Metro Briefs: Architecture Week, Placemaking Conference and more 

click to enlarge Ken Fitzsimmons poses for a photo at 828 Residence in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 20, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Ken Fitzsimmons poses for a photo at 828 Residence in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 20, 2015.

Architecture Week

The American Institute of Architects Central Oklahoma Chapter will host the 14th annual Architectural Tour on April 11, one of several events taking place during Architecture Week next week.

The tour will include eight stops highlighting newly built or renovated homes and buildings in the region, including the Mayfair Apartments, OKSea and the 828 Residence in the growing SoSA (South of St. Anthony) neighborhood.

“The architectural and design scene here is definitely a lot better than it used to be,” said Ken Fitzsimmons, the architect with TASK Design, Inc. who worked on the 828 Residence in SoSA. “I think people are not as afraid to do something unique as they might have been in the past.”

In addition to the tour, Architecture Week will include a presentation from Preservation Oklahoma on the state’s most endangered historic places, an architectural photography competition and the AIA Central Oklahoma Honor Awards Program.

For more information about the events or to purchase tour tickets ($12 in advance/$15 at the door), visit aiacoc.org or call the AIA office at 948-7174.

Be sure to pick up a copy of next week’s Oklahoma Gazette for a feature story on the state of architecture in Oklahoma City.

click to enlarge Wilfred McClay, Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, with his speech titled "Why Places Matter", during the Placemaking Conference 2015 event held in the Catlett Music Center at O.U. Monday Morning.  mh
  • Wilfred McClay, Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, with his speech titled "Why Places Matter", during the Placemaking Conference 2015 event held in the Catlett Music Center at O.U. Monday Morning. mh

Placemaking Conference

Cities were designed to combat infectious disease in the 19th century, and they should continue to be a player in improving health today, said Karen Lee, a medical doctor and health policy advisor who was one of several speakers at last week’s Institute for Quality Communities’ Placemaking Conference.

When the leading cause of death in the 1800s was infectious disease, cities created an environment to fight back with improved sanitation and building codes, Lee said during the March 23 conference. Today, the biggest cause of death is chronic disease, and Lee added that cities should respond with active transportation models and other steps to increase an active lifestyle.

“Our environments don’t support those behavioral changes people want to make,” Lee said.

During her presentation, Lee also reported that in 1990, no state had an obesity rate over 15 percent. However, half of all states had a rate higher than 15 percent by 2000, and today, there is no state with a rate below 15 percent.

Charles Marohn, who is an engineer and author of StrongTowns.org, addressed the type of dual development taking place across American cities as outlying suburbs continue to sprawl with low-level projects while historic neighborhoods in the urban core, especially in places like Oklahoma City’s Midtown neighborhood, are experiencing slower growth that results in more established structures.

“This new taco joint has a two-lane drive-thru, a large parking lot and we got rid of the on-street parking. Everybody likes this, right?” Marohn said while showing a picture of a newly build fast food restaurant in a strip mall. “But we all know the trajectory of the taco joint, right? We all know that in 20 years, there will be a new taco joint a couple miles up the road; this one will be turned into a used car lot. Ten years after that, it will be boarded up and there will be drugs sold out of the back, and the city will be looking for a grant to have it torn down and redeveloped.”

Paying close attention to people-friendly developments that encourage interaction, walking and street-level retail not only leads to better economic success for a city, Marohn said; several other speakers at Monday’s conference in Norman reported that it can also improve obesity rates and quality of life.

“We need to have places to be fully human,” said Wilfred McClay, the Blankenship Chair at OU’s History of Liberty department. “Globalization makes it so easy to move people and products ... that it sometimes seems that the world is becoming placeless.”

City website

Have an idea for ways the city can improve its website? City Hall wants to hear from you.

Oklahoma City plans to launch a new okc.gov website within the year and is currently seeking public input to help create the final site. An online survey can be found on the homepage of the current city website.

“We want to build an attractive, mobile-friendly site that gets residents to the information they need in as few clicks as possible,” Public Information Director Kristy Yager said. “This survey will allow us to find out how people are using okc.gov and what improvements they would like to make.”

Quotable

“I’m [not] likely to vote for any emergency, absent a threat to public health or public security. As I vote against these from here on out, [I want it known] I have nothing against these [projects].”

That was Ward 4 Councilman Pete White’s explanation last week about why he would no longer be voting to approve emergency status for new ordinances, which allows them to go into effect immediately. Councilman Ed Shadid also supported White’s reasoning and said he would also be taking a more critical eye toward emergency requests.

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