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I want to design an Eco-boulevard

I wonder if a landscape architect could learn anything from this winning design? I found this project through Eco Tecture. Check out the "Engineering an Empire" page for diagrams of the project. It is pretty conceptual, but it is where we should be going with city and urban planning and site design. I think that our current means of waste disposal are really a postponement of clean-up and expense. Hopefully we will continue to move towards a more cyclical friendly means of waste disposal, instead of our current stock-pile and pass-it-along mentality.

This is directly off of the History Channel's Engineering an Empire page:
Growing Water
In 2106, water will be the world's most valuable resource: the new oil. UrbanLab's project envisions Chicago evolving into a model city for "growing water" by creating a series of Eco-Boulevards spread throughout the city. The Eco-boulevards will function as a giant "Living Machine" which will treat 100% of Chicago's wastewater and stormwater naturally, using micro-organisms, small invertebrates (such as snails), fish and plants. Treated water will be harvested and/or returned to the Great Lakes Basin. Ultimately, the Eco-Boulevards will create a closed water loop within Chicago.

The Growing Water project is inspired by three historic Chicago engineering feats:
  1. The "Emerald Necklace" of public parks, boulevards and waterways, which will be greatly supplemented by the new Eco-Boulevards,
  2. The reversal of the Chicago River, which UrbanLab proposes to un-do in order to retain (not drain) Lake Michigan; and,
  3. The Deep Tunnel, which UrbanLab proposes to re-program to house mass-transportation trains.
Expert's Corner
Commentary from Daniel Libeskind

"The city of Chicago winner - Urban Lab - takes its inspiration from the wonders of water. By focusing on ecosystems as living dimensions of the city, the proposal creates a green infrastructure. The authors aim at creating a self-sufficient living system, by proposing a 100% saving, recycling and "growing" of water resources. This visionary project envisions the creation of boulevards, water ways and a renewed sense of the interconnectedness of resources in the City. The idea is a powerful one, and the projected vistas remind us of the utopian dreams of 19th and 20th century architectural visions. The kind of life that is implied is one where skyscrapers are standing in green fields; where the word "urban" looses all its historical and social connotations. Are we on the threshold of a viable reality? Or, does this project reveal all the contradictions of modern society and the notion that nature has lost all its "naturalness."

Saturday, February 10, 2007


The Transatlantic Plantsman had a note on some newly introduced coneflowers. They are one of my favorite prairie plants. I grew them very successfully back in Washington. Of course they had good drainage and plenty of good hot sun. They thrived, rebloomed and were consistently hardy. Henk Gerritsen & Piet Oudolf in "Dream Plants for the Natural Garden" rank them low. I quote: "It is extremely frustrating to have to admit that Echinacea is not reliable." They go on to say that they will not tolerate competition, and they dissappear after two years. I have an idea it is their wet winter conditions. I have had Echinacia be short lived, but not consistently short lived. There are numerous seed varieties that are vigorous and hardy that I recommend. With just a little web search I found a bunch more colors and varieties I must try. My mother has grown some of these new purpurea and paradoxa crosses. They were robust and in a glorious explosion of color while I was visiting last summer.

Seed catalogs bring out the compulsive explorer in me. So many plants, so little time and money.

North Creek Nurseries

Echinacea 'Sunrise'

Echinacea Conefections 'Coconut Lime'

Echinacea Conefections 'Coconut Lime'

Plant Delights
Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa 'Evan Saul'

Echinacea purpurea 'Fragrant Angel'

Echinacea 'Mango Meadowbrite'

Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa 'Mathew Saul'

Niche Gardens
Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa 'Harvest Moon'

Echinacea purpurea x paradoxa 'Sundown'

White Flower Farm
Echinacea Green Envy

Terra Nova Nurseries

Echinacea Tiki Torch

Echinacea purpurea 'Pink Double Delight'

Echinacea paradoxa

Echinacea tennesseensis Rocky Top Hybrids: Tennessee Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea 'Double Decker'

Friday, February 9, 2007

our strongest prairie feature

The "Prairie School" and "Prairie Style" need more investigation. They were on a quest to identify the great features of the prairie and accentuate them through landscape and architecture.

Olmsted Sr. wrote:

“There is but one object of scenery near Chicago of special grandeur or sublimity, and that, the Lake, can be made by artificial means no more grand or sublime. By no practical elevation or artificial hills…would the impression of the observer in overlooking it be made greatly more profound. The Lake may, indeed, be accepted as fully compensating for the absence of sublime or picturesque elevations of land.”

Tippens, William W. "The Olmsted Brothers in the Midwest, Naturalism, Formalism, and the City Beautiful Movement." Midwestern Landscape Architecture. Ed. William H. Tishler. Usa: University of Illinois, 2000. 160.

