Oklahoma City boasts a rich variety of neighborhoods and business districts with an equally rich variety of architectural styles, from ornate Victorian to sleek contemporary and everything in between. Hop on your bike or plan a Sunday drive and enjoy the diverse and beautiful architecture that tells the story of the city.
Most popular from about 1925 to 1940, Art Deco architecture has a sleek, linear appearance with stylized, usually geometric embellishment. Rectangular forms are often broken up by curved elements. Simple, clean and streamlined are terrific descriptors for Art Deco.
In Oklahoma City, the majestic and newly-revitalized First National Center built in 1933 and located at 120 N. Robinson Ave. is one of our state’s crown jewels. Another, just a few blocks away are two more exceptional examples: City Hall, 200 N Walker Ave., and Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker Ave. Residential examples in the Art Deco style are scattered through the Urban Core and include 801 NW 40th St, and a pocket of homes in the 25 block of NW 24th St.
Like many architectural terms, ‘contemporary’ is an umbrella term used to describe a multitude of modern styles. Contemporary buildings might be brand new, or they might be nearly a century old. Some key elements of contemporary architecture are large, abundant windows, asymmetry, free-form shapes, straight lines, unconventional structure systems and strong geometry.
An award-winning contemporary structure, which also happens to house a world-class art museum, is Oklahoma Contemporary. A terrific neighborhood to take in a variety of contemporary homes is the SoSA/Cottage District neighborhood, bound roughly by Classen Boulevard, Walker Street, NW 6th Street and NW 10th Street.
Googie is a style that’s all about daring shapes, bold colors, dramatic angles and a space-age vibe that reached its zenith in the 1950s and 60s. Motifs include atoms, boomerang shapes, neon signage and exuberance. Gas stations, coffee shops and other everyday spaces were frequently executed in Googie style. It was intentionally designed for the everyman as approachable and whimsical.
Great examples of Googie style in Oklahoma City are Founders Tower, Classen Inn & Superette and Arvest Bank. A smattering of Googie and Googie-inspired office buildings can be found on North Classen, between NW 23rd St. and Northwest Expressway.
Mid-mod style, also referred to as mid-century modern, took root after WWII, from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. Mid-mod is characterized by clean, sleek lines and an open feel, with a dash of Atomic Age flair. It’s a style enamored by the possibilities of the future.
Great examples of mid-century modern design in Oklahoma City are First Christian Church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Also referred to as Spanish Colonial Revival, this style is most often associated with Southern California and Florida, however pockets of this curvy, stucco-clad genre exist around the country. You just have to know where to look. Painted tile, curved stairways, terra cotta roof tiles, belfries and turrets and arched doors and windows are hallmarks of Spanish Revival style.
You won’t find a better example of Spanish Revival Architecture than Oklahoma City’s Paseo Arts District, specifically the two or so blocks of Paseo Blvd. between NW 29th St. and N. Walker Ave. An added bonus are the plethora of restaurants, artists’ galleries and shops now housed there.
This is an umbrella term used to describe architectural styles like Colonial, Federal, Georgian, Dutch Revival, Greek Revival and Tudor Revival. Homes articulated in traditional architectural styles are most often two-stories. Hallmarks include symmetry, columns, friezes and relatively steeply pitched roofs.
Oklahoma City neighborhoods filled with exquisite traditional specimens are Heritage Hills, Mesta Park and Crown Heights.
Victorian architecture, whose heyday was between 1830 and 1910, is ornate. I mean REALLY ornate. Scalloped details, patterned brickwork, wide porches, intricate millwork and embellishment on top of embellishment are all components of Victorian style, which actually encompasses a number of sub-genres: Folk Victorian, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Chateauesque, Second Empire and Gothic Revival.
A terrific example of Victorian architecture, specifically the Chateauesque/Queen Anne iteration, is the Henry and Anna Overholser Mansion. Another is the Maney Historic District and 1200 and 1224 N. Shartel Ave., which consists of three homes: Maney House, the Day House and the Smelser House. It’s the Maney House lovers of Victorian architecture will want to focus on. The others are significant but are executed in bungalow style (Smelser) and simple two-story frame (Day).
Architecture tours and events:
The 2022 AIA Architecture Tour will take place on Saturday, April 30th from noon to 5 p.m. Learn more here.
The Heritage Hills Home Tour takes place in October and is a self-guided walking tour of Oklahoma City’s venerable, turn-of-the-century bastion of gracious, traditional and classic architecture. Learn more here.
Oklahoma Modernism Weekend, presented by Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture, takes place in late spring/early summer. Learn more here.