Tulsa Foundation for Architecture was created in the 1990s to change the way Tulsa sees itself and treats its built environment.
It was at a time when downtown Tulsa was being abandoned, historic buildings leveled for parking, street improvements failed the pedestrian, zoning codes favored the automobile and there was a lack of overall vision.
Tulsa’s success with the federal Urban Renewal program in the second half of the 20th century far outpaced many of its competitors. Tulsa forever altered the architectural landscape of downtown, as wide swaths of smaller-scale buildings dating to the turn of the 20th century fell to the wrecking ball to make way for new development. In Tulsa’s case, Urban Renewal left a legacy of significant midcentury structures in its wake, such as the Yamasaki-designed Williams Tower – so whether one considers Urban Renewal a raging success or a disaster is a matter of perspective.
Urban Renewal was designed to bring people back downtown in an era of rapid suburbanization. Shoppers abandoned the city center for the mall, and new highways cut downtowns off from residential neighborhoods. This period also gave rise to a rash of demolitions by downtown property owners for surface parking lots. Highways rammed through close-in historic neighborhoods. By the late 1980s, much of Tulsa’s beautiful urban fabric had become a sea of asphalt. Something had to change.
In 1995, a group of architects and preservationists formed a new nonprofit to provide a credible voice and expertise in the area of historic preservation. Tulsa Foundation for Architecture was born out of AIA Eastern Oklahoma, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. AIA needed a repository for collections of architectural drawings. The community needed a nonprofit organization to provide expertise and leadership in historic preservation, urban design and architecture.
Elaine Bergman, who was then director of AIA Eastern Oklahoma, brought together local architects Ted Reeds, Lanny McIntosh, Herb Fritz, and Leisa Marshall McNulty along with engineer Tom Wallace and realtor Marty Newman. This group of dedicated stewards of our built environment founded Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA). Elaine Bergman ultimately became TFA’s first executive director and instituted many programs.
Our first ambitious effort was to deliver city design conferences that were patterned after the “Mayors Institute on City Design” (MICD). In partnership with Tulsa’s Mayor, an MICD alumni, AIA Eastern Oklahoma and Tulsa Foundation for Architecture created dynamic day-long events in order to bring our Mayor’s national experience home. In the following years we observed transformative change from the almost two thousand attendees. Participants included city managers, city planners, key staffers representing streets and parks, architects, realtors, real estate owners, neighborhood representatives, educators and the press. These events, held over a period of several years, proved to be highly influential and led to a new vision in our community – a vision where design matters.
Today, TFA continues to build on its original mission to serve as a resource that recognizes, records and preserves the built environment, and advocates quality future development that enhances Tulsa’s livability. Creating a culture that embraces the value of our architectural history is central to TFA’s purpose. Please sign up for our email list to stay in the know about our events and tours.
TFA also owns an extensive collection of original architectural drawings of many significant Tulsa buildings and residences, such as the Medical Arts Building, Warehouse Market, Southern Hills Country Club, the Tulsa Assembly Center, The Mabee Residence, and the Otis McClintock Residence. TFA’s Archives also hold architectural periodicals (Pencil Points, Progressive Architecture, Architectural Forum, and Architectural Record) dating from 1920 to 1980, newspaper clippings, a technical library, photographs, project specifications and artifacts. No other institution in Tulsa gathers this material.
Photo Credit: Boston Ave 1978- Beryl Ford Collection. Boston Ave 2005- Ed Sharrer.
Our Mission: Tulsa Foundation for Architecture champions the art of good design and celebrates Oklahoma’s architectural heritage.
We are Tulsa’s Architectural Voice
• To advocate for quality development that enhances Tulsa’s livability
• To identify valuable structures, spaces, sites and architectural works of merit
• To educate the public about the built environment
• To promote preservation and rehabilitation of significant architecture
• To collect and conserve historical architectural drawings and material
TFA Board of Trustees
The leadership of TFA is comprised of the Board of Trustees, the Advisory Council and our Executive Director, Amanda DeCort.
President: Tony Lenox, Bauhaus
Vice-President: Ted A. Reeds II, AIA, Ted Reeds Architecture
Secretary: Maggie Brown, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum
Treasurer: James E. Turner, AIA, Cyntergy AEC
Ken Brune, The Brune Law Firm
Ken Busby, The Route 66 Alliance
Meagan Farley, KKT Architects
Shane D. Hood, Hood Design
Eric King, GH2 Architects, LLC
Daniel Mooney, Midwinter Entertainment
Leslie Moore, 45 Design
LouAnn Smith, Stava Building Corp.
Alynchia Reynolds, Look Properties
Mike Sikes, Sikes Abernathie Architects
LouAnn Smith, Stava Building Corporation
Scott Pohlenz, AIA, NCARB
Rex Brown, Petroleum Equipment Institute
Roger Coffey, AIA, Olsen Coffey Architects
Nancy Hermann, Tulsa Performing Arts Center (retired)
Matt King, AIA, King Architectural Solutions
Kristen LaBass, LaBass Design
Kip Leikam, Leikam Investments
John Mabrey, Mabrey Bank
Lanny McIntosh, AIA, The McIntosh Group
Leisa McNulty, LMM Architects
Julie Miner, INCOG
Martin Newman, Walter & Associates
Mary Lee Torbert, ASID
Christy Craig Thames
Tom Wallace, Wallace Engineering
Michael Wallis, Author
Susie Wallace, Wallace Engineering
Kayley Jobe, Up With Trees
Without Herb Fritz, AIA, TFA would not be here today.
TFA will always be grateful to the late George R. Kravis II, The Kravis Design Collection, for his enduring inspiration and support.
We deeply miss our friend, graphics guru, and advisor, Kerry Walsh.
Amanda DeCort is the Executive Director of Tulsa Foundation for Architecture and a long-time advocate for saving places. Prior to TFA, Amanda spent ten years as the City of Tulsa’s historic preservation planner, where she listed numerous buildings and districts in the National Register of Historic Places, provided support to the Tulsa Preservation Commission, and brought popular programs like hands-on window restoration boot camp and realtor education classes to Tulsa. Amanda earned a Master’s Degree in Community Planning with a certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. She lives in a 1925 craftsman bungalow in the Riverview historic district.
Amanda’s photo credit: Stephen Pingry / Tulsa World
Preservation and Progress
By Nicci Atchley, April 2017
Preserving the Past – Cliff Dwellers Tour
By Debra Laizure, July 2015