November 2008 Archive

Sustainable T-Shirt Contest

November 17th, 2008

A while back – in this post – I started a contest for the best t-shirt inspired by Oklahoma’s sustainable roots. I have been meaning to promote it more, but have just been tied up doing other stuff.  So here is a reminder that designs are due November 30th and the winner will walk away with at least $100.


I am offering $100 for the best original t-shirt design that focuses on sustainable housing in Oklahoma. I would suggest you include one of the following slogans or something similar:

“Oklahoma has been doing sustainable housing for years!”


“We’ve been doing sustainable housing for years!”*

*include some reference to Oklahoma

Other Slogans

If you have more ideas on what would make a good slogan, please post them in the comments below.


Obviously, I am no expert at holding t-shirt competitions, but here are the basics:

deadline: all submissions must be received by November 30, 2008.

specs: all designs must adhere to the requirements of the Cafe Press 10×10 template (found here).

submitting: please email design in .jpg or .png format to

prizes: winner: $100 / runner-up: $40 / note: depending on the number and quality of entrants I may raise the prize amounts and/or award more entrants

selection: winners will be selected at my discretion and please no family members or employees of

ownership: all entrants must turnover ownership of submitted design(s) and all rights to their use. Granting me the sole right to reproduce, print, sell the design, or use it in any way I deem appropriate.

In studio: Slovakian spa workshop

November 17th, 2008

So you might remember that back in August I travelled to Bratislava, Slovakia to do site visits for a research workshop I am participating in here at MIT.  If you didn’t see the posts and pictures from the trip, you can check them out here:

Eight of us have been working under the direction of Julian Beinart and John de Monchaux for a couple months now and have made it through a couple pin-ups and one client meeting. Basically, our task is to create a masterplan for a 850 acre natural mineral spa resort to be located a couple hours outside of Bratislava, adjacent to a small village.  We have split up into four teams of two and I have had the pleasure of working with a m.arch named Zameer Basrai.  We are still in the course of figuring out all of the features of our plan, but I thought I would go ahead and share some of our work.

please note: all of these are working renderings – final presentation is still a month away.  Also, these are currently only ideas, not actual development plans, and represents only a small portion of the many ideas being considered.



Our concept is to create a ceremonial source of the ancient mineral water – coming from an underground lake said to be 22 million years old – within a hill that is central to the site.  Additionally, we plan to create a man-made lake that will bring value to other portions of the site, providing attractive development locations for a mixture of hotels, resort housing, commercial nodes, and an indoor water park.  (I got the idea for a indoor water park after visiting the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine with my family – so thank you to my nieces and nephews for their help on that!)  Our plan also attempts to integrate with the existing fabric of the Bardonovo village and utilize the towncenter and other assets to the benefit of both our development and the community.  Finally, it should be noted that there are a number of program requirements placed on us by the underlying financial realities of the project, so the end result is influenced by our personal ideas and the development requirements and constraints.

Or, allow Zameer to put it more poetically:

Some say it is sacred and some say it is forbidden and only few can dispute its magical presence, but it had remained untouched for too long, unclaimed for too long. In a celebration of this hidden treasure we attempt to unfold the depths of water that have remained below our cities forever.

The cut and the lake


The project is an exploration of built-scapes responding to the physical and metaphysical presence of the [water source]. The cut signifies man’s inward journey, his ceremonial descent into the earth to retrieve this irreplaceable resource. The lake in turn signifies man’s worldly pleasures, his desire to live and work in proximity to water. Both experiences contribute to the identity of the project forming two polar opposites in organization and design.


credit: zameer basrai


source: unknown


credit: zameer basrai


credit: blair humphreys

credit: blair humphreys

credit: blair humphreys


credit: zameer basrai


credit: blair humphreys

Oklahoma City’s 1910 Plan for Grand Boulevard by W.H. Dunn

November 6th, 2008

In the course of my thesis research I have tracked down a copy of the 1910 plan prepared for the Oklahoma City Parks Commission by W.H. Dunn, a landscape architect from Kansas City.  The book entitled: Oklahoma City: A report on its plan for an Outer Parkway and a plan for an Interior System of parks and boulevards (the complete report is available in .pdf – see below).  This may very well be the first formal plan prepared for Oklahoma City, though there were previous planning efforts for individual developments like Classen’s streetcar neighborhoods or some of I.M. Putnam’s developments.  I don’t have time to get into all of the details of the this plan and my thoughts right now, but I figured I could make a bunch of information I have discovered available and allow you to read and discuss.  Please let me know if you have any insights or see any connections that you think are worth pursuing.  Looking through this plan that contains some of the earliest ideas that helped shape Oklahoma City has certainly been a pleasure for me and I hope you enjoy them as well.


This actually represents one of the earliest and most complete maps of Oklahoma City.  I have tracked down a couple maps that predate this one, but this is definitely the most complete and absolutely beautifully done.  Keep in mind that this map is a combination of what existed and what was proposed – not all of the ideas came to fruition.

For a higher-resolution image of the map, download the .pdf at the bottom of the page.




Northeast Park – what became Lincoln Park

Southeast Park – what became Trosper Park

Southwest Park – what became Woodson Park


These resources are all made available in .pdf.  These files are quite large (please use right-click Save as…).

  • Complete 1910 Dunn Report and Plan in b/w .pdf, 7.5mb – (click here)
  • Large general plan color map, 8.9mb – (click here)

Also, I have full-size 300dpi scans of all images available and will consider sharing them – please email me if you are interested.


