Tulsa’s Brady Arts District was once known for the race riots that broke out there in 1921. The neighborhood has been the target of a multi-million dollar redevelopment effort in recent years, and now has a new green gathering space at its heart, named after one of Oklahoma’s most famous native sons, the Dust Bowl era singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie.
In the spirit of the man who sang, “This land is my land, this land is your land,” the new Guthrie Green has helped to unite the neighborhood, according to Stanton Doyle, senior program officer for the George Kaiser Family Foundation. This local non-profit played a key role in the project, over six years in the making. (It also purchased the comprehensive Woody Guthrie Archives and housed them in the Woody Guthrie Center directly across the street from Guthrie Green.)
The Tulsa World reports that the park is part of a larger $110.5 million investment in the Brady Arts and Greenwood districts, with $53.1 million coming from the Kaiser Foundation and the remaining $57.4 million from other sources. As far as the park itself goes, the Kaiser Foundation contributed about $8 million. Another $2.3 million was awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the geothermal wells, solar panels and LED lighting in the park, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality kicked in another $200,000 for the project as a whole.
Located within the square block between Brady and Cameron streets and Boston and Cincinnati avenues, Guthrie Green opened on September, and now offers Tulsans a prime outdoor venue in which to hear music, catch a movie, grab a bite to eat or just simply the Tulsa skyline from a unique vantage point. Guthrie Green features both a pavilion and a stage for performances — in keeping with the legacy of its namesake — as well as fountains and water features, gardens, brick and concrete paths, and a cafe known as Lucky’s on the Green.
Kinslow, Keith & Todd (KTT) were the lead architects on the project, and worked with SWA Group landscape architects to convert a the former 2.7-acre truck loading facility into the park it is today. In keeping with the area’s industrial history, environmental remediation was a factor. Records indicated that two fuel tanks would be found during excavation; the architects report that they recovered a total of ten.
In a city once known as the oil capital of the world, the use of a geothermal heat pump system and solar panels represents a marked departure in terms of the park’s energy use, as well as a vision of the future. The solar panels, we assume, make a public showing of that, but geothermal wells are typically a green feature that no one sees. The Guthrie Green changes that by using them in a series of “fountain gardens” along the west side of the park. Here, steam, bubbling water, and mist “poetically tie in the idea of the water-based heat pump systems that are creating energy for the area,” Elizabeth Shreeve, principal at SWA Group, explained to The Architect’s Newspaper.