Texas A&M, OU design students collaborate on
design concepts for Tulsa health center complex


The results of an architectural collaboration between students from the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University who designed a community health care center and adjacent shopping and mixed-use commercial development for the economically distressed north Tulsa area will be showcased this December at two free public presentations in College Station and Tulsa.

The multidisciplinary project, which also includes conceptual designs for a memorial honoring those who lost lives or property during a 1921 race riot in Tulsa, involved 17 design teams from both schools, composed of 37 architecture students and 20 interior design students.

The student designs will be unveiled first in College Station at a Dec. 3 presentation slated 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Wright Gallery, located on the second floor of the Langford Architecture Center on the Texas A&M campus. The second student work exhibition is set for 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Tulsa Technology Center, North Campus, 3850 North Peoria Ave. in Tulsa.

Tailored to meet needs identified by the north Tulsa community, the student’s design solutions for the multiuse complex include facilities for health care and social services, housing, shops, restaurants, a movie theater, banks, a post office and surrounding parkland. Special features include a farmers' market, as well as space to facilitate live concerts, plays, picnics and other community and civic celebrations.

The students’ designs were informed by input received from academic, government and community outreach agencies they met with during an October 2010 fact-finding trip to Tulsa. Details on the complex issues confronting the north Tulsa residents were provided to the designers by faculty from the School for Community Medicine in Tulsa, the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation and Neighbor for Neighbor, a non-profit interfaith organization serving people in need in the Tulsa area.

While gathering data to inform their design solutions, the students learned that a number of social, medical and economic discrepancies exist between the largely minority community that resides in the north Tulsa area and the rest of the city, said Hans-Peter Wachter, associate professor of Interior Design at OU. For example, he said, the life expectancy of the residents of north Tulsa is estimated to be14 years less than that of areas in south Tulsa. Other major community issues identified during the project’s programming phase related to jobs, transportation and greater access to and quality of health care, as well as proper housing and community services.

“The challenge posed to the students,” said George J. Mann, leader of the Texas A&M design studio, “was to come up with ideas and concepts to reach out to the community and to improve the conditions for the people of north Tulsa.

Some of the student design solutions also addressed lingering resentments from the horrific Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. They proposed erecting a memorial on the project site for the victims of this tragic event that marred the city’s history.

The cause of the riot, detailed on a web page hosted by the Tulsa City-County library, was sparked by an incident in an elevator. According to website’s account, many Tulsans came to believe through media reports that a black man attacked a white woman in the elevator, "although no sufficient evidence surfaced to substantiate the claim." As a result, tensions rose, and on May 31, 1921, Greenwood, Tulsa's African-American business district, was destroyed.

"Armed white men looted, burned and destroyed the black community,” the website reports. “When the smoke cleared, mere shells of buildings were all that remained of the business district. The Red Cross estimates that more than 300 people were killed and approximately 1,200 homes were destroyed."

The community revitalization and rehabilitation effort represented by this project, Wachter said, reflects a growing move between the community and OU toward mutual reconciliation and providing much-needed health and community service to Tulsa’s north side nd adjacent neighborhoods.”

The site selected for the proposed development, at the intersection of 36th Street North and North Hartford Avenue, adheres to the city of Tulsa’s newly adopted comprehensive plan, PlaniTulsa. The site is adjacent to the OU Wayman Tisdale Specialty Health Center, a medical specialty health care facility that is now under construction.

The collaboration with Texas A&M architecture students on the north Tulsa project was initiated by the OU College of Architecture, which is developing a professional “Community Health and Environmental Design” program. The Texas A&M College of Architecture has offered an architecture-for-health emphasis within its environmental design and master of architecture programs since 1966. That initiative was established by Mann, who is now the Ronald Skaggs and Joseph Sprague Endowed Chair in Health Facilities Design at the Texas A&M Department of Architecture.

Joining Mann in leading the Texas A&M studio on the north Tulsa project was Joseph McGraw, professor emeritus at Texas A&M. Partnering with Wachter on the OU effort were faculty members Dave Boeck and Shawn Schaefer. The students also received professional guidance from the College of Nursing at the OU Health Science Center, the School of Community Medicine in Tulsa, Texas A&M Health Science Center, and the architecture firms Rees Associates in Oklahoma City and HKS in Dallas, where students from both universities met for an Oct. 25 midpoint review.


- Posted: Nov. 22, 2010 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, prollfing@archone.tamu.edu or 979.458.0442.


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