Ezabelle Apartments – ULI Americas Awards for Excellence Finalist
Learn more about 2023 ULI Americas Awards for Excellence Finalist, Ezabelle Apartments (San Diego, California).
April 26, 2023
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Developers: FAM is managed by a 501(c)(3), American Indian Cultural Center Foundation (AICCF). AICCF facilitated fundraising activities and managed funds and managed development/operations. Native American Cultural and Educational Authority (NACEA):state agency established to develop the project. Public-private partnership: State of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, a Chickasaw Nation subsidiary, AICCF and donors.
Designers: Design Architect- Johnson Fain; Scott Johnson, FAIA, design partner; William H. Fain, Jr., FAIA, managing partner/director of urban design and planning
Site Size: 280 Acres
The site is nearly flat & located within the North Canadian River alluvial floodplain, except for a 30-ft-high embankment on the site’s south edge. The site is located on the north & south banks of the river’s present location. The embankment marks the edge of the natural floodplain. The tracks of the BNSF Railroad are located on top of the embankment. A large open grassy plain characterized the site. Dispersed across this plain are large trees & a dense grove of trees grows along the site’s south edge. The idea to tell the Oklahoma Indian story originated with tribal elders in the 1970s & gathered support by a group of Oklahoma state senators by the mid-1990s. Thus began a 25-year journey with the facility programming & site selection & then architectural design for the museum, opening in 2021.
The master planning concept includes mound building as used by many Oklahoma tribes who located their settlements near rivers as a method of elevating land above dangerous flood levels. The symbolism of a circular spiral mound central to the design concept was employed to represent the Indian’s “procession of life” from a “garden of origins” to a ninety-foot-high promontory overlooking the river with views towards downtown Oklahoma City in the distance and the heavens above. Along the promontory walk, there are three “Sky Terraces” for storytelling, repose, and contemplation. The 175,000-square-foot First Americans Museum is a building of the earth integrated into the large rising spiral mound at the heart of the site. A tall prismatic glass “Hall of The People” is the meeting place for the many tribes making up Oklahoma’s rich Native American heritage and the starting place for the visitor to begin the journey through the multi-layered story of Native American culture and history.
A circular Cultural Center and Museum building intersects the promontory walk which symbolizes the “Encounter & Inclusion” of the Western European occupation. At the center of the Courtyard of Nations, one can mark the winter solstice through a passageway through the spiral mound. Symbolism and storytelling are embodied throughout the site, the architecture, and exhibits, helping visitors to learn about six themes of Native lives: Spirituality, Community, Sustenance, Culture & Artistic Expression, Alliances & Conflict, and Law & Government.
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