When I think about the strong features of Oklahoma I think of wide open sky. Not the wide open sky's of Montana, but dynamic and ever changing skys.

Wilhelm Miller:

“a new mode of design and planting, which aims to fit the Prairie style as “a new mode of design and planting, which aims to fit the peculiar scenery, climate, soil, labor, and other conditions of the prairies, instead of copying literally the manners and materials of other regions…[which is] based upon the practical needs of the middle-western people and is characterized by preservation of typical western scenery, by restoration of local color, and by repetition of the horizontal line of land or sky which is the strongest feature of prairie scenery.”

Vernon, Christopher. "Wilhelm Miller, Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening." Midwestern Landscape Architecture. Ed. William H. Tishler. Usa: University of Illinois, 2000. 184.

Miller is talking about regional identity, the shape and feel of the land, and what is its important features.

Miller again:

Miller contended ‘all prairie scenery’ could be ‘reduced to two units, the broad view and the long view.’ By this definition the broad view suggests ‘infinity and power’ and is ‘more inspiring for occasional visits.’ The long view, on the other hand, is ‘more human and intimate, and often more satisfactory to live with.’.

Vernon, Christopher. "Wilhelm Miller, Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening." Midwestern Landscape Architecture. Ed. William H. Tishler. Usa: University of Illinois, 2000. 186.

Is the sky Oklahoma's strongest and most universal feature? Should it play a more integral part in design?

Thursday, February 8, 2007


Genius loci--n.1.The distinctive atmosphere or pervading spirit of a place. [Lat. genius loci : genius, spirit +loci, genitive sing. of locus, place.] The American heritage College dictionary

I have a fascination with Oklahoma's genius loci. It seems
that somewhere after the landrun Oklahoma's identity was lost. We have a pretty good sense of Oklahoma before the landrun. Even if it is not historically accurate or it has a Hollywood sheen to it. What caused this identity crisis?

Is it possible to nail down the spirit of Oklahoma w
ith it's incredible diversity? Is it actually its diversity that dispersed or watered-down its spirit? Is it Oklahoma's relatively young age that it has not developed a strong genius loci and we are still in the adolescent stages of its spirit?

What comes to mind when thinking of Oklahoma? What
images? Oklahoma City? Tulsa? Ardmore? Durant? Ada? The state as whole? What picture is conjured up when we think of Oklahoma in relationship to its neighbors? Kansas? Missouri? Arkansas? Texas? Colorado and New Mexico? Do those states bring instant images of spirit to mind? Wheat fields? The Ozarks? The Rocky's? The South West?

I wonder if the loss of the prairie ecosystem in the la
st hundred years has changed the genius loci? The buffalo, the native peoples, the groundhog, the fauna and flora. The prairie was dependant on fire. Without fire and grazers came the trees--elms, hackberry, eastern red cedar and more. I know that the surrounding states also eliminated fire in their ecosystems, but how has it affected their genius loci? Was the prairie the heart of their identities? Maybe my thoughts should lead me more to prairie states and how they have reconciled prairie and identity.

If the prairie is an integral part of our genius loci how do we embrace it? What are the key characteristics of Oklahoma's spirit and soul? I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on the prairie.

I had a professor that directed me to the world fairs as a way to try and interpret some of these issues. The world fairs were an opportunity for Oklahoman's to express their genius loci to the world. They are not timeless exhibits, but they do express the spirit of the Oklahoman people at a specific time. They also express relationships of the land and their neighbors.

World's Columbian Exposition of 1893
Here is the Joint Territorial Building of The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Oklahoma was still a Territory and this building represented Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma jointly occupy a long, low, two-story building, a garden upon its flat roof displaying the typical vegetation of the southwest. Beds and columns of gigantic cacti are arranged in front of this structure, its plain veranda surmounted by a balcony, with plants in large vessels along the railing, overshadowing the entrance-ways to the headquarters of the three territories. To a certain extent the small exhibition rooms are a duplication of that which was displayed in the general departments, and among them are mineral specimens from New Mexico and Arizona, with the grains and vegetables of Oklahoma. Int eh second story are parlors nearly furnished and not without evidences of artistic taste. In New Mexico’s chamber are beautiful specimens of woman’s work, including that which comes from the Navajos, and here are also paintings of more than average merit. Among Arizona’s collection is a life size crayon portrait of General Crook, and near it a picture of an old log-house built in Prescott in 1863, the pioneer building of that locality and the residence of the first governor. In photographic form are other historic spots, with several views of the Grand canon. There is also a collection of pottery from one of the Indian agencies, and from the wife of General O’Neil comes a quilt in which are reproduced the corps badges of the United States army.

