Posts about architecture

Geoff Parker is Sketching Oklahoma City

November 3rd, 2009


Just found out that Geoff Parker, local architect and sketch master, has started posting some of his work on the web.  I have known Geoff for some time and am a fan of both the person and the talent.  His stuff is very cool!  I wanted to repost it all, but settled on this analytique and figured if you want more you can visit his blog and see for yourself.


Rambled thoughts on Architecture, Urbanity, and the 7th Generation

November 1st, 2009

Oklahoma City Pei Plan (source: Doug Loudenback)

This morning, I read this old article at OKC Central about a architecture critic’s visit to Oklahoma City and comments on the City’s efforts back in the 1960s through 1980s with interest.

While some of what the critic Hiroshi Watanabe said sounded well-reasoned and has proven to be largely correct (praising Bricktown, the potential of the Myriad Gardens, etc), one thing that sticks out, both in regards to the efforts of I.M. Pei that preceded the critics visit and to the comments by Watanabe on the quality of the setbacks and plazas surrounding downtown office buildings, is the influence of architectural trends and the general lack of urban understanding.  Simply put: a good architect does not necessarily equate to a good urbanist. In fact, many renowned architects are very poor urbanists with destructive tendencies when given an opportunity to work at too great a scale. Along these lines, an interesting debate has been taking place between proponents of Frank Gehry and members of the more Jane Jacobs minded (actually, more accurately, William Whyte minded) Project for Public Spaces (PPS).  The debate was sparked by a question about the quality of public space provided by Gehry buildings asked by Fred Kent, head of PPS and a recent speaker at the Oklahoma City Mayor’s Development Roundtable, at a symposium in Aspen; to which Gerhy responded, if at all, with a pompous disregard that astounded some in attendance.

In the end, a great city has to be a collective effort.  Architects certainly have a tremendous amount to contribute to the conversation and to the overall aesthetic.  Planners, urban designers, engineers, real estate developers, etc – also all have much to contribute to shaping the ultimate urban environment.  But none of these professions, or any other profession for that matter, should wholly dictate the detailed form of the urban environment at a broad scale.  Ultimately, an eclectic mix of many persons contributions; spread out over decades or centuries of the technologies and styles of generations; creates the type of city that I consider great.  In truth, I am concerned more with creating a framework that will sustain and grow a great city for a long time to come. Key decisions about the overall framework of city development have given us the cities we see today, even if we did not know the importance of those decisions at the time.    The  seventh generation approach is interesting to consider when making major decisions that will impact the historical, current, and future urban environment:

“Oren Lyons observes that the first mandate of traditional Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] chiefs is to ensure that their decision-making is guided by consideration of the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come:

‘What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have? (Lyons 1980, p. 174).’

“The seventh generation principle applies to the ancestors as well. In honoring the ancestors, one expresses gratitude to them as the seventh generation, which they kept foremost in their decision making and for whom they sacrificed.

What types of projects or policies will do the most to serve and respect future generations?  What projects and policies may hinder future generations? I have some ideas of my own, but would rather hear what you think.  Thoughts?

The Flatiron

February 27th, 2009

Thought you might enjoy seeing the new video of The Flatiron project being developed by Humphreys Company.  In case you didn’t already know, the Humphreys Company is headed up by my brother Grant and father Kirk.  They are working on some really exciting developments including the adaptive re-use of this historic flatiron building.  I have also posted an email sent out by Grant (with his permission) letting you know how the economy is affecting the development schedule and how you can help get this project going.  Check it out and if you are interested then follow the link to their site and find out more.

Have a great weekend!


The Flatiron: Oklahoma City, OK from imagiNATIVEamerica on Vimeo.



From: Grant Humphreys
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:03 PM
Subject: THE FLATIRON – A SYMBOL OF RESILIENCE – of our downtown, of our city, of our Oklahoma spirit

Across the nation, the economic crisis has forced many development projects to be put on hold or brought to an end. Yet Oklahoma City, despite some very real economic downturns, continues to prove itself as one of the most resilient markets in America.

After almost three years of design and due diligence, our project known as ‘The Flatiron’ is poised to become a reality. When the construction of this project begins at the gateway of downtown OKC, The Flatiron will deliver the message that Oklahoma City is still in the game. Watching this new 5-story mixed-use project be built will boost confidence in our market and help maintain or increase property values as well. No doubt the Devon Tower will deliver this same message around the world, but we’re the small business version that is ready to go. But we need YOUR help.

