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Thread: Out-of-Town Architects

  1. #1

    Default Out-of-Town Architects

    I have a question up on my blog that I'd like to get some answers to: OKC?s Architecture Community | Urban Lake Effect

    Why do developers in OKC choose so many out-of-town architects (and interior designers and landscape architects)?

    Pete pointed out to me that CHK always uses Rand. I forgot to mention that, and MidtownR generally uses Brian Fitzsimmons (which I vaguely noted). Beside them and TAP, I don't see many local architects getting the bigger (re)development work in the core now. Some locals might be selected to be architect of record for Oklahoma law, but that sometimes means they have little actual input.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    I don't know, but my father in law is an architect in Wichita and would love to get in on what's going on down here (I know that doesn't answer your question, sorry )

  3. #3

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by cafeboeuf View Post
    I have a question up on my blog that I'd like to get some answers to: OKC?s Architecture Community | Urban Lake Effect

    Why do developers in OKC choose so many out-of-town architects (and interior designers and landscape architects)?

    Pete pointed out to me that CHK always uses Rand. I forgot to mention that, and MidtownR generally uses Brian Fitzsimmons (which I vaguely noted). Beside them and TAP, I don't see many local architects getting the bigger (re)development work in the core now. Some locals might be selected to be architect of record for Oklahoma law, but that sometimes means they have little actual input.
    I believe the answers are relationship and cost not necessarily in that order.

    In several recent proposals where we would have been partners the proposed architects' fees were much lower than what we would have had using a local company. The reason, of course, was that the proposed architect had done many similar projects and would be modifying previous plans. Nothing really wrong with doing that and makes a lot of sense financially. Saving even a small percentage on a project can be a huge factor. Pus there is a time savings that can be very important.

    Other projects that I know about involved long standing relationships that are not easily changed. Nothing wrong with that either and can definitely save months of time which is huge.


  4. #5

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by flintysooner View Post
    I believe the answers are relationship and cost not necessarily in that order.

    In several recent proposals where we would have been partners the proposed architects' fees were much lower than what we would have had using a local company. The reason, of course, was that the proposed architect had done many similar projects and would be modifying previous plans. Nothing really wrong with doing that and makes a lot of sense financially. Saving even a small percentage on a project can be a huge factor. Pus there is a time savings that can be very important.

    Other projects that I know about involved long standing relationships that are not easily changed. Nothing wrong with that either and can definitely save months of time which is huge.
    Certainly.

    My quest for an answer certainly isn't led by any preconceived notion. I'm genuinely curious as to the why.

  5. #6

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    We know SandRidge hired Rogers Marvel for their entire project and a national landscape architect as well. I've heard SD is very pleased with the work but very unhappy with the budget, as they have gone way over the original projections given by Rogers Marvel.

    In most cases, the larger civic projects have gone to locals (Rand Elliott got the call for Bicentennial Park and a lot of the OK River projects) but of course the Myriad Gardens and Project 180 work went to James Burnett. I think it's fair to say OKC lacks landscape architecture firms with big projects on their resume.

    Devon also used outside architects (Pickard Chilton) but of course, how many locals have designed a $750 million skyscraper?

    The MidtownR group uses almost exclusively locals, and of course Chesapeake gave all their work to Rand Elliott -- Aubrey McClendon has continued to do so on his new offices.

    It seems the larger the project, the less likely a local firm will be handling it. Perhaps that will change as they all get the opportunity to grow in their experience.


    It should also be noted that few of them do much work outside of OKC.

  6. #7

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    It should also be noted that few of them do much work outside of OKC.
    Other firms do a lot of work outside OKC. Maybe it's a local-marketing issue by companies? None of them do much residential work outside OKC, I'll say that (unless you're talking dorms/barracks).

    For instance, LWPB, FSB, Benham (now SAIC), GSB, and Guernsey all do a lot of work outside OKC, mainly for the Federal government. Heck, I'd be willing to bet that over 50% of their architecture revenues are outside OKC.

  7. #8

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Government contracts are a different beast.

    I just meant that the locals don't seem to be in much demand outside of OKC with commercial developers.

  8. #9

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Government contracts are a different beast.

    I just meant that the locals don't seem to be in much demand outside of OKC with commercial developers.
    Yes, on that point I think you are solid.

  9. #10

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    If I had my way then all development would be unique and professionally designed including residential. It never ceases to amaze me that design is accorded such low esteem.

  10. #11

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    So, it begs the question: If they aren't in demand outside of OKC, can you blame local developers for not using them either?

    If you were building a huge, multi-million dollar project wouldn't you want someone with a great track record? Considering architecture fees are a small percentage of an overall budget, why not hire a firm that can point to tons of cool projects that are already constructed?

    To be fair, there hasn't been that much big commercial construction in OKC in quite some time, so the local firms haven't had much of a chance until lately. They are getting opportunities, though, and I'm sure a few of them will gain the reputation and experience to help them compete down the road.


    And to put this another way, which projects by local architects do we think are really great and would justify them getting a shot at a very large development?

  11. #12

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    HTB was a pretty large and successful local architecture and engineering firm until they screwed themselves with the county jail fiasco. They are now long gone.

    It seems the architecture firms here are just now starting to build something after not having much commercial work for the last few decades. And that doesn't happen in the short-term.

  12. #13

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Brian Fitzsimmons has been fantastic at adapting old buildings and refreshing them for MidtownR, but I can't recall seeing him do anything from the ground up (other than a few houses). I'd be curious to see what he could do on a large project.

    For as much as I know local architects and some of their work, I never really get an understanding of what projects they do.

  13. #14

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    I think the local firms are a product of the work that has been available to them over the last couple of decades.