OKLAHOMA'S PAVILION IN THE AGRICULTURAL BUILDING - As may be seen at a glance in the engraving, the new Territory of Oklahoma erected one of the most peculiar and characteristic pavilions to be found among the oddities and fancies of the cereal architects in Chief Buchanan's large domain. This section was situated prominently in the first aisle away from the west wall, at the southwest corner of the main building. Sorghum and corn served as the principal materials of the builder, and canopied many other displays. From the ceiling depended great bunches of grasses, and a pyramid of jars formed the central feature of the exhibit. Cane, cereals and vegetables were displayed with a profusion that led the visitor to marvel upon the swift march of agriculture across the "Great American Desert," which was a central tract in all school geographies of Lincoln's time. The Territory of Oklahoma was settled while the last World's Fair was in the midst of its splendor at Paris, in 1889, and sat here among sister States in 1893 as visible as were they, occupying as much space, courting as much attention, receiving as many visitors, hoping to gain as many new residents. The National Commissioners of Oklahoma were Pthniel Beeson, of El Reno, and Frank R. Gammon, of Guthrie; the Alternate Commissioners were John Wallace, of Oklahoma City, and Joseph W. McNeal, of Guthrie. Mrs. Guthrie was one of the Lady Managers, and Mrs. Beeson was her colleague.

1904 St. Louis World's Fair
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition

Hospitality is a trait that all Oklahomans possess and the territorial building seemed to have been constructed with the one idea in mind, of having abundant room and comfort for guests. Two big verandas extended along the front of the structure and in the cloistered recesses were all kinds of chairs and couches inviting the tired to rest. On the first floor was a wide reception hall with parlors on either side. A stairway lead to more rooms and a balcony on the second floor. Through an elliptical opening, surrounded by an ornamental railing the visitor had a full view of the scenes below. Displays of art and history were made in the decorations, one of the features being a series of portraits of all the Governors of the Territory. A register was kept for the signatures of visitors and in the same rooms was a file of Oklahoma newspapers, as well as facilities for writing letters. Natural woods supplied beautiful furnishings for the interior and Oklahoma cement was used in the exterior work. The roof was of red tile, giving a touch of the Moorish to what would otherwise be a Spanish style of architecture. The building was surrounded by sheltering trees and New York was Oklahoma's nearest neighbor to the east. The building measured 76 by 70 feet, cost $16,000 and was dedicated May 23, 1904.
The Columbian Exhibit expresses our Southwest influences in landscape and our western front in building. Both the Columbian and the St. Louis exhibit were well attended and helped shape the national perceptions of Oklahoma. The fairs were not that far apart. Oklahoma hold to the Spanish and Southwest influences in both exhibits.

The St. Louis exhibit is especially interesting in trying to understand our attitudes and where we were in the world in 1904. By the way, this building was moved and is still standing in El Reno. I looked through my files for a current picture, but it has evaded me. I believe it is the Elk's Lodge. Key words and ideas in this building: Hospitality, welcoming and inviting, Spanish/Moorish architecture. Interestingly surrounded by trees. The tree issue will have to be another post on Simon Schama's book Landscape and Memory and his idea of "Our connotation of trees and value or equity." Maybe that is why the prairie was passed over in favor of further west. How was the designer trying to express Oklahoma with this building?

I worked on a transportation project in studio for Oklahoma City. During this project I tried to tease out this idea of "What makes Oklahoma, Oklahoma?". With each project I do I try to investigate further the notion of regional and local spirit.
enlarged link

That project also folded in transportation.

This whole topic is thick and complex. I have much more to read and explore about Oklahoma: ancient culture to the present, oil, climate, politics, the environment, our neighbors, wind and horizon....the list goes on. I will add to it with GENIUS LOCI 1.2

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Chesapeake Boathouse

The Chesapeake Boathouse, designed by Oklahoma’s Rand Elliott, was recently showcased in the December Metropolis magazine. I watched the building of it from the freeway, but I had not been down to visit it onsite until today. It is of magnificent design.

The boathouse is at the end of the canal system, and the Bricktown park system reaches out to the backside of the boathouse. I walked down the formal terraces typical of the park. The terraces overlook a lagoon or backwater of the Canadian River, now the Oklahoma River. I followed the sidewalk thinking that it would lead up and around to the front of the boathouse. It ended at the point, with lawn and a steep grade between me and the entrance. I climbed up the hill and the roof of the boathouse hovered above me, as if lightly perched and anticipating flight. The edge of the roof is startling thin and the round shape intensifies the sharpness to where it vanishes along the distant edges.

As I climbed the hill, with camera shutter fluttering, I was pleasantly surprised to find the ground plane turn into water. The shaded side was dull with ice, but the entrance was alive with the reflections of the steel mast rising out of it. The boathouse seemed to be floating, in this reflection moat, and moored to its deck. It is easy to underestimate the power of a reflection pool. Simple, elegant and sophisticated. Active, alive, engaging and ever-changing.

