The Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma (OU) recently received an ‘Art Works’ grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create “The American School of Architecture: An Interactive Database.” 

The $20,000 grant was awarded to an interdisciplinary team of OU faculty and staff including Dr. Stephanie Pilat, Dr. Luca Guido, Dr. Angela Person, Dr. John Stewart and Associate Dean Bridget Burke, who represent The American School Project. The database, which will be funded by the grant, is an interactive online architectural history database, which will democratize access to architectural history by presenting it online for free. 

“The partnership between the College of Architecture and the University Libraries has created a collection that documents national and international impacts of the American School architects,” said Bridget Burke, associate dean for ‘Special Collections’ at OU Libraries. “To receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts is an affirmation of the significance of the project, and recognizes that OU is building a resource of national importance and visibility. ” 

The American School of Architecture, described as “A new school, probably the only indigenous one to the United States” by architect Donald MacDonald, is a style of architectural thought that began at the University of Oklahoma during the 1950s and ‘60s. During that time, the American School was developed and the traditional curriculum inspired by either the French Beaux-Arts or German Bauhaus schools was put to the side as pioneers of the American School such as Bruce Goff, Herb Greene, Elizabeth Bauer Mock, and other OU faculty paved the way for the American architects of today.  

“The American School Project is documenting, preserving and sharing the history of the original approach to design that emerged at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-century,” said Stephanie Pilat, Director of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma. “Support from the NEA ensures this important legacy will be accessible to a broad audience around the world. Our team will be creating an interactive online database showcasing the fantastic work and storied characters of the American School.”  

“The American School of Architecture: An Interactive Database” will present an interactive illustration of the history of The American School of Architecture, including its buildings, drawings, models, and architects’ bios and interviews. By democratizing the database and opening it to the general public, anyone who is interested in architecture or design will be able to access it freely to learn more about the American School.  

“Creating a digital database for the American School Project opens up the wonderful archives here at the University of Oklahoma,” said John Stewart, assistant director of OU’s Office of Digital Learning. “This grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and our digital infrastructure will allow us to share how OU shaped cultural heritage in Oklahoma and across the world.” 

Other Oklahoma-based projects funded by the 2020 National Endowment for the Arts ‘Art Works’ grants are the creation of ‘A Little Peace’ by choreographer Robert Mills in honor of the Oklahoma City bombing for the Oklahoma City Ballet, the opportunity for high school students to study with art professionals during the summer at the Oklahoma Arts Institute and the support of the Hearts of Our People:  Native Women Artists exhibit at the Philbrook Museum of Art.  

With the help of the grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, “The American School of Architecture: An Interactive Database” is set to be finished by the end of December 2020. After the database is completed the general public will be able to view many works of the American School of Architecture through the online database.  

Featured image: “Atomic Power Station.” John Casper. The American School Archive. OU Libraries Western History Collection.