Tulsa architect to lead OKPOP design team

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A team led by local architect Chris Lilly has been tentatively chosen to design and ultimately build the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa, state officials said Wednesday.

The decision is contingent upon final contract negotiations between the state and the design team. State officials hope to break ground on OKPOP, as the museum will be known, in the fall of 2017 and open in 2019.

“Every member of the team is A-list,” said Oklahoma Historical Association Director Bob Blackburn.

Lilly, who as a member of KKT architecture firm was involved in several Brady Arts District projects, including the Woody Guthrie Center, Guthrie Green and Zarrow Arts Center, will be architect of record for OKPOP.

The primary designer, however, will be Overland Partners of San Antonio. That firm’s projects include the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur and several wings and buildings for the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Also signed on are Tulsa structural engineer Tom Wallace and international consulting firm Arup, whose clients have included the Sydney Opera House and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters.

Arup’s expertise includes acoustics, something OKPOP Director Jeff Moore said is important to this project.

“We plan to have an in-house studio for recording some of the music we’ll be curating,” he said.

Blackburn and Moore said no conceptual drawings have been presented because the design will be a collaboration among the team, the Oklahoma Historical Society and its financial supporters, which include the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

The design also depends to some extent on location — which, contrary to previous indications, apparently has not been settled.

“We are looking at several pieces of land in (Tulsa),” Blackburn said. “The location is so important, because this museum has to be self-supporting.”

Blackburn said the parcel at Archer Street and Boston Avenue identified a year ago as the museum’s future home is still a possibility but is not the only one.

He and Moore said a decision will have to be made this summer.

Most importantly, Moore and Blackburn said, the design must capture the essence of OKPOP as a “Crossroads of Creativity. … The (Oklahoma History Center) is very traditional in its design,” said Blackburn. “This celebrates creativity. The design has got to be creative.”