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Oklahoma architect’s legacy will live on in Tulsa

October 7, 2018
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In this Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 photo, retired architect Bob Jones, 79, poses on the Civic Center Plaza near the Tulsa Convention Center in Tulsa, Okla. Jones designed most of the buildings and the plaza. (David Crenshaw/Tulsa World via AP)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Bob Jones came to Tulsa in 1954 to oversee design work for the new Civic Center, a radically modern project that attracted national and even international attention. A German publication declared it one of the “top architectural achievements in the world during the past century.”

Raised in McAlester, Jones had served in the Navy during World War II before studying architecture at the University of Notre Dame and the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he learned from the famous Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a pioneer of modernism who popularized the “less is more” philosophy in design, The Tulsa World reported .

Mies’ influence was obvious in the original Tulsa Civic Center project, with its uncluttered, wide-open plaza and minimalist, geometric shapes. But Jones made the style his own and, in 1957, joined two local partners to open an architectural firm that would be responsible for several of the most beloved mid-century landmarks in Tulsa.

Known as Murray Jones Murray, their work includes the Cox Business Center, First National Bank Tower, Center Plaza Apartments, Bishop Kelley High School and the 1962 terminal at Tulsa International Airport, which won international acclaim for its sleek, futuristic design.

About the time he was drawing up plans for the airport, Jones built a modest family home for himself. The house became iconic in the architectural world after a photo shoot by well-known photographer Julius Schulman, who contrasted the architecture’s stark minimalism with Jones’ young children playing in the yard.

From the street, the house looks like a row of austere rectangles. But from the backyard, extra-large windows make the walls almost disappear, blurring the distinction between indoors and outdoors. It became the first house in the state to be added to the National Historic Register while its architect was still alive. And last year, Curbed.com included it on a list of “10 magnificent midcentury homes,” describing Jones’ work as “a colorful and livable Miesian creation.”

Jones retired in 1997 and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2004.

He died Sept. 14 at age 93. But his legacy in Tulsa will survive for generations to come.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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