Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Learning From Our Mistakes

A recent article in the Oklahoma Gazette reveals that I. M. Pei's visionary model of an Oklahoma City of the future (as he viewed it in 1964 at the height of the urban renewal zeal) is being looked at by some as a blueprint for the coming century. While inarguably Pei was a impactful architect of the 20th Century, Oklahoma City needs to remind itself of history. Urban renewal ate away at historical structures with the remorse of cancer. What they saw as the corroding heart of a city, we now see as irretrievably connections to our history and culture. We mustn't make the same mistake twice. While the city has learned a great deal and many historic neighborhoods are being gentrified, salvaged, and protected, current M.A.P.S. frenzy might have a misguided public thinking new, slick, modern - at all costs, as was the mindset in the 60's. Visions of a modern, concrete utopia of clean lines and twig-like trees placed sparsely about were common elements in urban planning of the period. Today, we can see how soulless such architecture could be. It often wasn't crafted by loving hands to be viewed as the pinnacle of human engineering and art, but rather form followed function into a cold, remote place where decoration was viewed as ostentatious pretenses that should be eschewed at all cost. So, in memory to such glories as the Biltmore Hotel, the Criterion Theater, and historic treasures such as the mysterious Chinese Tunnels, let us learn from the mistakes of the past and find ways to conserve our history as we move forward into the future.

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