Legacy Leaders 6

Tulsa Foundation for Architecture preserves the past and promotes future design excellence

Have you ever wondered who built the Atlas building? Or why Art Deco is so prevalent in our city’s architectural history? Wonder no more: Tulsa Foundation for Architecture has all the answers.

Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA), a non-profit organization, recognizes, records, and encourages preservation of our architectural environment and advocates for quality future development. The foundation is led by Executive Director, Amanda DeCort, and a passionate group of local leaders serving on the board of trustees and advisory council.

Preserving the Past

TFA owns an extensive collection of original architectural drawings of many significant Tulsa buildings and residences, as well as architectural periodicals dating from 1920 to 1980, newspaper clippings, technical library, photographs, project specifications, and artifacts. Visit TulsaArchitecture.com and browse through project information and biographies of architects responsible for building the city of Tulsa.

The foundation also hosts private tours and speaking engagements. This spring, TFA collaborated with Philbrook Museum of Art to bring in renowned expert Christine Madrid French to discuss Tulsa’s midcentury architecture and the importance of preserving the recent past.

DeCort says, “As Tulsans, we need to appreciate and take pride in our architectural heritage, and take care of it for the future. TFA is working to build that appreciation through our tours and events, and the response from the community has been tremendous.”

Take the recent Cliff Dwellers Reservoir Hill Home Tour, for instance. TFA showcased the eclectic neighborhood north of the city made up of an unusual mix of Spanish Colonial, Pueblo, mid-century ranch and modern home styles. Many life-long Tulsans have never heard of the neighborhood.

DeCort says, “I received a note from a tour attendee thanking the foundation for highlighting such a great neighborhood. She said it helped to demonstrate to her kids that there are many wonderful neighborhoods throughout Tulsa, not just the ones everyone knows. It was the best compliment we could have received.”

Embracing the Future

Although history is important, it isn’t the foundation’s sole purpose.

TFA encourages design excellence in new construction. TFA Board President Shane Hood, of W Design, says, “Tulsa set the bar very high for architecture in the 1920s and again in the 1950s. Anything we build today should be able to stand alongside the best of our historic built environment.” DeCort adds, “We have an obligation as a city to get it right.”

“The rehabilitation of historic buildings in tandem with the surge in new downtown development is exhilarating. Commercial districts are booming, and not just in the Brady District. Look at Kendall-Whittier, the Pearl District, the Blue Dome, and East Village,” says DeCort.

Second Saturday Tours

Want to know more? Join other architectural enthusiasts and history buffs on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at Topeca Coffee in the historic Mayo Hotel for a one-hour walking tour. Tour admission is only $10 and features Tulsa’s most important architectural collection.

DeCort says, “Many people attend every tour. We like to mix it up, so one month we will have an Oil Capital Historic District tour highlighting Tulsa’s oil barons, and another tour may emphasize our rich Art Deco history.”

Second Saturday tours often take its attendees to unusual spaces. Last month, tour guides led attendees through the tunnel from the Philcade building to the Philtower, usually closed to the public. An upcoming tour will explore the city’s industrial buildings, including a pre-statehood machine shop in the Blue Dome district.

In October, TFA will host a special modernism tour to coincide with Docomomo US Tour Day (Docomomo-US.org), a nationwide tour day to raise the awareness of and appreciation for buildings and spaces designed during the mid-20th century. The local tour will be held on October 10th and more details will be announced in September. You won’t want to miss it!

Dwell in the IDL Tour

The third annual Dwell in the IDL tour showcases downtown living within the Inner Dispersal Loop. This popular home tour gives Tulsans an inside look at urban living. In fact, the tour was so successful last year, they ran out of guide books.

This year’s Dwell in the IDL Tour will be the afternoon of Sunday, October 4th. Look for more information this fall on the TFA website.

Get Involved

Memberships start at $35 and include a pass to a Second Saturday tour, members-only events such as the exclusive open house held each spring, and the annual members’ holiday party. More importantly, your contribution helps the foundation conserve, preserve, and promote our significant architectural gems.

DeCort says, “Great things are happening in Tulsa. We’ve seen a major interest in our architectural tours and have plans to increase our educational programs. Foremost, the foundation will encourage preservation of our historic architectural heritage and support excellent design for the future. It’s an exciting time for our city.”

For more information about the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, visit TulsaArchitecture.com.