We need YOUR help to meet our pre-leasing hurdle. The Flatiron will create more than 73,000 RSF of Class ‘A’ office and retail space ideally located at the gateway to downtown, Bricktown and the Oklahoma Health Center. Our asking rates are $22/RSF (gross) for loft office and $22/RSF (net) for street level retail (with CPI bumps). We need credit tenants willing to sign a 5-year lease. Local tenants are great. Once we’ve pre-leased 50% of this space, we will move towards an exciting groundbreaking event. We want to work with brokers. So bring me a deal. With your help, we can meet this goal . . . and you’ll be the first invited to the party!

All the information you need is available online at You can find floor plans, marketing brochures and a video of the project. Make a point to watch the video. It’s awesome.

Dave Ortloff, our Director of Marketing, is handling the broker relations. He’s here for you. If you’d like to arrange a tour or receive more information about this exciting project, just call Dave at (405) 228-1000 (ext 4). His contact information is also on the website referenced above.

Let’s work together to show everyone that, despite the rest of the nation, the real estate market in Oklahoma City is alive and well. I appreciate your help!



Find out more by visiting their website at:!

ULI Competition 2009: We’re in the top 4!

February 20th, 2009

Got some great news yesterday and wanted to share it with you.  We are one of four finalist teams that have made it through to round two of the 2009 ULI Hines Urban Design competition. Which means we will travel to Denver in April to compete for a shot at the $50,000 first prize.  Really excited and look forward to working some more on this project. Also, now that the results of round one have been announced, I can share with you everything we worked on.  And I am sure to say we, as it was definitely a team effort.


Sarah Snider, Master of City Planning / MIT
Eric Komppa, MBA / University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jesse Hunting, Master of City Planning / MIT
Duncan McIlvaine, M.Arch / MIT
Blair Humphreys, Master of City Planning / MIT


This is our complete design board.  The board measures 51″ x 22″ – or six 17″ x 11″ sheets.  In addition to this we were required to turn in two separate 17″ x 11″ sheets, one with financials and one “day in the life of” sheet conveying life in the year 2050 (click here to see it).  I have chopped up the board pictured above into separate images to fit on your screen below.  The proposal is for an approx. 80 acre site surrounding Denver’s Alameda light rail station.  The northern portion of the site is currently a fairly typical big box retail layout, while the southern portion has a range of tenants connected to the Denver Design District. The primary challenge was to redesign the site to take advantage of the light rail station without displacing any of the existing tenants.  The boards are meant to be self-explanatory (i.e. we weren’t present when the judges viewed them), so I haven’t provided any commentary but if you have questions, just let me know.  Thanks!

note: this post is image heavy so it may load a bit slow.

Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II

February 9th, 2009

In my first post on the new Chamber building, I argued that the Chamber’s current proposal is wholly inadequate given the objectives of the City, the Chamber, and the downtown community as a whole. The site on which the building will be constructed is incredibly important to the future of not just the immediate surroundings, but to multiple adjoining districts and the whole of downtown. The importance of this site warrants taking whatever time is necessary to rethink the design in hopes of producing an alternative vision that will contribute to the vitality of the community now and into the future.

So today we are starting the process over.  We are wiping the slate clean!  Lets break free of what is clearly a flawed proposal and begin a process that looks for fresh solutions and ideas, producing a new plan that meets the Chamber’s objectives while enhancing downtown Oklahoma City for decades to come. I have found that the best plans are produced through collaboration, so I hope you will join me in this re-visioning effort!

To get things started, we are going to quickly overview the site, its location within downtown and how it relates to the districts that surround it. Many of you already know all of this, but I think it is worth posting for the people that aren’t overly familiar with the site. Plus, it gives us a shared foundation on which we can base the rest of our analysis and discussion.


The Site is framed-in by Broadway on the west, E.K. Gaylord on the southwest, and the Santa Fe railroad on the east.  The north edge is defined by 4th Street and the south by a small segment of 3rd Street.

In addition to the site itself, three other parcels were left vacant through the efforts of Urban Renewal and the construction of E.K. Gaylord.  Of the three residual parcels, only the westernmost piece serves any identifiable purpose, offering a small brick plaza that is isolated and rarely used.

