The Urban Land Institute’s annual Impact Awards recognize projects that reflect its mission to shape the future of the built environment and have a transformative impact in their communities.
And it’s hard to imagine impact greater than turning a crumbling, decades-old downtown surface parking lot into a gleaming, beautifully wrought seven-story building that fills a city block.
So, Heartland Payment Systems’ corporate offices won a ULI Impact Award in Oklahoma City’s bustling Automobile Alley Historic District, a project of Rand Elliott Architects. Standing 100 feet tall, it’s defined as a high-rise and, based on its amenities, a Class A building.
But the ULI jury’s primary interest was how gracefully the building reestablished a streetscape that hadn’t existed for generations. Placed adjacent to pre-existing parking garage, the award was as much about the building’s effect on the urban fabric as its aesthetic value – i.e., its impact.
“ULI is proud to highlight Heartland as an excellent example of the crucial role architecture can play. This project rebuilds the “urban wall” along North Broadway and activates a long-vacant piece of land. By designing the building on the corner and tucking parking to the rear and side of the building, Heartland provides a newly activated streetscape for this part of Automobile Alley.” — Michelle McBeath, ULI Oklahoma Executive Director
The beauty of Heartland’s building stems from scale – the Golden Ratio – and context drawn from surrounding buildings. To deftly complement its surroundings, Elliott’s design marks the transition from the historic, smaller-scale buildings on the north to the towers of the adjacent Central Business District.
The window scale also changes from smaller on the building’s north end to larger windows toward downtown core, where glass curtain walls are the norm. The limestone-colored brick exterior echoes the limestone facades in the buildings immediately south and across Broadway Avenue.
And call it a “wow” factor or simply unapologetic delight, one literal standout feature is the cantilevered sixth floor conference room with a 180-degree view of neighbors and the Oklahoma Capitol dome on the eastern horizon. The courtyard garden below features the glass room hovering overhead.
Downtown Oklahoma City has suffered its share of buildings lost to history, but the architect’s role in restoring the integrity of the “urban wall” can hardly be overstated. Here’s to ULI and many Impact Awards to come.