These articles are from journals available for free through google books that reference this planning effort around the time it was carried out.  They are helpful in completing the picture, though you have to take it with a grain of salt as early Oklahoma Citians were always hard at work selling their beloved city. I downloaded each journals complete .pdf and saved only the portion that contains the relevant article.

Thesis Time

November 4th, 2008

So, one of things I am required to do to graduate from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) is write a thesis. Typically the thesis research takes up some of your 3rd semester and almost all of your final semester.  Finished papers are between 50-150pg and the finished product is intended to be a complete work carried out on a fairly high level.  The first thing you have to do is pick the topic and for me that time has come.  I have been keeping track of thesis ideas for the past year and have a nice little list from which to choose. Here they are with my thoughts on each.


1. Distributed urban college education
Basically I am curious what opportunities there are for higher-education to be distributed across residual space in urban setting, utilizing the facilities and expertise of existing firms to enhance the education, while providing a cheap and enthusiastic labor force.  Still interested in this, but decided that it was not the best option.

2. Effects of 21st century retail on urban form
What is urban form affected by new types of retail (i.e. internet)?  This topic is already receiving quite a bit of attention and is difficult to study.

3. Examine impact of agricultural idling incentives on city form
So we pay the carrying costs on land even as it accrues value for later development?  Surely this policy has a dramatic impact on urban form, especially in cities like OKC – I will have to wait to find out, because this topic is a little too boring to study for an entire semester.

4. Analyze potential for handheld gps enabled phones to measure pedestrian movement in a city
New cell phones – like the GPS enabled 3G iPhone – provide a new opportunity to understand the ways pedestrians move through cities.  Obviously there are privacy issues, but certainly a system could be anonymized.  This is a relatively new area of research and something I think would be really cool to study. The SenseABLE City Lab here at MIT has done some similar work with cell phone data, but the new embedded GPS systems provide an extra level of detail that makes the system work at the pedestrian movement level.  I remain intrigued by this, but ended up deciding against it.

5. Power and politics of urban design in Oklahoma City
Hmm…this would be really interesting! BUT, I decided for various reasons (e.g. my future job prospects) to leave this one alone.

6. Assess public places not by design, but focus especially on the surrounding urban design that supports the public place (i.e. library, retail, density of residents, density of office, density of lunch places, etc)
I love public spaces and this seemed like an area that hadn’t been looked at.  Interesting questions like, what are the best uses to have around a park?  Is a library good, like Bryant Park?  What about office buildings?  Concrete convention centers?  Fun stuff, maybe later.

7. Value based property taxes – taxing a property based on the building allowed by zoning; should combat land speculators that blight urban landscape.
Do you ever get tired of seeing surface parking lots in the middle of downtown?  Part of the problem is that our tax system enables these lots to be profitable, even though they often do not provide the same level of benefit to society as a developed project.  There have been other tax systems utilized that tax property relative to the residual land value sans improvements.  So an office building and a parking lot taking up the same amount of land would be taxed the same.  This was an idea pushed by Henry George, an economist and NYC mayoral candidate in the late 1800s.  Ultimately, this idea was politically infeasible and probably still is…which is why I am not doing it.

[correction 11/6 – Joshua (see comments) enlightened me to the fact  that land value taxation, or LVT, is being successfully implemented in a number of communities throughout the United State; you can find out more at]

8.  City organizational structure and its impact on urban form – Vienna has a combined planning & public works department, whereas Oklahoma City has separated the planning and implementation functions.
I am curious what the pros/cons are to having planning & public works combined into a single department versus the system currently in place in Oklahoma City.  In reality, street projects have an as great or greater affect on the form of our city than planning.  Not sure what the benefits of the current configuration are, but I will have to wait to find out.

9. Studying the ideas of Hans Mondermann on naked streets
The late Hans Monderman has shown how streets with fewer signs, fewer road lines, etc are actually safer.  Seems unintuitive, but has been proven true under a variety of conditions.  Obviously, highways are not a good candidate for such a system – as Kramer showed us:

10. Assessing the environmental impact of transportation infrastructure in a world of cheap, pollution free cars!
Even if we get to pollution free cars, we still have to look at the sustainability of the built form we use to support an auto-dominated transportation system.  I think we can probably do a better job in planning for a future that continues to see cars as the predominate mode of transportation.


Ultimately I decided that I wanted to write a thesis on something I enjoy studying, and I really enjoy studying Oklahoma City.  Some of the possibilities above have to do with OKC either directly or indirectly, but with any OKC related question I always come back to my lack of understanding – and the lack of available research – on the history of planning and development that created the city we see today.  Steve and others have done some good stuff on the post 1960 period and on various isolated elements of the early 20th century, but this early period has not received much attention through a purely planning, urban design, and development related focus.   So my thesis topic is:

The early planning tradition and development forces that shaped Oklahoma City

I am starting pre-landrun and will study as far as I can, but probably won’t get past 1950 – which thankfully will allow me to avoid the Pei Plan and the gloominess it brings.


Well, if you have anything that you think will give me some insight into the early planning history of Oklahoma City, please let me know.  I, in return, will try to post some of the resources I come across and share what I find out.  In fact, I have already found some cool stuff that I will try to get posted later this week.

And were back!

November 3rd, 2008

Okay, technical issues are resolved and I will get a new post up later today.  Sorry for the delay – Blair