The Site is approximately 3 acres in size, not including the adjacent residual parcels

Surrounding the site is a mix of buildings, including: The Oklahoman building and Downtown YMCA to the north, the Pioneer Building/AT&T Tower and TAP Architecture building to the west, and a drive-through bank and Kerr parking garage to the south.


This map shows the importance of the Site’s locations within the overall context of downtown.  The Site is positioned at the nexus of multiple districts.  It sits directly in between the CBD and the new housing that has been and continues to be constructed east of the Santa Fe tracks in the Deep Deuce – Maywood – Flatiron area.  Plus, new housing has been added to the west of the Site along 3rd Street with construction of Legacy at Arts Quarter apartments and more is on the way with the redevelopment of the Carnegie Centre, adding to a density of residences within close proximity that is likely unparalleled by any undeveloped site in downtown.

The Site is located along Broadway, the historic “mainstreet” heading north out of downtown that continues to play an important role in the development of the city.  A mixture of new offices, restaurants, and retail have sprung up along Automobile Alley, the district surrounding Broadway north of 4th street.  While the section of Broadway south of 3rd Street has just recently been energized through the opening of the wonderfully restored Skirvin Hotel and new retail street presence of B.C. Clark.  Ongoing redevelopment of the new Sandridge headquarters west of Broadway between 2nd and 3rd will likely further contribute to the vitality of this corridor.

Additionally, the Site sits between major centers of tourist activity: the convention center, Bricktown, and adjacent hotels; and the Oklahoma City National Memorial – our most frequented tourist destination.

This site has the potential to not only meet the needs of the Chamber, but to fulfill its natural role as a nexus to the surrounding districts and neighborhoods.  Providing connections where none currently exist and incorporating uses that serve the broader needs of those that live, work, and visit downtown.  Designing the Site correctly should not only lead to a better building, or even a better block, but an altogether better downtown!


This interface provides a great opportunity for us to practice an open process with plenty of room for discussion and brainstorming.  I will try to facilitate by providing a series of short post (like the one above), each of which will provide some information and/or ideas to drive the discussion.  Like I said, I find that the best solutions are found through collaboration.  So while I won’t be shy about telling you what I think, I sincerely hope you will chime in if you have something to add – even if you disagree with me.

By the way, I have set it up so that you can comment anonymously.  While it is not my preference, please feel free to do so at your own discretion.

So what do you think?  This overview was certainly not comprehensive.  Is there anything important that you think needs to be added?


I am going to try and post something related to the re-visioning of the new Chamber building every few days. Next, we will explore the different aspects of the site and its surroundings that should be addressed as part of our new design.

Continue reading: Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives

For more on the planning of the Chamber site:

1. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal
2. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II
3. Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives
4. Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space

Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal

January 30th, 2009

By Blair Humphreys
August 2008
(for an explanation of the delayed posting, see here)

In 1939 Angelo C. Scott, an ’89er and early civic leader, wrote in his book The Story of Oklahoma City:

“The Chamber of Commerce is the heart that pumps the life blood into the veins of the city. It is the hand-maid and the agent of the city, as vital to its progress as the city government is to its protection and control.”

These words are as true today as they were the day they were written. Following in the footsteps of men like Anton Classen, John Shartel, and Stanley Draper, today’s Chamber leadership has helped push Oklahoma City to new heights. The Chamber has been at the forefront of the City’s dramatic renaissance over the last fifteen years and now hopes to contribute directly to the revitalization of downtown by building a new headquarter’s building at the corner of Fourth and N. Broadway. Their vision calls for an iconic design capable of elevating the status of the Chamber and the City alike, while utilizing a site plan and layout that integrates the project into a rejuvenated downtown and provides for the growing needs of a 24/7 urban community.

The successful development of the new chamber building is critical to the sustained success of Oklahoma City’s ongoing renaissance. For many visitors to Downtown, the new Chamber building will shape their initial impressions of the City, as pointed out by civic leader and current Chamber Chairman Larry Nichols:

“The chamber is often the first place a new company comes when they look at investing in Oklahoma City, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes tourists from all over the world.  The new chamber building will truly be a front door to our community, a way to make a lasting first impression of this dynamic and vibrant city.”