    They've had to get by with smaller stuff with a fair amount of residential mixed in. If you look at any of their sites you'll almost always see private residences. You think Rogers Marvel or Pickard Chilton or James Burnett are designing homes?

    No disrespect to our local architecture community but I don't think they can compete with the big boys just yet. Hopefully some of them will distinguish themselves and get to that point.

    And the City and other civic projects have been very generous with the local firms. Most the big projects done by them have been paid for with tax payer money (Main Street parking garage and downtown elementary school by TAP, for example).

  14. #15
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    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    You would hope that some of the great talent that left the state and have worked for major firms elsewhere would begin to migrate back and establish firms based on their work in other cities. A very good architect with national projects under their belt would find a very nice and relatively open niche here in OKC.

  15. #16

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover View Post
    You would hope that some of the great talent that left the state and have worked for major firms elsewhere would begin to migrate back and establish firms based on their work in other cities. A very good architect with national projects under their belt would find a very nice and relatively open niche here in OKC.
    Or maybe a local firm that is big enough could poach a few of them and bring them back?

  16. #17

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Yes, it's part of the Brain Drain conundrum. Just because OKC is suddenly on the move doesn't undo decades of erosion in various professional fields.

    The first step is to stop the bleeding and provide opportunities for those just leaving college. That seems to be happening.

    But it's going to take a while for the professional base to be rebuilt. It's happened in oil & gas but not so much in other fields.


    In the meantime, OKC can benefit from bringing in expertise from elsewhere and that seems to be happening in architecture. And in the case of AHMM, a former local boy brought them to OKC for work and now they are opening a small office here. I'm sure more things like that will happen.

  17. #18
    HangryHippo Guest

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by cafeboeuf View Post
    Brian Fitzsimmons has been fantastic at adapting old buildings and refreshing them for MidtownR, but I can't recall seeing him do anything from the ground up (other than a few houses). I'd be curious to see what he could do on a large project.

    For as much as I know local architects and some of their work, I never really get an understanding of what projects they do.
    I love what Fitzsimmons has done with a lot of the historic rehab projects that MidtownR has taken on, but did he also come up with the designs for their new parking garage across the Marion Hotel? If so, I'd prefer he stick with historic rehab projects. That garage proposal is hideous. However, he may surprise me once we get a glimpse of what is proposed for their new project along 10th St.

  18. #19

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover View Post
    You would hope that some of the great talent that left the state and have worked for major firms elsewhere would begin to migrate back and establish firms based on their work in other cities. A very good architect with national projects under their belt would find a very nice and relatively open niche here in OKC.
    Quote Originally Posted by cafeboeuf View Post
    Or maybe a local firm that is big enough could poach a few of them and bring them back?
    Both those solutions would be ideal.

    It would help bolster competition in the OKC market.

    Hopefully MidtownR gives us a chance to see what Fitzsimmons can do with a larger project with all that land they have north of 10th.

  19. #20

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    The Level project(s) are conventionally financed. The Edge, Bricktown Apartments, all Charlie Nicholas projects are HUD financed projects. There is a tremendous amount of government paperwork required throughout a HUD project. An architect without prior HUD experience is at a great disadvantage. A developer probably wouldn't want to take the risk.

  20. #21

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by MIKELS129 View Post
    The Level project(s) are conventionally financed. The Edge, Bricktown Apartments, all Charlie Nicholas projects are HUD financed projects. There is a tremendous amount of government paperwork required throughout a HUD project. An architect without prior HUD experience is at a great disadvantage. A developer probably wouldn't want to take the risk.
    Great points.

    I know GTF (Level, Maywood II and East Bricktown) has tons of HUD projects on their resume.

    And having worked with HUD myself, I can attest there are a tremendous amount of hoops to jump through.

  21. Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    Quote Originally Posted by OnlyOne View Post
    I love what Fitzsimmons has done with a lot of the historic rehab projects that MidtownR has taken on, but did he also come up with the designs for their new parking garage across the Marion Hotel? If so, I'd prefer he stick with historic rehab projects. That garage proposal is hideous. However, he may surprise me once we get a glimpse of what is proposed for their new project along 10th St.
    I believe they also did the covered parking area behind the Guardian, if that give you any clue.

  22. #23

    Default Re: Out-of-Town Architects

    If I required specialized expertise though I'd expect my local architect to put together a team. That's the way it is done anyway so it would be just a larger team.

  23. Default Re: Maywood Apartments (NE 4th & Oklahoma)

    Private sector planning in OKC is pretty weak, primarily because of that dominance of civil and structural engineering. Architecture is better off than planning, but it's debatable as to how much.

    If OKC is going to truly change for the better and turn the corner into becoming the city that it can be, we've got to do something about this. Planning and design are important, you just can't engineer everything. Engineers aren't trained to understand urban dynamics and things that have generally caused an uproar every now and then with MAPS3.

    MAPS1 and 2 were based on a successful coalition of engineering, planning, and architecture. Everybody was working together within City Hall and understand what the other trained professionals were good at AND appreciated them for it. Now it's long been known that this coalition has fallen apart, and what's worse, nobody really seems to care at all.

  24. #25

    Default Re: Maywood Apartments (NE 4th & Oklahoma)

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan View Post
    Private sector planning in OKC is pretty weak, primarily because of that dominance of civil and structural engineering.
    To be honest, I'd consider private sector planning in OKC to be null. There are a few people that are AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners), myself included, but the amount of work done by them locally, and on actual planning projects, is minimal at best. Gray Planning Services, based out of Shawnee, has cornered the market on small-town planning and OK, and she's quite successful, but that's minimal. My firm has done a few things locally, but generally if any larger city wants to do planning, the do it in-house or hire out-of-town. Then, when the out-of-town planners come, they usually team with architects, not even the firms that have a planner on staff.

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