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The Morning Brew: The mixed legacy of I.M. Pei in Oklahoma City on his 100th birthday

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The mixed legacy of I.M. Pei in Oklahoma City on his 100th birthday

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer reports how architect I.M. Pei's embrace of the 1960s of brutalist architecture impacted downtown Oklahoma City:

I.M. PEI: Taking a peek at a model of the Pei Plan for downtown are two Sooner World's Fair Guides, in Oklahoma City for a special tour. Jim Yielding, urban renewal authority director, center, points out features of plan to Robert Gibson, left, and Tom Dobson. Thirty-four Sooner guides took the city tour. Staff photo by Bob Albright, dated March 13, 1966. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD
I.M. PEI: Taking a peek at a model of the Pei Plan for downtown are two Sooner World's Fair Guides, in Oklahoma City for a special tour. Jim Yielding, urban renewal authority director, center, points out features of plan to Robert Gibson, left, and Tom Dobson. Thirty-four Sooner guides took the city tour. Staff photo by Bob Albright, dated March 13, 1966. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD

Pei's legacy is mixed. The Myriad Gardens, inspired by the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, is perhaps the best of the Pei Plan to have been carried out, stubbornly and against all odds by Dean A. McGee. The former Kerr McGee tower, now headquarters to SandRidge Energy, is considered the best office tower design based on Pei's master plan.

I.M. Pei stands in Kerr Park before one of the reconstructed buildings and enjoys the results of his redevelopment design. Originall published in the Oklahoma City Times. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter. Original from Oklahoman print archive dated originally May 3, 1976 , copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD
I.M. Pei stands in Kerr Park before one of the reconstructed buildings and enjoys the results of his redevelopment design. Originall published in the Oklahoma City Times. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter. Original from Oklahoman print archive dated originally May 3, 1976 , copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD

Large swaths of blight were cleared to make way for the gardens and the Cox Convention Center.

But Pei's plan also eliminated what was a good street grid, albeit with what was a zigzag of north-south streets crossing between Sheridan and Reno Avenues. Pei replaced the street grid with superblocks that are hostile toward pedestrian traffic.

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Related Photos
I.M. Pei, 1965, internationally known city planner and architect, who worked with Oklahoma City. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD

I.M. Pei, 1965, internationally known city planner and architect, who worked with Oklahoma City. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-621ff6737fbb0fe4bc2ee9036b9f5401.jpg" alt="Photo - I.M. Pei, 1965, internationally known city planner and architect, who worked with Oklahoma City. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="I.M. Pei, 1965, internationally known city planner and architect, who worked with Oklahoma City. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>I.M. Pei, 1965, internationally known city planner and architect, who worked with Oklahoma City. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-482c34b33bf56a3c88cda4b191acc9a6.jpg" alt="Photo - I.M. Pei stands in Kerr Park before one of the reconstructed buildings and enjoys the results of his redevelopment design. Originall published in the Oklahoma City Times. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter. Original from Oklahoman print archive dated originally May 3, 1976 , copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="I.M. Pei stands in Kerr Park before one of the reconstructed buildings and enjoys the results of his redevelopment design. Originall published in the Oklahoma City Times. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter. Original from Oklahoman print archive dated originally May 3, 1976 , copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>I.M. Pei stands in Kerr Park before one of the reconstructed buildings and enjoys the results of his redevelopment design. Originall published in the Oklahoma City Times. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter. Original from Oklahoman print archive dated originally May 3, 1976 , copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8646d7eacce6d17338c215b56ec55fe9.jpg" alt="Photo - I.M. PEI: Taking a peek at a model of the Pei Plan for downtown are two Sooner World's Fair Guides, in Oklahoma City for a special tour. Jim Yielding, urban renewal authority director, center, points out features of plan to Robert Gibson, left, and Tom Dobson. Thirty-four Sooner guides took the city tour. Staff photo by Bob Albright, dated March 13, 1966. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="I.M. PEI: Taking a peek at a model of the Pei Plan for downtown are two Sooner World's Fair Guides, in Oklahoma City for a special tour. Jim Yielding, urban renewal authority director, center, points out features of plan to Robert Gibson, left, and Tom Dobson. Thirty-four Sooner guides took the city tour. Staff photo by Bob Albright, dated March 13, 1966. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>I.M. PEI: Taking a peek at a model of the Pei Plan for downtown are two Sooner World's Fair Guides, in Oklahoma City for a special tour. Jim Yielding, urban renewal authority director, center, points out features of plan to Robert Gibson, left, and Tom Dobson. Thirty-four Sooner guides took the city tour. Staff photo by Bob Albright, dated March 13, 1966. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-98c8c37a9c8a1286386e0b1d4a8cfdfd.jpg" alt="Photo - Scale model of a new downtown Oklahoma City, background, is explained by urban renewal planning consultant I.M. Pei, left. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Wood dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="Scale model of a new downtown Oklahoma City, background, is explained by urban renewal planning consultant I.M. Pei, left. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Wood dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>Scale model of a new downtown Oklahoma City, background, is explained by urban renewal planning consultant I.M. Pei, left. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Wood dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6a05b9ed148975677ba56af979d7a4cf.jpg" alt="Photo - Model of I.M. Pei plan for downtown Oklahoma City from east looking west shows central business district. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Woods dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="Model of I.M. Pei plan for downtown Oklahoma City from east looking west shows central business district. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Woods dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>Model of I.M. Pei plan for downtown Oklahoma City from east looking west shows central business district. Oklahoma City Times staff photo by Tony Woods dated December 10, 1964. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b58cc5c062692259bfe5b41f6cf31267.jpg" alt="Photo - I.M. PEI: Downtown Oklahoma City urban renewal looking east on Main Street. Staff photo by Jim Argo dated June 1974. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD" title="I.M. PEI: Downtown Oklahoma City urban renewal looking east on Main Street. Staff photo by Jim Argo dated June 1974. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>I.M. PEI: Downtown Oklahoma City urban renewal looking east on Main Street. Staff photo by Jim Argo dated June 1974. Original from Oklahoman print archive, copied Friday, April 30, 2010. Copy photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman. ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8c18ba121468655303b50c2510d71a37.jpg" alt="Photo - Hans Butzer, left, Rachel Mosman and Arn Henderson look at the I.M. Pei Model of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma April 30 , 2010. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD" title="Hans Butzer, left, Rachel Mosman and Arn Henderson look at the I.M. Pei Model of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma April 30 , 2010. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD"><figcaption>Hans Butzer, left, Rachel Mosman and Arn Henderson look at the I.M. Pei Model of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma April 30 , 2010. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-50ddcb8f796de799f015784f71798fad.jpg" alt="Photo - RENDERING: The original drawing for Stage Center, as done by I.M. Pei in the mid-1960s, has nothing in common with the actual theater designed by John Johansen. PHOTO PROVIDED ORG XMIT: 1107020027001936" title="RENDERING: The original drawing for Stage Center, as done by I.M. Pei in the mid-1960s, has nothing in common with the actual theater designed by John Johansen. PHOTO PROVIDED ORG XMIT: 1107020027001936"><figcaption>RENDERING: The original drawing for Stage Center, as done by I.M. Pei in the mid-1960s, has nothing in common with the actual theater designed by John Johansen. PHOTO PROVIDED ORG XMIT: 1107020027001936</figcaption></figure>
Juliana Keeping

Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award... Read more ›

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