More importantly, the Chamber building will be a model for future downtown development. This is one of the first major projects to be implemented under the City’s new Downtown Design Guidelines and will establish precedents responsible for shaping the future of Downtown’s urban environment. While the soon-to-be-constructed Devon Tower will certainly have a more noticeable effect on the City’s skyline, the new chamber building’s potential to positively influence the experience of pedestrians downtown is unmatched. The building will sit in a pivotal location at the nexus of multiple centers of downtown activity and the project presents a rare opportunity to improve downtown mobility by mending the historic urban fabric that was severed nearly four decades ago by the Pei Plan.

It is clear that improving the pedestrian experience downtown is now a major priority of the city. The aforementioned Downtown Design Guidelines were adopted with the intention of making OKC’s downtown a “vital mixed-use area” containing “a network of pleasant public spaces and pedestrian amenities.” The Chamber has thus far embraced this idea; Chamber President Roy Williams has indicated that he wants this project to be the start of a discussion on how to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

“The reality is that’s a troublesome intersection there,” Williams said. “When Gaylord was put through (in the early 1970s) it created unusual pieces of property and an unusual traffic configuration. It’s not pedestrian friendly. It’s not friendly for crossing. And we see where people might want to walk to us from their offices downtown or from the convention center.”

The Chamber has gone out of their way to ensure that the design for the site would live up to these lofty expectations. They reviewed design concepts from a handful of architects before selecting Allen Brown with Frankfurt-Short-Bruza. Brown’s architectural talent has already been demonstrated by his design for the Donald W. Reyolds Visual Arts Center. The project, which was completed in 2002, is home to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and can be credited with helping to rejuvenate the city’s Arts District.

Despite the best efforts of the Chamber, the recently released designs for the new building (see below) do not meet their stated expectations, nor are they in keeping with the spirit of the city’s Downtown Design Guidelines.

The proposal calls for a 50,000 square foot building to be positioned away from the street, near the center of the three-acre site, and flanked by an expansive surface parking lot. The resulting density is problematic. With a floor area ratio (FAR) less that 0.40, the site will be less dense than a typical two-story suburban office complex. Further, the area’s need for pedestrian amenities and usable public space are not effectively met. The lack of density seemingly leaves a significant amount of area for this public space, but instead the land is either utilized for surface parking or is rendered useless to pedestrians as one of the small landscape buffers, each isolated by retaining walls that will prevent pedestrian use.

While the “Commerce Circle” appears to represent a significant pedestrian improvement, it is little more than an attempt to dress-up the six lanes of traffic that pedestrians will still be forced to cross. [Note: This aspect of the original plan is not present in the most recent site plan (shown above) and what remains of the circle has been renamed “Commerce Plaza”.]  In the end, the proposal does little to improve pedestrian friendliness in the area and may even be seen to exacerbate the existing problems for persons walking to downtown from the Flatiron District by adding more surface parking and creating new barriers.

In truth, the majority of the responsibility for the current proposal’s problems belongs to neither the Chamber nor their very capable architect, rather it is a result of the fundamentally flawed planning done by I.M. Pei all those years ago. Pei’s plan was focused on making the central business district car-accessible. He never imagined that pedestrians would be attempting to cross what is now E.K Gaylord, so while he envisioned a pedestrian friendly central business district, the area east of Broadway was planned for cars. Fred Kent, the Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces, who spoke at Oklahoma City’s 2007 Mayor’s Development Round Table says:

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

This has certainly been the case with this area of Oklahoma City. The only way for the objectives of the Downtown Design Guidelines to be met and the full vision of the Chamber leadership be realized is for I.M. Pei’s planning for “cars and traffic” to give way to new planning for “people and places.” The Chamber cannot be expected to fix these problems alone, but requires the partnership of the City – and the support of all those that desire a vital urban center – in boldly re-visioning this portion of downtown. Time is certainly an issue, and such a re-visioning will require some delays, but the new chamber building is of such importance that we must take whatever time is necessary to ensure that it is done right!

Continue reading: Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II

For more on the planning of the Chamber site:

1. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal
2. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II
3. Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives
4. Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space

The Chamber Forum

January 30th, 2009

Looks like the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce has come up with a name for their soon-to-be-built downtown headquarters. Not sure which particular definition they are intending to reference (see below), but either way, an iconic new title to go with an iconic design!