As I backed away from the entrance on level ground the standing seam metal roofing delivered what my material’s professor promised it would—shadows. Wonderful shadows marched across the roof. I cannot say whether the shadow of the masts in opposition to the standing seam metal was intentional, but if it was it had the desired effect. An asymmetrical grid clung to the edge of the roof where the masts reached above the roofline. This is one of the best reasons I can think of to use 3d modeling and lighting tests.

Overall Oklahoma City should be proud. My only critique would be that the front of the building looks like it never left the architects desk to visit a landscape architect. The materials of the roof nod to the granary across the lagoon, and the shape of the building clearly speaks of water and a boathouse. It is clearly docked, but it is not tied to the land. That final connection between the building and the land is not made. Overall the city of Oklahoma City should be very proud of its new resident. It is a fine piece of architecture that reflects spirit, integrity and heart. It reflects soul and enthusiasm. I think it reflects Oklahoma.


So many issues should influence design. The broadest issues start at the global level. It is complex and overwhelming, and very easy to jump on the propaganda bandwagon. I also question ethanol as an alternative fuel. This cartoon is great, but it doesn't show the conservation areas, watersheds, aquifers and habitat that is damaged. Farming in this day and age is not kind to the environment. There is some native prairie grass research for ethanol being done, and I think it is something to watch. Corn for ethanol may be worse than burning coal.

I got this cartoon @ Alternative Energy Blog

Friday, February 2, 2007

I love this photo

What is the view from your apartment? One more reason to love Oklahoma.

This photo can be found at boreme and Arch.mnp

Thanks for the tip

Kristina forwarded the address of Island Press and so I had to go browse. I am an admitted book-aholic. But I did notice that I have Sustainable Landscape Construction a book published by Island Press, and a book I can vouch for. A friend had given it to me. It takes a very thourough look at sustainable landscape.

For instance, did you every wonder how much energy an acre of lawn requires?

Mowing 10-20 times per year 1.25 to 2.5 million Btu
Irrigation 16 million Btu
Fertilization 2 to 7 million Btu
Pesticides .625-2.5 times per year 2 to 5 million Btu

Thursday, February 1, 2007

George Edward Kessler

I'm reading Midwestern Landscape Architecture. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in regional landscapes. It has a wealth of sources. The book is divided up into essays:
Adolf Strauch
Horace Cleveland
Frederick Law Olmsted
William Le Baron Jenney
Ossian Cole Simonds
George Edward Kessler
Jens Jensen
Warren H. Manning
The Olmsted Brothers in the Midwest
Wilhelm Miller
elbert Peets
Genevieve Gillette
Annette Hoyt Flanders

I'm at George Edward Kessler and a one sentence reference to a cemetery he designed in Oklahoma. So after some more investigation I find that Mr. Kessler has had a fair amount of influence in Oklahoma.

Here is a list of Oklahoma projects according to the George Kessler site:
Guthrie State Capital Grounds 1907
Lawton Camp Doniphan (part of Fort Sill 1918 Old Photo
Muskogee (unfortunately they do not credit Kessler) 1907

University of Oklahoma (I haven't found any original plans) 1907

Oklahoma City
Development for Classen company Unknown
Emworth University 1902
Fairlawn Cemetary 1892
Park & Boulevard System 1910

Fairlawn Google:

The City of Oklahoma City also credits his work:

Dunn and Kessler Plans

In 1909, following an extensive parks acquisition program, W. H. Dunn, Superintendent of Parks in Kansas City, developed the first Parks Plan for Oklahoma City. In January of 1920, George E. Kessler was named as a consultant to complete the first comprehensive plan for the city. Mr. Kessler died in 1923 before he could complete the plan; however, he did complete major elements of the plan which provided the basis for later planning efforts. In April of 1920, the Oklahoma City Planning Commission was appointed. In 1923, the state planning enabling legislation was enacted and the Planning Commission reorganized along with a regional commission. Based on Mr. Kessler's studies and plans, a zoning ordinance was prepared.

Probably his most famous work is the St. Louis MO park system and the design of the 1904 World's Fair the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. I have a real fascination with this fair and the Columbian Exposition and the way that they influenced the country.

If you have any more info on George Kessler, especially about OU Campus let me know.

Old OU pictures

OU Sooner Heritage has some great old photographs. They are pretty small but the prairie has changed over the last hundred years.

Downtown Norman, notice the soutwestern influences in the architecture.

This is kind of cool. This is the Carnegie building, c. 1900
The third floor is the current home of OU's Landscape Architecture program, and the two studios are the two wings one to the south and one to the north. It looks like small trees at best with just cattle paths. These photos are for sale, I just might have to purchase this one for posterity.

The Boulevard to the University, I assume University Boulevard.