Main Entry: fo·rum           Listen to the pronunciation of forum
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural forums also fo·ra           Listen to the pronunciation of fora
Etymology: Latin; akin to Latin foris outside, fores door — more at door
Date: 15th century

1 a: the marketplace or public place of an ancient Roman city forming the center of judicial and public business b: a public meeting place for open discussion c: a medium (as a newspaper or online service) of open discussion or expression of ideas

2: a judicial body or assembly : court

3 a: a public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion b: a program (as on radio or television) involving discussion of a problem usually by several authorities

If you are looking for more information on the new Chamber building, go here.

So…what do you think of the new name?

More Funky Parking Solutions

January 28th, 2009

A while back I posted some pictures of Axel Peemoeller’s Funky Parking Garage, well I just came across a post over at with more high-tech, artistic, and/or just flat out strange parking solutions from around the world.

Here is the link: 15 Creative, Innovative & Hilarious Parking Solutions


ULI Urban Design Competition 2009

January 19th, 2009

UPDATE: We were named finalist in the 2009 competition! Click here to see our entry

Site Plan for Dallas’s Cedars neighborhood, ULI Urban Design Competition 2008. Credit: Blair Humphreys (click for larger image)

Today I am starting a two-week long urban design competition hosted by the Urban Land Institute.  Last year my team finished well, receiving one of three “honorable mention” slots putting us somewhere in the top 7 out of nearly 100 teams competing.  Our entry from last year was “Digital Thread”, a mixed-use plan for The Cedars neighborhood in Dallas with a focus on technological innovation and digital urban fabric.

“Digital Thread” – my MIT team’s entry into the 2008 ULI Urban Design Competition (click to download .pdf).

I am excited about this year’s competition and am hoping to improve over last year’s result.  I will keep you updated as things progress over the next two weeks, we submit our proposal, and then find out where we finished.  But I am still planning to dive into some issues related to Maps3 this week, so keep coming back.

If you want more information on the ULI competition:

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Best of imagiNATIVEamerica 2008!

December 22nd, 2008

So I will be en route to Oklahoma City tomorrow and wanted to leave you with what I think are some of the best posts from the last six months.  Thanks for reading and have a Merry Christmas!

  1. Mapping Pedestrian Friendliness in OKC
  2. This was one of my earliest posts and still my favorite. I really like Gehl’s work and it is interesting to apply it to Oklahoma City. Check it out and try to contribute to the map of pedestrian friendly places. Though I heard from someone the other day that there is not really a reason to map pedestrian-friendliness in OKC, you can just count of the places on your fingers…:)

  3. Ten Must-Haves for OKC’s Downtown Park
  4. It is fun to dream about the future of the “central park” that is being planned as part of Core 2 Shore. OKC has needed a downtown park or other place to serve as the “heart” of the city for years and it seems it is finally coming. Check out the list and add your own lists!

  5. Oklahoma City’s 1910 Plan for Grand Boulevard by W.H. Dunn
  6. OKC has a fascinating planning history that is largely unexplored. I am in the middle of researching a thesis about this history and found this great plan for OKC’s parks and boulevards.

  7. The NEW I-40 Pedestrian Bridge
  8. The bridge is beautiful! What more is there to say?

  9. Bricktown Parking: Killing Two Birds with One Streetcar
  10. Parking in Bricktown was a hot topic last summer!  I say, if we really want to solve the parking problem then we have to think outside the box and take our first steps toward a downtown transit system. In this post I layout a plan to make it happen.

  11. I Love Oklahoma!
  12. First big post and it took me forever to produce; so there is some sentimental value there.

  13. What Is the Future of Suburbia?
  14. Ideas that I enjoy discussing (keeping comment vague and general because I can’t remember exactly what I talked about).

  15. Oklahoma City Gas Counter
  16. Tells an amazing story! The steep “double black diamond” slope on the right shows both my stock portfolio, as well as my dreams for cities that encourage biking, walking, and smart urban form, come crashing down.

  17. Walkability Rankings: Oklahoma City #35
  18. I love cities that allow for walking and think Oklahoma City has plenty of room for improvement – as this walkability ranking attests. This post overviews the rankings, some of the flaws with their analysis, and discusses other issues related to walkability in Oklahoma City.

  19. Axel Peemoeller’s Funky Parking Garage
  20. This is just sweet!

BONUS: Sunrise in Boston!

I am digging this new mobile upload feature and can’t believe I scored this amazing sunrise the day after I set it up! Looking forward to many more posts on the go in 2009!